We are in Portugal. Depending upon a baker’s region of residence, he or she might make a different version of Pão de Ló, a traditional spongecake that has been around in local cuisine since at least the 1700s.
Its recipe is simple, in the sense that it only has 3 ingredients: eggs, sugar, and flour, but it is a completely versatile cake that can be eaten as is, or can be used as a basis for other more elaborate desserts. The recipe itself has an array of variations that will allow you to create all the different Portuguese’s sponge cakes: Pão de Ló de Ovar, Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão, Pão de Ló de Margaride and others. The only differences are in the number of ingredients and the time it stays in the oven.
For example in Ovar, a coastal city north of the district capital, Aveiro, bakeries are known for their particularly superlative version.
There confectionaries sell the sweet wrapped in white paper that holds everything together, but don’t try to cut a slice of Ovar’s Pão de Ló, as the cake center is so oozy that a spoon is usually required!
Made in a clay pot using just its three ingredients, Ovar’s signature cake resembles something between a melty soufflé and a baked pudding, and tasters describe it as rich and gooey, with a delicate top-crust similar to a crisp meringue.
Like many of Portugal’s egg-based treats, Pão de Ló de Ovar is thought to have originated in a convent, when it was made by nuns.
Its earliest written evidence dates back to 1781, in a book called Irmandade dos Passos, where it is said that pão de Ló de Ovar was a sweet offered to the priests who took the wooden framework to carry the statues in the Holy Week procession. Its history continued steadily into the 21st century, and the sweet is now registered with Protected Geographical Indication by the European Union.
Today it is often seen at most food fairs in Portugal and, since 2011, locals in Ovar have thrown a five-day summer festival in honor of their Pão de Ló in which celebrants gather to sample cakes from more than a dozen producers, enjoy live music, and dance in the city’s riverside park.
Images from web – Google Research