A family treasure: Nana's Sponge Cake

Finally, after years of talking about this special sponge cake ... we found the family sponge cake recipe!  It is a recipe our mom has been raving  about for years. Every time we ask her a question about any cake recipe we write about, she always says, “I wish I could find Nana’s sponge cake recipe, ohhhh... how she used to whip the eggs and the sugar by hand and it was so high.”

The traditional Italian sponge cake is the most popular type of cake in Italy. Like the famous genoise cake from France, this sponge-like cake serves as a foundation for many wonderful and very elaborate desserts, with the most popular being the wedding cake.

Rum, liqueur and  espresso soaked the layers filled with several custard creams — a creamy chocolate, almond, and a sweet vanilla. The cake alone keeps well and sometimes Nana would call it a “keeping cake” because it could be dried and kept for a long time and still taste amazing when soaked in fruit syrups or any soaking liquids. Tiramisu is one of her favorites.

But today we are talking about serving it fresh. It is light, delicate and spongy with a hint of Sambuca. Nana would serve this with Papa’s favorite; whipped cream sweetened with sugar and vanilla and a hot cup of espresso. It brings back such great memories of the holidays with our grandparents. Oh how we miss them terribly, but we will smile fondly at each other when we take that first bite of Nana’s cake....Happy Holidays!

Nana’s 100-Year-Old
Italian Sponge Cake

9 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar (we used our favorite vanilla sugar)*

3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons lemon extract

2 teaspoons Sambuca

1 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

whipped cream, garnish

confectioner’s sugar, garnish

Preheat oven to 350F

Combine the eggs and the sugar in bowl of mixer and mix for 10 minutes on high speed. Add oil and all the extracts. Now add dry ingredients. Prepare your tube pan or bundt pan by greasing and flouring perfectly. Pour into pan of choice and bake for 45 minutes - 50 minutes until top is golden. Prick with a toothpick to make sure it is cooked through. Every oven is slightly different. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and turn out onto serving plate.

Chantilly Cream

Delicately sweet, this whipped cream was a favorite of our Nana’s. Judy and  I use it as much as we can! It is a perfect choice for any dessert.

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, sifted, more if needed

Combine all and whip until stiff peaks form, taste and add more vanilla or sugar to your liking.

*Vanilla Sugar - 2 cups of white sugar and 1-2 vanilla beans. Split beans and push into sugar. Store in an airtight container and swirl container around for a few days so vanilla can perfume the sugar.