This chocolate Italian sponge cake is quite fast and easy to prepare, once you understand exactly what you have to do.
Italian sponge cake (Pan di Spagna) is used in desserts like cassata, zuppa inglese and tiramisù. It can be soaked with your favorite mixture and layered with cream fillings or jam, covered with fondant, or just eaten on its own sprinkled with icing sugar.
You only need 4 ingredients: eggs, granulated sugar, cake flour and unsweetened cocoa powder. It’s made without butter, oil and baking powder; it relies solely on well-beaten eggs for its leavening.
My tips to get a perfect chocolate Italian sponge cake:
- You need extra large eggs (each egg should weight approximately 70 grams/2.46 ounces) at room temperature. Take them out from the fridge 20 minutes before you need them, or soak them for a few minutes in a bowl of warm water.
- Beat the eggs and sugar for at least 15 minutes, until the mixture becomes clear, triples in volume, and reaches the ribbon stage.
- Use cake flour, if it’s not available in the store, you can make it at home (check this tutorial by Joy the Baker).
- Sift the flour and cocoa powder on top of the egg mixture, a little at a time, and fold it gently with a wooden spoon. Don’t pour it all at once or it will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
- Don’t open the oven while the cake is cooking, or the cake will deflate.
- When the cake is ready, turn off the oven and leave it inside for another ten minutes (put a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it slightly open).
You can prepare the chocolate Italian sponge cake up to 3 days ahead, wrap it in cling film. and keep it in the fridge. You can also wrap it in cling film and freeze it for up to a month. To defrost it, take it out from the freezer the night before and thaw it unwrapped at room temperature.
This recipe is for a 18-20 cm / 7-8 inches baking pan. If you are using a larger pan, use the follow ratios:
- 15 cm / 6 inches pan: 3 eggs, 90 grams granulated sugar, 75 cake flour, 15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
- 22 cm /9 inches pan : 5 eggs, 150 grams granulated sugar, 120 grams cake flour, 30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
- 24 cm / 10 inches: 6 eggs, 180 grams granulated sugar, 145 cake flour, 35 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
- 26 cm / 11 inches: 7 eggs, 210 grams granulated sugar, 170 grams cake flour, 40 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
Chocolate Italian Sponge Cake
Ingredients for a 18-20 cm (7-8 inches) pan. For step by step pictures check here
- 120 grams (½ cup+1½ tablespoon) granulated sugar
- 4 extra large eggs at room temperature
- 100 grams (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons - if you use all-purpose flour, 100 grams = 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon) cake flour sifted
- 20 grams (3 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder
Take the eggs out from the fridge ahead of time or soak them for a few minutes in a bowl of warm water.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (338 degrees F).
Butter and flour a 20 cm (8 inch) pan, or spray it with baking spray.
Put the eggs and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer.
Beat the eggs until very fluffy and pale yellow (about 15 minutes on medium/high speed). To test that it has been beaten enough, let some of the mixture fall into the bowl; if it remains "sitting" on top, that means that it's ready.
Sift the flour and cocoa powder on top of the egg mixture, a little at a time, and fold it gently with a wooden spoon, from bottom to top.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Don't smooth the top or bang the pan on the counter; leave it as it is!
Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Don't open the oven for the first 20 minutes!)
Turn off the oven but leave the chocolate Italian sponge cake inside for at least 10 minutes so it can cool down slowly (put a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it slightly open). After that, remove it from the oven, let it cool for 10 more minutes, loosen around the edges with a knife, and then flip the cake on a wire rack upside down (without the pan) to cool completely.
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Do you prefer a vanilla or lemon Italian sponge cake? Give this recipe a try.