Pao de Lo (Portuguese Sponge Cake) with Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream



For the cake:
6 eggs, at room temperature and separated
1 1/2 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
zest of 1 orange (optional)
1 tablespoon orange juice (you may use water also)
Orange liquor for soaking sponge, or any liquor, about 1/4 cup
fresh fruit for filling and topping

For the Vanilla bean pastry cream:
2 cups (17 fl.oz) milk (I used whole)
1 vanilla bean scraped and seeded, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (112g) granulated sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup (32g) cornstarch

Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups (12 fl.oz) heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar


For the cake:
1. Adjust rack to the middle position, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. Alternatively you may use a tube pan, see notes.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

3. 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.

4. 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 centre comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
Let cake cool in pan.

For the Pastry cream:
1. 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.

2. 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. I find it helpful to use a heatproof spatula around the edges of the pot, where the whisk can’t reach so nothing burns, every minute or so. 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.

3. 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. I made mine ahead of time to lessen the work load. If using at a later date, it will likely be stiff, so whip using whisk attachment in stand mixer or by hand until smooth and spreadable.

For the whipped cream:
1. 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.

2. Set aside about 1 cup of the whipped cream. Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the pastry cream until well combined.

1. 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.

2. 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 favourite fresh fruit.

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