Little Lemon Cakes Filled with Vanilla Pastry Cream

By by <i>Southern Italian Desserts</i>
Images
Little Lemon Cakes Filled with Vanilla Pastry Cream
Serves
Makes 16 cakes
Ingredients
  • Cake:
  • 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest from 1 small lemon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup (88 g) cake flour

  • Glaze:
  • 2 cups (250 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup or glucose syrup
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Chocolate or rainbow diavoletti (sprinkles) or candied cherries, for decoration (optional)
  • 1 ¾ cups (480 g) pastry cream (Recipe follows) cooled

  • Pastry Cream:
  • 2 cups (480ml) half-and-half
  • 1 medium lemon, peel only
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (32g) cornstarch


Procedure
Biting into one of these cream-filled glazed pastries inevitably elicits a sigh, the meaning of sospiri. They might remind you of a whoopie pie, their two cake layers bonded by a creamy filling, but I knew these well before I was introduced to the American dessert. In my hometown we referred to these as “i dulci”—our sweets. In fact, I grew up believing that they were a specialty of our town; it wasn’t until later that I discovered their name, and that they were made and sold throughout Southern Italy.

My uncle Luigi learned to make the dessert from relatives in Serino, near Avellino. He was the sole person in Verbicaro who knew how to make them, and he guarded his secret recipe, allowing nobody to enter his house when he baked. People in town would put in special orders with him when they needed sospiri for an event. He stopped his craft only when a pasticceria opened in town, and people began to buy them there. Even now, nobody would give up a recipe; I was on my own to re-create it. When my mom pronounced mine better than the ones sold in the pasticceria back home, I knew they were ready to include here.

To produce the lightest cakes, have your eggs at room temperature before you begin—leave them on the counter overnight or put them into a bowl of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Make the sospiri a day or two in advance; they improve as the cake soaks up the filling and glaze.


To make the cake: beat the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, and the lemon zest at high speed in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a handheld electric mixer, until pale yellow and thick, about 5 minutes.

In a clean bowl using clean beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, beginning at medium-low speed until the whites are frothy, then increasing to medium speed until they are very thick and frothy. Slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, a few teaspoons at a time, then beat at medium-high speed until the whites form firm, but not dry, peaks that hold their shape when the beater is lifted.

Use a large spatula to gently fold the egg yolks into the whites until mostly combined but still a little streaky. Sift the cake flour over the batter in six additions, gently folding in each addition, until the flour is completely and evenly incorporated, taking care not to deflate the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) with rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with 5/8-inch round tip (Ateco#808). Pipe out 2-inch rounds with one inch all around them, forming sixteen rounds on each sheet. Bake just until the tops begin to lightly color, about 12 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.

Let the cakes cool completely on the baking sheets. When they are cool, slide a small offset spatula under the cakes to loosen them, turning them bottom side up and arranging them in matching pairs.

To make the glaze: whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and vanilla in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water so that the bowl is over, but not touching, the water. Stir the glaze just until it is smooth and warm, about 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the pan and set it aside to cool slightly while you fill the sospiri.

To make the pastry cream: Bring the half-and-half and lemon peel to a simmer in a small saucepan; do not let it come to a full boil.

Meanwhile, in a 2 to 3-quart heavy, nonreactive saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they are completely smooth and slightly thickened. Whisk in the cornstarch until it is completely incorporated.

Use a fork to carefully remove and discard the lemon peel from the half-and-half. Add the half-and-half to t

Little Lemon Cakes Filled with Vanilla Pastry Cream

By by <i>Southern Italian Desserts</i>
Serves
Makes 16 cakes
Ingredients
  • Cake:
  • 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest from 1 small lemon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup (88 g) cake flour

  • Glaze:
  • 2 cups (250 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup or glucose syrup
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Chocolate or rainbow diavoletti (sprinkles) or candied cherries, for decoration (optional)
  • 1 ¾ cups (480 g) pastry cream (Recipe follows) cooled

  • Pastry Cream:
  • 2 cups (480ml) half-and-half
  • 1 medium lemon, peel only
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup (32g) cornstarch


Procedure
Biting into one of these cream-filled glazed pastries inevitably elicits a sigh, the meaning of sospiri. They might remind you of a whoopie pie, their two cake layers bonded by a creamy filling, but I knew these well before I was introduced to the American dessert. In my hometown we referred to these as “i dulci”—our sweets. In fact, I grew up believing that they were a specialty of our town; it wasn’t until later that I discovered their name, and that they were made and sold throughout Southern Italy.

My uncle Luigi learned to make the dessert from relatives in Serino, near Avellino. He was the sole person in Verbicaro who knew how to make them, and he guarded his secret recipe, allowing nobody to enter his house when he baked. People in town would put in special orders with him when they needed sospiri for an event. He stopped his craft only when a pasticceria opened in town, and people began to buy them there. Even now, nobody would give up a recipe; I was on my own to re-create it. When my mom pronounced mine better than the ones sold in the pasticceria back home, I knew they were ready to include here.

To produce the lightest cakes, have your eggs at room temperature before you begin—leave them on the counter overnight or put them into a bowl of warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Make the sospiri a day or two in advance; they improve as the cake soaks up the filling and glaze.


To make the cake: beat the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, and the lemon zest at high speed in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a handheld electric mixer, until pale yellow and thick, about 5 minutes.

In a clean bowl using clean beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, beginning at medium-low speed until the whites are frothy, then increasing to medium speed until they are very thick and frothy. Slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, a few teaspoons at a time, then beat at medium-high speed until the whites form firm, but not dry, peaks that hold their shape when the beater is lifted.

Use a large spatula to gently fold the egg yolks into the whites until mostly combined but still a little streaky. Sift the cake flour over the batter in six additions, gently folding in each addition, until the flour is completely and evenly incorporated, taking care not to deflate the batter.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) with rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with 5/8-inch round tip (Ateco#808). Pipe out 2-inch rounds with one inch all around them, forming sixteen rounds on each sheet. Bake just until the tops begin to lightly color, about 12 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.

Let the cakes cool completely on the baking sheets. When they are cool, slide a small offset spatula under the cakes to loosen them, turning them bottom side up and arranging them in matching pairs.

To make the glaze: whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and vanilla in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a small pan of simmering water so that the bowl is over, but not touching, the water. Stir the glaze just until it is smooth and warm, about 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the pan and set it aside to cool slightly while you fill the sospiri.

To make the pastry cream: Bring the half-and-half and lemon peel to a simmer in a small saucepan; do not let it come to a full boil.

Meanwhile, in a 2 to 3-quart heavy, nonreactive saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until they are completely smooth and slightly thickened. Whisk in the cornstarch until it is completely incorporated.

Use a fork to carefully remove and discard the lemon peel from the half-and-half. Add the half-and-half to t