Author: Ines Marinho
If you ever visited Portugal, you know that the country is well known for its flavors, besides the warm weather and cheap prices. Some unaware people tend to forget or to associate with Spanish gastronomy, when there is almost nothing to compare, due to the several original recipes from the tiny country near the Atlantic. For a food lover, this is the perfect holiday destination. In this article, we focus on a special kind of sponge cake, known as Pão de Ló. This dessert has a long history in the country and its recipe varies from city to city.
Typically served for Catholic purposes, religious holidays, this kind of sponge cake with a delicate lemony aroma, dates from the past times of Middle Age. At those times, the nuns in the convents and monasteries were in charge of its preparation. In the XV century, Pão de Ló was cooked in a bread oven, with a door sealed with dried horse manure. Back then, Pão de Ló took 24 egg yolks and 6 egg whites, beaten by hand until forming an airy dough.
According to the history of the recipe, in the 16th century, Portugal introduced Pão de Ló in Japan, with the colonial expansion. The Japanese people adopted it and gave it its own name, Kasutera, after also modifying the flavors of the recipe. Kasutera is, at the current days, one of the most popular desserts of Japan. But what are the differences between the Portuguese recipe and the adopted Japanese one? To begin with, in Japan, Pão de Ló is moistened with honey and corn syrup.
A bit all over the world, Pão de Ló is known as a tasty dessert. In France, for example, they call it génoise and in Italy, it is known as pan di Spagna.
Nowadays, this Portuguese recipe has evolved but it is no less delicious. In the comfort of a modern and hygienic kitchen, Pão de Ló is prepared all over the country, but the two most famous are the one from Alfazeirão, a village in the region of Leiria, and the one from Ovar, a bit up north, between Aveiro and Porto.
The difference between them is that the second one is a little more humid and creamier and this is the one we will focus on now.
Traditionally prepared with very simple and easy ingredients, such as eggs, flour, sugar and salt, Pão de Ló can be baked in several versions. Some recipes, like this one, contain a grated lemon rind. Others recommend covering the Pão de Ló with a sugar glaze. There are also chocolate Pão de Ló recipes.
The preparation time of this dessert takes about 30 minutes. The cooking time is around 35 minutes, which in total you will need 1 hour and 5 minutes to prepare. The recipe in this article is to be served to 8 people.
To cook the splendid Pão de Ló, you will need 10 eggs, at a room temperature, 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of flour, sifted, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt and zest of a lemon.
First of all, it is important to preheat the oven at a 350F/180C temperature. Beat the eggs at high speed for about 20 minutes, while incorporating the sugar gradually. Then, gently fold in the flour, previously mixed with baking powder and salt. After, add the lemon zest. Place the mixture in an oiled round pan. Make for 30 to 35 minutes. Before unmolding the cake, you should hold your horses for at least 10 minutes, so it cools down a bit.
This recipe is the reproduction of one of the authentic treats of Portugal. When it is served, breakfast, after meals or as a snack, it can come alongside strawberry jam, for instance. If you want to try it the Portuguese way, just cut a slice of the cake and enjoy it fully at its natural shape, maybe with a cup of Muscatel wine on side.