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Portuguese Easter Cake (Pão de Ló)

There are so many wonderful Easter traditions around the world from chocolate bunnies in the US to hot cross buns in the UK to this Portuguese treat called pão de ló. It’s a simple cake, but one that’s made with a rich egg yolk base and plenty of vanilla.

For this cake it’s best to have a tube pan AKA an angel food cake pan. The smooth bottom becomes the top when it’s flipped over. But, a bundt pan has too many nooks and crannies in this area. If you don’t have a tube pan then an 8″ or 9″ cake or deep pie pan would work instead of a tube pan.

This cake has a whopping 6 eggs and then 2 more egg yolks in the batter. The reliance on eggs, much like many Easter traditions, is emblematic of spring and of rebirth. The sunny yellow color (thank you again, egg yolks) is like the yellow of daffodils, another Easter symbol.

Portuguese Easter Cake

The cake in terms of flavor is very much like an enriched sponge cake, often with a crackly top that forms in the oven. A simple dusting of powdered sugar is all it takes to decorate this cake. For an extra special touch you could use a paper doily as a powdered sugar stencil to make it really pretty.

In some traditions this cake is not topped at all and the pieces are not cut, but torn one by one from the ring. So it’s definitely not a formal cake. In the 18th century Portuguese sailors brought the cake to Japan where a version of it called castella cake because at that time this cake had been known as a pão de Castella. This type of cake remains extremely popular in Japan to this day.

Portuguese Easter Cake

You can add some orange or lemon zest to the batter to enhance the flavor or serve with fresh fruit for a tasty way to celebrate Easter- or any special occasion!

Serves 10

20m prep time

35m cook time

239 calories

Rated 5 out of 5
Rated by 3 reviewers

Allergens: Eggs, Gluten, Wheat

  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  1. Preheat oven to 340˚F. In large bowl combine eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and sugar using electric mixer. Beat for 2-3 full minutes or until eggs have doubled in size.
  2. Add flour 1/4 cup at a time, mixing between additions. Finally mix in baking powder and salt.
  3. Pour into a greased and floured bundt or tube pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar to serve (optional).

Recipe adapted from Food 52.

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