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This easy Pao de Lo recipe is for a moist and fluffy Portuguese sponge cake. With just three ingredients – eggs, sugar, and flour, easily make the simple and famous Portuguese cake airy cake everyone will love.
What is Pao de Lo?
Pao de lo is a traditional Portuguese sponge cake that is unbelievably easy to make at home.
The traditional recipe calls for whipping together eggs and sugar, sifting in flour with a pinch of salt, and baking it until slightly golden.
The result is an easy cake that is moist and fluffy and completely versatile. You can eat it as is or top it with whipped cream or fruit jam.
This simple cake can also be used as a base for more elaborate desserts.
What we love the most about this pao de lo recipe is how easy it is to make. This is the kind of recipe you can quickly whip up when unexpected friends are coming over.
RELATED: 12 Of The Most Authentic Portuguese Desserts And Where To Enjoy Them
History of Pao de Lo or Portuguese Sponge Cake
The Pao de lo sponge cake, one of the most famous desserts in Portugal dates back to the 15th – 16th Centuries.
This cake was made by nuns in the center of Portugal and it is said to have been created from a cooking mistake.
During a visit by the King to the convent, the sponge cake was taken out of the oven early. Fortunately, everyone loved the moist cake making it a success and part of the traditional Portuguese cuisine.
Pao de lo was traditionally baked in wood ovens in clay pots. This Portuguese sponge cake was then introduced to other cultures, most notably Japan.
Portuguese sailors introduced pao de lo, then called pao de castela at their entry, the Port of Nagasaki. The Japanese adopted the recipe and called it Kasutera.
Today, Kasutera is loved all over Japan and considered one of the best traditional Japanese desserts.
It is considered a specialty of Nagasaki, where it is made in the traditional style and referred to as Nagasaki Castella.
With this easy pão de ló recipe, you’ll enjoy the essence of this historic dessert, with a simpler preparation method.
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Discovering Pao de Lo in Portugal
While exploring the local food specialities in Lisbon, we took a food tour with a local guide to understand Portugal’s rich culinary history.
The Lisbon food tour we took focuses on hidden food gems.
As described on the tour, the cake was deliciously moist and pleasantly sweet. We enjoyed the delightful cake with tea and it was the perfect match to end the food tour.
Beyond the food tour, pao de lo is available at bakeries throughout Portugal and also typically made at home.
If traveling to Portugal is not in your immediate future, enjoy this traditional recipe for the most famous Portuguese airy cake.
RELATED: 7 of The Best Lisbon Food Tours You Want To Try – Review
Pao de Lo Recipe – How To Make Portuguese Sponge Cake For Moist and Creamy Results
Making Pão de Ló at home requires a few staple ingredients that you probably already have.
Here are some tips to help you get the fluffiest and most delicious Pao de lo cake.
Since this recipe uses minimal ingredients, the quality and the way they’re incorporated makes a huge difference
- Use organic or free-range eggs: Eggs are the foundation for this recipe. Their quality and flavor are essential to ensure a delicious Pao de lo that doesn’t taste awfully eggy. Also, make sure you take them out of the fridge a couple of hours before preparing the recipe or adding them to warm water for 15 minutes before using. Beating eggs at room temperature results in more voluminous and airy whipped eggs
- Type of Sugar: This Portuguese Sponge Cake is made using white granulated sugar. You can also use caster sugar or ultra-fine sugar. You cannot, however, use powdered or confectioner’s sugar. The sugar must be dissolved entirely when whipped with the eggs. To test for sugar granules, rub a little bit of the beaten eggs between your index and thumb. You’re good if the texture is smooth. If you feel any granules, then keep whipping.
- Type of flour: You don’t need to use anything fancy, all-purpose flour works just fine.
Pao de Lo Recipe Tips
Portuguese Sponge Cake Recipe Preparation Tips
Following are some additional points to consider when making this typical Pão de Ló recipe.
- Use a stand mixer or a hand blender. While the traditional method calls for whisking the eggs by hand, this is time-consuming, tiring and can be avoided. If you have a stand mixer, then whip the eggs and sugar on high for 10 minutes only. Using a hand blender would take you a little longer, about 15 minutes.
- Sifting and folding the flour: Sifting the dried ingredients is commonly called for in many cake recipes, but it is a critical step in this recipe. Since this cake depends on whipped eggs for volume, you need to gently fold the flour mixture to prevent knocking the air out. If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment when incorporating the flour. If you add the flour as is, you will end up with lumps that will weigh down the batter in some parts, making the cake uneven. If you try to get rid of the flour lumps by whisking the batter, you will deflate the batter.
- Preparing the cake pan: For this recipe, we use a large bundt pan. If you don’t have one, you can use a fluted tube pan. Since this cake contains no oil or butter, it will stick to any surface, including non-stick pans and baking paper. For this reason, you should butter your pan generously. It is also best to add parchment paper that extends a couple of inches above the cake pan to avoid the batter from overflowing when baking.
How To Cool Down The Pao de Lo Portuguese Sponge Cake
Don’t be alarmed if the cake sinks and shrinks dramatically and forms folds and creases as it cools. This is normal.
Let the cake cool for at least 10 minutes before handling.
Run a spatula around the cake to make sure all sides are loose before flipping it over.
How To Store Portuguese Sponge Cake
Let the cake cool completely, then store it in an airtight container. You can keep it at room temperature for up to 3 days. Be sure to keep the container away from sunlight or direct heat.
To freeze the sponge cake, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, making sure you squeeze out all the air. Then place it in a container and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to thaw, put it in the fridge overnight.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Check out our recipe for the rich and decadent Filipino Sans Rival Cake.
