Bake

Grandma’s Italian Cream-Filled Sponge Cake

July 14, 2021
4 Stars
Photo by MJ Kroeger Prop Stylist: Suzie Myers Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog
  • Prep time 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • makes 1 sponge cake
Author Notes

My childhood summers were spent eating Grandma’s sponge cake: She would always serve it chilled, and the cold Italian cream was especially refreshing in the hot summer air. Grandma, of course, wanted nothing more than to see me eat, and she found great success with this cake.

She also insisted that I help her make the cake, which came with no complaints from me. I wanted to be in the kitchen at all times as a kid, which has served me well as an adult. Before she passed, Grandma handed her recipe down to me on a scribbled, stained note card. Over the years, I have slowly tweaked and—sorry, Grandma!—improved it. This cake is extremely versatile, a true recipe hero.

There are three ways I love to top it: Mixed berries tend to be my favorite, and really shine in the summer. Toasted coconut is another winner. Or try a shake of confectioners’ sugar with a scattering of roasted pistachios. All versions should be served with a big dollop of whipped cream—Grandma wouldn’t have had it any other way! —Dan Pelosi

Watch This Recipe
Grandma’s Italian Cream-Filled Sponge Cake
Ingredients
  • Sponge Cake
  • Butter, for greasing
  • 8 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Italian Cream, cold or at room temperature (recipe below)
  • Your pick of toppings (see Author Notes)
  • Whipped cream, for serving
  • Italian Cream
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons salted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Sponge Cake
  2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9-inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper, with enough overhang to lift the cake out of the pan once it’s done.
  3. Separate the eggs, adding the yolks to the bowl of a stand mixer and the whites to another bowl.
  4. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat on medium-high for a few minutes, until thick and frothy.
  5. Transfer the yolk mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sift in the cake flour and baking powder, then gently fold until combined.
  6. Clean and dry the bowl of the stand mixer, then add the egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
  7. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture until no dry streaks are visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack, then lift out of the pan and remove the parchment. Take your pick of one of the three options below.
  10. Mixed berries: Halve the cake horizontally (see the video for how I do this!). Spread half of the Italian cream on the bottom half of the cake, edge to edge, then top with the other half of the cake. Using a bread knife, cut around the perimeter of the cake to remove the baked edges. Spread the other half of the Italian cream around on the top of the cake. Top with lots of mixed berries—I like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
  11. Toasted coconut: Using a bread knife, cut around the perimeter of the cake to remove the baked edges. Spread all of the Italian cream on top of the cake. Top with toasted shredded coconut.
  12. Pistachios: Spread all of the Italian cream on the bottom half of the cake, edge to edge, then top with the other half of the cake. Using a bread knife, cut around the perimeter of the cake to remove the baked edges. Dust with confectioners' sugar, then top with chopped, roasted pistachios.
  13. After decorating, cover and refrigerate the cake until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day. Serve with whipped cream.
  1. Italian Cream
  2. Combine the milk, eggs, sugar, and flour in a large pot and whisk until well combined.
  3. Place the pot over medium heat and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, whisking constantly, until the cream is very thick. There will be a few lumps in the cream, and that is okay.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the butter and extracts. Vigorously whisk until smooth. (You can also transfer to a stand mixer and use a whisk attachment.)
  5. Set the cream aside to cool, uncovered, then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • 16bitclaudes
    16bitclaudes
  • Nathan Campbell
    Nathan Campbell
  • Michele
    Michele
  • Bekah
    Bekah

4 Reviews

16bitclaudes January 29, 2022
Make sure you add the flour to the egg yolks *gradually*! Like Nathan C, I had a pretty tough time getting it all to come together. Little by little is key, I made the mistake of just sifting all the flour in as directed and the final batter was disconcertingly lumpy - I found on slicing it open there were a few little spots of inconsistently mixed/ cooked cake.

That being said the cake did rise really fantastically (I baked it in an 8 inch deep springform tin for a little longer and it rose enough that I could slice it into 3 good layers). It was very light and fluffy inside and the flavour was good. Brushed the layers with champagne syrup and filled them with vanilla mascarpone cream and fresh strawberries. Overall a decent end result!
 
Nathan C. November 6, 2021
This recipe turned out wonderfully ...on the second time around. The first time I made it as per the directions and I found that the egg yolk/sugar/flour mixture was so dry and pasty that it was impossible to fold in the whipped egg whites w/o destroying their fluffiness. The second time around what I did was (1) slowly add the sugar to egg yolks which I pre-creamed, (2) mix the sifted flour/baking powder in a separate bowl, (3) whipped the egg whites as per the recipe in a third bowl, (4) and beginning with the egg whites, I folded in 1/4 egg whites then 1/4 flour/baking powder mixture and voilà! ....at no point does the cake batter dry out and at no point am I forcing the egg whites to blend with the rest of it. It all came out amazingly moist (UGH! I hate that word -_______- ) fluffy, flavorful.
 
Michele August 2, 2021
Loved your video! Of course you do it that way, Grandma said so! Love, love it. I will be making this cake tomorrow!
 
Bekah July 24, 2021
Summer in a dessert! I made the berry version and rated it was a 6 but everyone else loved it. In the custard, I substituted lemon zest for almond extract and also used arrowroot starch rather than flour. Next time I will add lemon juice and zest (or orange) to the sponge as well.