I frequently commit myself to making desserts for family gatherings without having the smallest idea as to what I should make. This happened to me this past weekend. I wanted something summery and hopped on TasteSpotting to see what was trending in the foodie world and quickly came across a recipe for Pao de Lo (Portuguese Sponge Cake) with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream on Portuguese Girl Cooks. Ding Ding, we have a winner.
This dessert has everything: spongy cake, citrus liquor, vanilla bean pastry cream, fresh fruit, and whipped cream. While rich (pastry cream!) it is still light enough for a hot afternoon. The pairing of orange zest and liquor with fresh strawberries brightens the cake and makes the individual flavors pop while they complement each other oh so well.
(oh the beautiful vanilla flecks)
Pao de Lo (Portuguese Sponge Cake)
with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream
- 6 eggs, at room temperature and separated
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- zest of 1 orange (optional)
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- Approximately 1/4 cup orange liquor for soaking sponge
- fresh fruit for filling and topping
- 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean scraped and seeded, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
For the Cake:
Adjust rack to the middle position, and preheat oven to 350F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl.
Using the same bowl (you don't have to wash), beat the egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, and orange juice, on high speed until light and well combined, about 3 to 4 minutes. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture, and mix until just combined. By hand, gently fold in the egg whites until fully combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Let cake cool in pan.
For the Pastry Cream:
In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean seeds and pod. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole egg, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in half of the milk mixture. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan containing the milk, and place over medium heat, whisking constantly. The pastry cream will begin to thicken, keep cooking until it begins to boil. Once it comes to a low boil, continue to cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. The whole process will take about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap over the surface of the pastry cream, so a crust does not form. Refrigerate until cool to use immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
For the Whipped Cream:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk heavy cream and powdered sugar until medium peaks form, about 4 minutes. Be sure not to over mix or it will become grainy.
Set aside about 1 cup of the whipped cream. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the pastry cream until well combined.
Slice cooled cake in half, and brush or drizzle liquor on the cake. Spread half of the pastry cream on top and layer with fresh fruit. Place the top of the cake on top, and cover with remaining pastry cream. Using the whipped cream you set aside, dollop and lightly spread some on top of the pastry cream. Top with your favorite fresh fruit.