Spongati cake recipe from 1820

This is an updated version of a spongati cake recipe by Ivan Day. Day got the recipe from William Jarrin’s “The Italian Confectioner” which was first printed in 1820. The cake is sort of like an English mince tart but in my opinion, much better.


For the pastry

225gr (8oz) plain flour
50gr (2oz) caster sugar (I use pure icing sugar)
100gr (4oz) unsalted butter (the Danish brand, Lurpak is excellent)
3 egg yolks

For the filling

115gr (4oz) white bread crumbs
115gr (4oz) walnuts
20gr (2/3oz) currants
20gr (2/3oz) pine nuts
450gr (1lb) honey (I use macadamia honey)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Icing sugar to dust the finished cake


Preheat the oven to 150C (300F)

Sift the flour and sugar. Chop up the butter into small cubes and mix with
the flour, sugar and egg yolks until you get a breadcrumb like, consistency
(I did this all in a food processor). Roll the mixture into a ball and chill
for about an hour or so. I always rush this step and it makes the pastry
more difficult to control (it splits and cracks) when it’s rolled out, and
on a side note, in Jarrin’s original recipe he says to let it sit in a cool
place over night.

The next step is to mix the filling ingredients together.

Take 2/3 of the pastry dough and roll it out into a 22cm (8 1/2″) circle and place
the filling in the middle leaving a 4cm (1 1/2″) clear border which you turn upwards
to make a rim. I actually do all this in a 22cm (8 1/2″) springform baking dish lined
with baking paper which makes it all easier to control. Roll out the rest of
the pastry to cover the filling and base, then press the edges together.

Put  several holes in the top to let out the steam and cook for about 40 to
45 minutes.

When the cake has cooled down, lightly dust it with some icing sugar.

This cake goes well with ice-cream, frozen yoghurt (my choice), custard or coffee.

By the way, for my regular visitors, sorry for not posting for a while and
my only excuse it that I’ve been making arrangements for my up coming
trip……. plus I’m just slack!

15 thoughts on “Spongati cake recipe from 1820”

  1. Now, wouldn’t it be nice to serve that wonderful looking Spongati cake in one of my favorite New England barn/garage/spaceships built around the same time the recipe was published?

    Seriously, I’m just having first coffee of the day and that looks damn good.

    I’m looking forward to your upcoming trip (when?) cuz we get to come along as long as wireless is part of your trip.

  2. That looks pretty damn good!

    I’m no baker, but I always need dough! hee hee!

    It’s better to be slack than tight … or wear slacks than tights … or something like that.

  3. I’m making this tomorrow! Yum, yum, yum! Thanks for being a gent and posting the recipe. I’ll let you know how it comes out. (Damn, now I really do have to make it. Uh, oh.)

    -Turkish Prawn

  4. Pat and Nat

    If you ever come to Oz I’ll be glad to make one for you.


    “It’s better to be slack than tight … or wear slacks than tights”

    I just don’t want to wear tight slacks. Don’t you just love oxymorons?


    Real men…….

    swap recipes!

    Let me know how it goes, or even better still, put a photo of it up on your blog.

  5. Of all the food items I’ve been unable to buy on this island, the one thing we DO get here is Lurpak Butter! How remote is that? St. Croix having once been under Danish rule, still maintains food export exchanges that reflect it’s origins.
    That alone is incentive for me to bake one of these delicious looking confections.
    Very generous of you to provide not just the recipe but to convert from metric for the rest of us.

    Where is your trip going to be, or will you surprise us?

  6. Bonnie

    It’s a great cake to have with friends over a coffee. Give it a try.

    I figure that since about 80% of the people who come to this blog are Americans, I’d better do some translating. I’ve got to tell you though, metric is sooooo much better. I used to work as a carpenter using imperial measurements so it’s not like I don’t know how to use them, it’s just that they are so…… primitive. I read somewhere that one of the reasons why the US didn’t change over is that it would’ve cost over 5 billion dollars to change over the road signs, and I read that about 20 years ago.

    As for our European itinerary, I’ll do a separate post on it because since we’re going for 3 months it’s beyond the scope of an answer to a comment.

