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Italian Paradise Cake with lemon and vanilla

Torta Paradiso

Closely adapted from Grace Massa Langlois
Author TheSpicedLife


  • 6 large egg yolks (separated from the egg whites)
  • 4 large egg whites (separated from the egg yolks)
  • 150 g (3/4 g + 3 T) potato starch (can sub cornstarch)
  • 150 g (1 cup + 3 T) AP flour
  • 8 g ( 1/2 package) "lievito vaniglinato" ("yeast for cake," i.e., single acting baking powder)
  • 1/4 t fine sea salt
  • 300 g (1 1/3 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
  • 300 g (2 1/4 cups + 2 1/2 T) confectioners' sugar, divided, plus more for dusting
  • 1 t vanilla paste (can sub 2 t vanilla extract)
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 lemon


  1. Place the egg yolks in one bowl and the egg whites in another, cover each with plastic wrap and leave while you prepare other steps so that the eggs warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Using a 9 or 10 inch round pan with 3-inch high sides (I used a springform), line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Then lightly butter that parchment paper (if you have trouble with the parchment staying in place, lightly grease the pan under the parchment paper). This is a delicate cake, so for the prettiest cake I recommend you do this. Set aside.

  4. Sift the potato starch and flour into a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the "cake yeast" (single acting baking powder) along with the salt--make sure it is all combined thoroughly. Set aside.
  5. Now switch to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter until creamy, then add half of the confectioners' sugar, the vanilla paste and extract and lemon zest. Beat until creamy and pale, about 6 minutes, on medium speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl twice in the middle of this.
  6. Add the egg yolks one at a time, continuing to beat on medium speed, again scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl at least twice. This process--adding the yolks--should take about 3 minutes.
  7. Now switch to a medium-large bowl with a hand mixer (or if you are lucky enough to own 2 stand mixer bowls, switch to a clean bowl and the whip attachment). I had some trouble with this next step but the cake still came out perfectly, so do not get too stressed out by it. Whip the egg whites until they hold barely soft peaks. Reduce the speed to medium low, and very slowly (I think I added the sugar too fast) add the remaining confectioners' sugar by the tablespoons, mixing to incorporate before adding the next tablespoon. When you have incorporated all of the sugar, increase the speed to high and ideally whip the egg whites until stiff. Mine did not whip stiff and instead acted more like royal icing, so if this happens to you do not stress, just stop there. (If the egg whites do not beat into soft peaks at all however, there is probably a problem in your bowl or whip attachment, such as fat in the bowl, and you will need to start over.)
  8. Returning to the egg yolk mixture, add the flour mixture with the paddle speed on low, and mix the flour in. The batter will be quite stiff. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add about 1/4 of the egg white mixture and quickly but gently mix it in using a spatula.
  9. This will lighten the batter. Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold them in. When they are completely incorporated, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  10. Bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. If your oven cooks unevenly, rotate the pan halfway through.
  11. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for 25 minutes.
  12. Removing the cake was even easier with a springform pan--I released the sides, carefully peeling away the parchment, and then used my cake lifter to quickly move the cake to a cooling rack. If you used a regular cake pan, place parchment paper over the pan, quickly invert the cake onto the parchment, and then invert it back onto a cooling rack.
  13. Let the cake cool completely.
  14. Unlike a denser or richer cake, powdered sugar on this cake will not absorb into the cake and get gummy. So when the cake is cool, sift confectioners' sugar all over the top of the cake. Transfer to a cake stand or plate.