Torta alla Panna–Italian Birthday Cake!

by cakeduchess on April 18, 2011 · 49 comments


It really isn’t fair. It’s not! My sister-in-law in Italy turned 40 and didn’t even get a cake. Not a even a store bought cake. Niente! Nothing!

My sweet sister-in-law had her birthday last week. Teresa (my mother-in-law) shook her head in surprise, “No one bought her a cake? I always make her a cake. Her husband gave her another pair of gold earrings. How many earrings does she need?!?”

A very valid point indeed. Does a woman need good cake or a nice pair of earrings on her birthday? Feeling guilty that her cake-making mamma was here during her birthday spoiling us, I decided we should make the cake she would’ve eaten and we will celebrate and sing to her here! Brilliant idea!


Teresa always makes the same cake. I posted about her cake here this past July. We were in Italy in June and she made the cake for my father-in-law.  Torta alla Panna means Whipped Cream Cake. Teresa always makes the cake with a Pan di Spagna recipe, which is basically a sponge cake. Then she fills it with vanilla pudding and on top is delicious homemade whipped cream and whatever fruit she has in season. We had a container of gorgeous organic strawberries to decorate the top. We used a box of Jello-O instant vanilla pudding to hurry up the process because we had company arriving to celebrate with us!
It made me smile to watch my husband helping his mother with this cake. While we were decorating the cake, Fabrizio arrived from work on his break and jumped in to give us a hand. I left the two of them alone working on the decorating and took the photos.


This cake is moist and aromatic from the liqueur we used. The pudding in the middle adds the perfect touch of creaminess. If you have time to make your own pudding, please do so. If not, the boxed pudding is wonderful and none of our guests noticed the difference. I recommend making your own whipped cream. There is truly nothing like the flavor of homemade whipped cream.

Torta alla Panna

Pan di Spagna ingredients:
12 inch round cake pan
5 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 small box Jell-O instant vanilla pudding mix

1 pint whipping cream
container of strawberries

Sugar Syrup
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4-1/2 cup of Rum or your favorite liqueur (use more or less depending on your taste.If you don’t like taste of alcohol, add orange juice or lemon juice to the sugar syrup)

Whipped Cream Directions:

pint of heavy whipping cream (I used organic)
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
Chill a medium sized metal bowl in the freezer. Remove bowl from the freezer and add the heavy whipping cream to the bowl. Using a hand mixer on high speed, whip the cream until soft peaks begin to form; gradually add in the 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar. Continue to beat the whipped cream until it is thick and velvety. (about 1-2 minutes). Don’t over beat or you will have butter.Smile
Directions to make Pan di Spagna

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-inch round cake pan with parchment paper (or 2 9-inch cake pans). Beat the eggs all at one time with the sugar on high speed until it is nice and frothy. Beat in the vanilla.
Sift the flour and baking powder.

Beat in the sifted flour on medium speed in small doses.
This is how the batter should look. Just delizoso!DSCN7507
Pour the batter into the lined cake pan. Teresa didn’t butter and flour it. She put it in dry.


Bake the Pan di Spagna for 30 to 40 minutes, until it is well risen and feels firm when pressed gently with the palm of the hand. Check the cake after the first 20 minutes to make sure it isn’t getting too brown. Every oven is different. If needed, lower the temperature to 325 for the rest of the baking time. 

While the cake is baking, whisk together your pudding mix.
Let the cake cool completely.
Slice the cake carefully in half. Let boil one cup of water with 2 tablespoons sugar.
In a bottle add your liqueur and the sugar syrup (we used mandarinetto that Teresa made and brought from Italy. She recommends Rum very highly). Squirt the syrup on the bottom layer very well with 1/2 the bottle.
Spoon on the pudding around the bottom layer.
Spread out the pudding evenly with a spatula.
Carefully place the second layer on top.
Squirt on the other 1/2 bottle of syrup on the top of the cake.
Whip the cream until nice peaks form.
Start spreading the whipped cream around the top and sides of the cream.
We decorated the top with strawberries sliced in half.
Pipe the sides of the cake with more whipped cream.

Finish adding the rest of the strawberries to the top.

And this is an Italian birthday cake!
We had Italian friends come over after dinner. We ate cake. We sang and had espresso. We laughed. We also were celebrating the end of my surgery and the road to my recovery. It was a beautiful cake and a special moment put together spontaneously.
I’m not too sure that Teresa is happy I’m sharing this recipe. She came by as I was loading the photos to the post and said, “La torta e’ bella.” She said, “It was made by me and decorated by my son.” The look of pride in her face was palpable. Then she said “Someone will put it in their cookbook and make money with it.”
I hope you enjoy Teresa’s birthday cake recipe! You can make this cake any time. It is not difficult and is an example of simple Italian baking.
Wishing you a GREAT week! Thank you for stopping by to say “HELLO!” Smile

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Pegasuslegend April 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I love this kind of cake its just like we make it! Gorgeous!


