Serves a Crowd

Pão de Ló – A Historical Cake from the 15th Century

June 22, 2011
Author Notes

Maybe the best known cake in Portugal, this cake dates back to the 15th Century. It was made in Nunneries and, as with all Portuguese cakes, was very rich in eggs.
The recipe of Pão de Ló was taken to Japan in the XVI th Century by the first Portuguese sailors. Because at the time it was also called Pão de Castela , the Japanese adopted the recipe and call it Kasutera, one of the most typical cakes in Japan.
It is similar to the sponge cake but from the fact that it was traditionally baked in a wood oven in clay pots. The oven bread would be closed and the door sealed with fresh horse manure that would then dry and act as a sealer. More recently it’s sealed with flour and water. Yes, we have evolved… phew!
If you are curious, take a look at this video and watch how it is still done today in some villages and how they keep the tradition in large scale.
The original recipe called for 24 egg yolks, 6 egg whites to 2 ½ cups of sugar and almost a cup of flour. Everything would be whisked by hand until tripled in size. The recipe I post is a modern approach to Pão de Ló , but with less eggs and quicker to make. It’s an easy cake, moist enough for tea, delicious with rhubarb or raspberry jam… the kind of recipe you make in 5 minutes when you have friends coming over. Serve with iced tea or a lemonade. Basically it’s the same weight of whole eggs to the same amount of sugar. Hope you all enjoy my historical recipe.
Maria Teresa Jorge

  • Serves 8 - 10
  • 6 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
In This Recipe
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter and flour a fluted mould.
  3. In a stand mixer whisk the whole eggs, the egg yolks, the salt and the sugar until triple in size, very fluffy and creamy. It’s really important that the eggs are at room temperature.
  4. Fold in the flour very carefully.
  5. Pour the batter in the mould and cook until gold on top and when a toothpick inserted comes out dry - about 30 minutes.
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