Pao de Lo Recipe – Step by Step Instructions
Prepare Pan and Flour Mixture
Preheat your oven to 180 C or 360 F. Butter the inside of the bundt pan and place around the upper half of the pan, extending a couple of inches above the pan.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. This step is essential to avoid lumps in your batter and to get an even cake.
Beat Egg and Flour Mixtures
Crack the room temperature eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the egg mixture on high for about 5 minutes. Gradually add in the sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth, pale, and has stiff peaks.
Replace the whisk attachment with a paddle attachment and gradually fold in the flour beating on medium high speed. Work fast, and beat for only 3 to 5 minutes. You don’t want to overbeat the mixture. Make sure everything is blended together and there are no lumps.
Bake The Sponge Cake
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes. To check if it is done, insert a toothpick and it comes out dry, the sponge cake is done.
Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for about 10-15 minutes. The cake will deflate a little bit, which is totally fine.
Unmold and Pan and Garnish The Cake
Once the cake has cooled, run a spatula along the sides and then flip it on a plate.
Carefully peel off the baking paper. To garnish, sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon on top.
Pao de Lo Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 180 C / 360 F.
- Grease the inside of the bundt pan with butter, and cover the upper half with parchment paper, extending a few inches above the pan. Brush the paper with oil. Set the pan aside.
- Into a bowl, sift the flour and salt. Set the bowl aside.
- Add eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, turn the mixer to high, and beat the eggs for 5 minutes.
- Start adding the sugar gradually, 2-3 tbsp at a time. Beat for another 5-7 minutes on high, or until the mixture is pale and thick. If you create a swirl using the whisk, its shape should hold.
- Attach the paddle attachment, and turn on the mixer to medium-low speed. Gradually fold in the flour. Mix the batter one last time using a spatula to make sure that all the flour is incorporated and there are no lumps.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes on the countertop at room temperature. The cake will deflate a little bit, which is totally fine.
- Run a spatula around the cake to make sure no sides are sticking. Flip onto a large plate.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar and cinnamon on top for garnish.
- Make sure your eggs are room temp or place them in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes before starting.
- If you are using a hand blender, then you will have to beat the eggs for longer. The cake will deflate and create folds after it has cooled; this is normal.
- Store the cake in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.
- Optional, you may add orange or lemon zest to the batter for citrusy flavors.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
Find out more about Authentic Food Quest
28 Comments on “Best Easy Authentic Pao de Lo Recipe – A Moist Portuguese Sponge Cake”
I love how simple this recipe is and it is so light and fluffy! It was great served with ice cream and fresh strawberries too!
What a perfect addition, Shelby of the strawberries. We also do like the addition of ice cream. Thanks for sharing. Cheers.
The texture of this sponge cake is amazing. Color too. I absolutely love it. Looks delicious. And so festive. I can’t wait to bake it for my family. Thanks for the lovely recipe.
You are most welcome, Natalie. So glad you enjoyed the recipe. Your family will love it when you make it. The best part is just how easy it is to make. Cheers.
This Portuguese sponge cake looks and sounds amazing! I have never made this before and I really need to make something new so I will definitely be trying this out. Thank you for sharing this recipe!
So glad to hear, Ramona. You’ll absolutely love the sponge cake as we did. Please do let us know how it turns out. Cheers.
I am a big fan of sponge cake, and your Portuguese sponge cake does not disappoint. It came out amazing, and we loved it. Thanks so much for sharing; I will make it again!
So wonderful to hear Jenny. It is truly simple and delicious and extremely easy to make. So glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for letting us know. Cheers.
It’s amazing that this cake can be so simple to make but yet so delicious. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!
So glad you liked the recipe, Colleen. Truly easy and delicious for sure. Cheers.
I always look for delicious recipes from around the world and I absolutely loved visiting Portugal so I need to try this as soon as possible!
Great to hear, Jess. Portugal has so much to offer in terms of food and this simple sponge cake is a great way to start. Do let us know how it turns out when you make it. Cheers.
Yum! I am really loving this! Your Pao de Lo Recipe is perfectly delicious. The flavor is just right.
Great to hear, chef Dennis. So glad you enjoyed the recipe. Cheers.
I love sponge cake but have not tried this Portuguese version! With only 4 ingredients, that I always have on hand, I will be making this very soon!
Wonderful to hear, Lauren. And, please do let us know how it turns out. It’s easy and delicious and you’ll love it. Cheers
Rustic easy to make desserts are the best. Great to take along to a party too.
You are right, Gloria. And, the best part is that easy does not sacrifice taste. Thanks for stopping by.
I have never tried a cake that I don’t like, so I am drooling over this one! I am so excited to make this this weekend, thank you so much for the recipe 🙂
You are very welcome, Cathleen. Have fun traveling to Portugal with pao de lo. Cheers.
It’s hard to believe this amazing cake can be made with just 4 ingredients!
You are so right, Megan and it’s incredibly delicious too. Hope you try it soon. Cheers.
This sponge cake sounds amazing and I just love making your recipes! We love the authentic smells in our kitchen and my daughter is super pumped for this cake! Excited!
Hi Beth, that’s awesome to hear. Thanks so much for the feedback. Be sure to tag authenticfoodquest so that we can see how the cake turns out. Cheers
I love authentic recipes, and this sponge cake is one of them! It looks incredibly delicious and I can’t wait to try it!
Glad you like the recipe, Jessica and excited for you to make it soon. Cheers.
This was such a delicious recipe
Great to hear, Sara. Thanks for letting us know! Cheers.