Bridgett ~ La Bella Cook April 18, 2011 at 10:26 pm

What a lovely tribute! I would be happy to celebrate with a slice of this incredible cake.

Reply April 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm

What a gorgeous cake :) Love the strawberries on top. Hello Teresa! Hello Mr. Cake Duke! Besos, Lora. xoxo


Amy April 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Hi Lora :)!
Your cake is beautiful! A woman deserves Cake AND earrings for her b-day, but I would settle for the cake not being a jewelry person myself ;)! Your sister in law is lucky to have you to make her delicious cake! This one looks amazing with the yummy filling and beautiful berries on top! Love all the photos :)!


Veronica's Kitchen April 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I agree with you, birthday cake is more important than earrings. Love your cake, yum!


Paula - bell'alimento April 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Ma che BUONO….Dai facciamo un libro di cucina insieme ; )


Happy When Not Hungry April 19, 2011 at 12:04 am

I would take birthday cake over earrings any day! This cake looks beautiful! I’m sure your sister-in-law appreciated it even though she didn’t get to taste it :-)


Sandra April 19, 2011 at 12:35 am

Beautiful cake, I am sure that nobody would even come close to make that cake like she did..
Thanks for sharing, and I wish you best road to the recovery! Have a great week!


Paula April 19, 2011 at 12:36 am

Now this is a cake! So enjoyed this post and to read that you are taking pictures and feel well enough to entertain a little is wonderful. Sorry that your sister-in-law had to miss out on a slice of this but I’m sure if she reads this post she’ll be happy to know of all the family love that went into celebrating her day and the start of your recovery.
Tell your Mother-in-Law that she and her son did an outstanding job…she raised a good baker’s assistants there and that I’m sure he’ll see to it that no one steals his Momma’s recipe and make it their own.


Sandra April 19, 2011 at 2:12 am

It’s a very pretty cake and I can only imagine how good it is. A cake made with this much love can’t help but be good.


Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet } April 19, 2011 at 2:41 am

What a beautiful cake. Love the fluffy-ness of the cake. This sounds like such a special cake that they made and I love that your hubby is decorating. :)


Katie Mar April 19, 2011 at 3:14 am

that’s nice of you to make her a cake :)
cake is definitely more important than earrings!!
this looks wonderful and moist!!! yummy. very pretty presentation, too!


Monet April 19, 2011 at 4:14 am

Smile. How adorable is this post! I love family recipes, and I think you and your family are just adorable. Thank you for sharing this birthday cake, my dear. I think a good cake is far better than earrings. I hope you have a wonderful week of healing and happiness. Love from Austin.


I Sicilian April 19, 2011 at 4:58 am

Lora, thanks for visiting my blog. It’s amazing how many great blogs there are out there and how few we’re familiar with. I have to say I’m impressed with all the wonderful, beautiful recipes you feature. I’m sure I don’t want to miss any, in the future. I loved every recipe I looked at and will definitely come back to reproduce some of your creations. My, part Sicilian friend… as they said in the movie The Godfather, I’m glad to “drop the gun and take the cannoli”


Mari April 19, 2011 at 5:25 am

Lovely…I can’t get over how delicious this looks.

Have a fantastic week :)


foodwanderings April 19, 2011 at 9:22 am

I love whipped cream frosting that is my most favorite!! The cake looks yummy-licious!


Lizzy April 19, 2011 at 10:13 am

Does Teresa want to visit Indiana before she heads back to Italy????? WOW! What a fabulous celebratory cake…this one trumps anything chocolate in my book. Beautiful, Lora.


Becky April 19, 2011 at 10:40 am

Such a beautiful, mouthwatering cake. The cake is even more special. because it was made by a mother and decorated by her son, with much love!
Maybe someone should do a family cookbook!


Lauren at Keep It Sweet April 19, 2011 at 10:40 am

The end of your surgery is definitely something to celebrate! I love any cake topped with whipped cream:-)


Pretend Chef April 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

What a beautiful cake! I would take this cake over earrings. Haha! I love that your mother in law and husband worked together on it. Such a great memory to have. Happy to hear you are on the road to recovery.


Adora's Box April 19, 2011 at 2:12 pm

What a beautiful and delicious cake. Love strawberries and cream. Would love some gold earrings, too.


