Noelle’s Pan di Spanga – 30 minute cake with lemon custard.
This is a gift for a friend. Not her recipe. And quite honestly not inspired by her. But non-the-less a perfect fit. I feel confident in devoting this sweet treat to such a sweet person. A person with hair glowing like gold and a laughter tasting like and sun. A person who, much like this cake, will remind you of warm summer-mornings with dew still shimmering on freshly picked lemons. So Noelle, this is for you.
There is something exquisite about this so-simple-to-make cake. It barely consists of anything, a bit of butter, some eggs, a bit of sugar and some flour. That’s really all there is to it. And then there is the custard, which is ridiculously easy to prepare. If you are anything like me you might be believing that custard was actually something quite hard to make from scratch. After all that’s why they invented instant-custard.
I have a suspicion. And I will word this carefully, so that the instant-mix-mafia does not get on to me and hunts me down: We have been screwed over, big time. Years of television adds, showing lovely but stressed out ladies telling us how thankful they are for all the loads of work taken of their backs by companies selling custard-powders, have probably implanted this weird idea of custard being something so hard to make, that even grandmothers need some help. The truth is quite simple. It’s a lie.
I was very baffled by this insight, but to me it appears that making your own custard from scratch is in fact easier than using some store-bought instant-powder with god knows what in it. There is no lumping, because home-made custard doesn’t consist of anything that could lump it. It is only in factories that they add powdery stuff to it that has lumping-ability. Also, home-made custard tastes like something, which is a huge plus when you want to eat it later on.
I know that I have said this quite often before, but more than ever (and I swear to god, that I will use this phrase repeatedly in the future) this is incredibly fast to make. My optimistic estimate is that you can be done with the whole cake in about 30 minutes, with custard and baking and everything.
The cake itself is something worth having in your repertoire because you can almost never go wrong with it and it uses only things you will have at home anyway. What I like about cakes is, that they don’t require exact measurements. It is not so much about exact numbers, as it is about the consistency of the dough. If you wanted to be very precise this would be the exact formula for my so-simple-to-make cake.
Just fill in the appropriate value for x and have a go at it.
Using a formula for cake might seem nerdy, but it actually makes quite a bit of sense. With baking you are not interested so much in the absolute numbers, but rather the relative. My so-simple-to-make cake contains relatively more moist ingredients (butter ans eggs) than it uses dry ingredients (flour and sugar) (ratio=1.17), so that it will be soft and moist after the baking process. If you were to change this ratio, the batter would be too hard to spread and probably very dry. Further, having a 1.7 ratio of eggs to butter is due to the fact that butter will not solidify after the baking process in the same way eggs (which coagulate) do. The eggs not only give taste to the batter but further assure a firm consistency, which is counterbalanced by the butter. If you were to switch the ratio here, your cake would most likely be very soft and maybe have problems to bind appropriately.
So-simple-to-make Cake 1 part butter 1 part sugar 1.3 parts all-purpose flour 3 eggs for 120 g of flour 1 tsp (and with that I mean a proper tea-spoon you would use to dissolve sugar in your tea) baking powder for each 120 g of flour 1 pinch of salt for each 120 g of flour
- Beat the eggs, salt and sugar viscously in a bowl until they start to thicken slightly (due to the incorporated tiny bubbles of air).
- Melt the butter in the oven and let it drizzle gradually into the egg-sugar mix, while constantly beating the crap out of the eggs.
- Mix the flour with the baking powder and add gradually to the egg-mix, while still stirring.
- Stir a bit more until the batter is thick and lumpless. Take a tea-spoon and taste the batter – you should be able to taste the tanginess of the baking-powder a bit. Take another teaspoon and drizzle it back into the rest of the batter. It should have a consistency that allows for the batter to drizzle easily but that is thick enough so that you drizzling creates a rather firm mountain of batter on top of an ocean or plain of even more batter.
- Pour the batter into a buttered form and put it into the still warm oven.
- Bake for about 15 minutes at 180°C or until golden and firm-ish.
Ridiculously easy-lemon custard: 3 eggyolks 25 g of sugar 250 ml of single-cream 1 tps of cornflour 1 pod of vanilla 1 lemon
- Split the eggs and use only the yolks (don’t dare to waste the whites though, it’s food and we don’t waste food (have you ever tried a egg-white omelette with cream-cheese and chives?))
- Add the cornflour and sugar to the yolks and stir until everything is smooth.
- Slice open the vanilla pod and scrape out the seed.
- Gently heat up the cream on a low heat and add the vanilla seeds and pod to it.
- Bring to the boil.
- Gradually add the hot cream (after taking out the pod) to the egg-mix, while whisking constantly.
- Bring the whole mix back into the sauce-pan where you bring it back to simmering (on a very low heat) while constantly whisking.
- Add the zest of one lemon to the mix while it is still thin.
- Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon (or more if you like).
- Still whisk constantly. The custard will have thickened after it has thickened for a second, if it is too thick for your liking either add some water, cream, lemon-juice, amaretto or anything else that is a liquid.
- Let cool for a bit and pour over the sliced cake. Get some forks or spoons and enjoy.