Classic Italian desserts have won the hearts of food lovers around the world for their simplicity and balanced flavors. Here’s a list of our favorite classic Italian desserts, including links to the full recipe available on our site!
Ingredients in Classic Italian Desserts
This easy sponge cake recipe (called Pan di Spagna in Italian) is a key ingredient in many classic Italian desserts. Sponge cakes in general are thought to have originated during the Renaissance. During this time, people got the idea to use eggs as a leavening agent (to help bread and cakes rise).
The most common sponge cake recipe in Italy is this traditional one, thought to have originated in Spain. In fact, the name literally translates to Spanish Bread. Pan di Spagna uses only whipped eggs for giving the cake the rise—no baking powder. Baking powder arrived on the scene later. Other than whipped eggs, the cake has sugar and a combination of flours: cake flour and or cornstarch or potato flour.
Like many other sponge cakes, the Pan di Spagna most popular in Italian dessert recipes is not that flavorful in and of itself. But that’s not the point. This cake is prized for its soft texture and its ability to soak up liquor and syrups!
Sometimes this cake is used in place of the more traditional savoiardi (lady fingers) in the classic Tiramisu— because it’s great at soaking up that coffee!
Pastry Cream – Crème Pâtissière
From eclairs and profiteroles to cakes, crème pâtissière is a staple ingredient in Italian desserts.
Sometimes it’s used alone as a cake filling, as it is for this Zuppa Inglese recipe. Or, maybe it’s combined with a Chantilly Cream to make Diplomat Cream— as it’s used in this Italian Lemon Cake recipe.
In the Italian world of pastry, it’s the star ingredient in Italian Profiteroles (know elsewhere as Cream Puffs), Eclairs, and as a simple yet satisfying filling for Italian bombolone (Cream Filled Donuts).