Lindsay @Eat, Knit, Grow April 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Oh yum! That looks magnificent! Such a special celebration cake!


alana April 19, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Wow that such a sweet family effort!


Jennifer April 19, 2011 at 7:23 pm

This cake, as always, looks awesome. I love anything with strawberries. And you’re sooooo right, nothing, NOTHING beats homemade whipped cream.


Molly April 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm

wonderful cake and super cute hubbie!


Ken│hungry rabbit April 19, 2011 at 9:47 pm

This is the kind of cake I want for my birthday. Simply elegant and packed with lots of love.


Reeni April 20, 2011 at 12:31 am

Oh yes! A cake made with so much love is far better! But gold earrings are pretty darn nice too. The cake looks delectable! Homemade whip cream is the best. Reminds me of my Mom – she is always telling me not to give away my recipes. Hope you are doing well! xoxo


EatLiveRun April 20, 2011 at 12:39 am



C Thornton April 20, 2011 at 1:29 am

This is perhaps too pretty. Stop being so awesome. (Love it)


Marnely Rodriguez April 20, 2011 at 5:22 am

This cake was in my dreams last night! hehehe, and I love the idea of using pudding from a box! quick and eaasy and they do taste yummy!


Kristen April 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I love the idea of the tradition of this cake. It is just beautiful and I can just imagine the wonderful taste with the syrup and creamy filling.


Susan Lindquist April 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Lora! Such a beautiful and summery looking cake! I am bookmarking this for the first batch of strawberries from the garden! Can’t wait!

Happy Easter!


Lana @ Never Enough Thyme April 20, 2011 at 1:53 pm

What a beautiful cake! Love using the sugar syrup and liqueur with pudding in between. Magnificent!


Sue April 20, 2011 at 3:37 pm

So much love went into that cake:) Now wonder it looks so beautiful and delicious!


Georgia | The Comfort of Cooking April 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Lora, that is so sweet of you to make your sister in law a cake, even from so far away. I, too, didn’t get a cake for my birthday last year and am still wondering why! Like your sister in law, though, I did get a nice piece of jewelry and couldn’t complain ;) Thanks for being your sweet self and sharing this delicious creation, Lora! Have a wonderful Wednesday!


Karen April 20, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I love that your hubby and his mom got to make a cake together! So sweet!
It looks wonderful! I think I want to drink that syrup right out of the bottle!!! :)


Devaki April 21, 2011 at 12:42 am

Oh my goodness Lora – we were just tweeting and I decided to pop in and say hello! Boy am I glad I did, Duchess of cakes you truly are – what a talent!!

Will be back as soon as I wipe up this drool….

chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors


baking.serendipity April 21, 2011 at 2:57 am

Wishing you a great week as well :) This birthday cake looks perfect! A birthday without a cake is so sad…I am glad you were thinking of your sister-in-law! I think if I lived in Italy though, I could skip a cake if my husband always bought me fancy Italian shoes :)


Winnie April 21, 2011 at 3:10 am

Is that your hubs helping make the cake? How cute is he?! Seriously…this cake looks amazing :)


Denise April 21, 2011 at 4:34 am

This cake sounds & looks wonderful, Lora! And how sweet of you to remember your sister in law’s big day in the midst of your trials. Turning 40 was a big deal to me…so I’m sure she loved the extra attention you brought to her special day via your blog! Hope you are feeling better and we can do a cookie class or something fun soon! :-)

Denise @ Creative Kitchen


Aggie April 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I love that you have your MIL there baking with you. What a beautiful cake. I want to make it for my friend’s birthday!!


Cristina, from Buenos Aires to Paris April 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Can I be your sister in law?
Great cake!! My mom used to make one like that for my birthdays..I miss that!


the domestic mama April 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Wow, it looks incredible. Yum… now you do live close enough to share… ;)


A SPICY PERSPECTIVE April 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm

This makes me wish it were MY birthday… and that I was Italian. ;)


Elin April 22, 2011 at 3:19 am

Lora…I am sure your SIL will be happy reading this. A family team work is a joy , making this cake for her :) I wish my family will work together in making my birthday cake….great family.

Have a nice day Lora,


Shaina April 25, 2011 at 2:59 pm

This is such a lovely cake!!


Vickie July 10, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Looks like more than a cup of flour….seems like a lot of baking powder for a cup of flour….I am I wrong or is it a misprint!!!


cakeduchess July 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm

The recipe is correct. Hope you enjoy it!


Anne September 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Just about to put mine in the oven. Worried though as my batter looks nothing like your pictures. The batter with one cup of flour seems very runny. Fingers crossed it turns out because it sure sounds delicious!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: