Orange Sponge Cake with Candied Grapes

Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook The Venetian Republic

While an Italian pastry chef in the employment of a Genoese marquis in Spain is said to have invented the first sponge cake, the rest of the Western world has certainly embraced it. Greece is no exception, with numerous variations of the sponge cake, or pantespani as the Greeks call it, to be found throughout the country. As in this recipe, in Greece sponge cake is usually served with some kind of syrup, and often with candied fruit, like these amazing grapes.

Orange Sponge Cake with Candied Grapes


PREP TIME 15 minutes

COOKING TIME 40 minutes

Sponge cake

60 g (2 oz) butter 2 tablespoons orange zest 125 g (scant 1 cup) plain flour 1 pinch salt 4 eggs 125 g (generous ½ cup) caster sugar

Candied grapes

250 g (9 oz) seedless grapes 250 g (generous 1 cup) sugar 10 g (¼ oz) pectin 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Whipped cream

250 ml (1 cup) thick (double) cream 1 tablespoon icing (confectioners') sugar Seeds from ½ vanilla pod


To make the sponge cake, first preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Melt the butter and let it cool slightly. Grease a 24 cm (9½ inch) round cake tin with a little of the butter. Add the orange zest to the remaining butter.

Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl.

In a heatproof bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale.

Half fill a saucepan with water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Place the bowl of eggs and sugar on top of the pan, ensuring the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Using an electric mixer, whisk for ten minutes – the mixture should triple in volume.

Remove the bowl from the pan and sift in half the flour. Fold in gently with a metal spoon, then repeat with the remaining flour. Add the melted butter and orange zest and fold through again.

Pour the batter in the cake tin and bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the candied grapes, put the grapes, sugar and 50 ml (scant ¼ cup) water in a pan and bring to a slow boil over low heat. Add the pectin and lemon juice and cook for around ten minutes until it has a thick consistency: do not over-boil.

To make the whipped cream, whisk together the cream and sifted icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir in the vanilla seeds.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack. To serve, cut the cake into slices and serve with a tablespoon of candied grapes and whipped cream.