    Have to brag to a wider audience, don’t ya know!

  7. Well, thanks for the recipe! I’ll try it out some day, and the reason I’m commenting is actually to say, I’m glad you’ve finally come back to posting :) So,(when) are you coming to Slovenia? ;)))

  8. Cashmere

    You should try the recipe I’m sure you’ll like it. Apparently it’s still made in Italy. It’s a real coincidence that you should comment today because I’ll be making your recipe for ričet today and I will be putting a post about it soon.

    My wife and I will be in Slovenia in either late September or early October.

  9. How serendipitous, as I was planning to make the cake this weekend and decided to go to the ‘net to cross-ref.

    Quick query re: the ingredient quantities – the recipe I have (also from Ivan Day via Jamin) calls for 50g breadcrumbs and 50g walnuts, rather than 115g of each. Also, the original Jamin recipe calls for cloves and salt in the filling, and olive oil in the dough – which all seem to have been left off the modern version. Any thoughts? Or is this just a case of Chinese whispers/lost in translation?

  10. Magpie

    I got Day’s recipe from a newspaper article about him so I can’t claim that I got it out of his book. I’ve made the recipe a few times as per the recipe that I’ve posted above and it has been perfect. So on that basis, I’d say the quantities above work fine.

    As for Jarrin’s original recipe, I’m going to also have a go at that as well in the near future. To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed that Day altered the original recipe without an explanation why.

  11. I think I’ve gotten to the bottom of the problem, I should have realised this. I take it you’re in Australia, and if so, the article you found must have been an excerpted or syndicated column (in toto) from the (UK) Telegraph.

    There was another recipe in the article (orange-larded leg of lamb) about which I had some queries and I emailed ID about it. He said not to refer to the recipe in the print publication because it was poorly edited and inaccurate (ingredients and instrurtions) – I’m guessing the spongati cake was also in this article and perhaps also inaccurate. It was meant to be corrected for the website but I don’t see any difference.

    As for adapting Jamin’s recipe, as that recipe is from the early 19th C, the measures would have been very different and also the recipe, and is adapted for one cake, whereas Jamin’s might have been for several cakes rather than one.

    In any event, I don’t think the few more grams of breadcrumbs and currents is an issue after all.

    However I did try to make the cake and it didn’t quite work – the filling oozed out of weak spots in my pastry wall, and the pastry itself wasn’t completely cooked after 40 mins. I wonder what I did wrong? I’m thinking 150C is a very low temperature for something like this, though as yours worked, perhaps not…

    On the bright side, the filling was delicious.

    Do you bake yours in the springform pan or do you just use it to prop up the walls of the casing before crimping the top to the bottom?

    Any thoughts would be most welcome…

  12. I got the recipe out of the “Good Living” magazine (March 3rd 2009) which comes as a supplement the Tuesday edition of the “Sydney Morning Herald”. Here’s a link to the text of the article:


    I cooked mine in the springform pan. Did you only use 50gr of breadcrumbs and walnuts? If so, perhaps that’s why the filling seeped out. Maybe there wasn’t enough filler to soak up the honey.

    In Jarrin’s original recipe it seemed that the recipe is often made into little tart like cakes.

  13. Thanks for posting that – it’s definitely the same article that appeared in the Telegraph, so per ID, the recipes (for the cake and the lamb, anyway) are not to be trusted. (Though as mentioned, aside from the quantities, I’m not sure what else was incorrect).

    I did use the smaller quantity of breadcrumbs and nuts, but the filling was pretty solid.

    The more I reflect, the more I think the problem arose when the filling was heated, whatever the make-up, it gets very runny and mine pushed through the weak spots in my pastry.

    Had I made a smaller, thicker pastry and baked it in a pan with sides rather than freeform, I might have fared better. I have a small tart pan and I’m going to try that next time, and will bake it at a slightly higher temperature and perhaps for a bit longer, to make sure the pastry cooks evenly.

    Very interesting ‘blog by the way !

  14. And I STILL haven’t gotten to town to get all the ingredients! GAH! I was really hoping to have this for Easter but I don’t see that happening… I will however, make this thing eventually!



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