March 3, 2024


Food never sleeps.

The Best Italian Custard Cake

4 min read

Learn how to master the art of making a scrumptious Italian custatd cake. Also known as a ‘continental cake’ it is a very traditional cake used by many Italian families. Not only is it one of the most delicious cakes you will ever taste it is so simple, versatile and cheap to make. Simply follow the recipe below and remember that the key of baking is accuracy and precision. The end result will be perfection.



5 eggs, room temperature

250g castor sugar

2 1/2 tsps vanilla sugar

100g cornflour

100g plain flour

1 1/4tsps baking powder

75mls cold water


1) Grease a 24cm springform tin and line with grease proof baking paper. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius.

2) Separate the eggs into a bowl. Beat egg whites until very stiff with 75mls of cold water. Beat in castor sugar and vanilla sugar very quickly- do not over beat. (If you do not have vanilla sugar you can simply replace it with castor sugar). Blend in beaten egg yolks and beat until mixture forms a figure “8”.

3) Sift cornflour, plain flour and baking powder 3 times. Gently fold flour mixture into egg mixture being careful not to knock out the air.

4) Gently spread the batter into prepared baking tin. Bake for 50 minutes until golden brown or a skewer inserted comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Lemon Custard:


500ml full cream milk

75g castor sugar

1 vanilla bean

1/4 cup marsala

3 egg yolks

40g cornflour

strips of peel from 1 lemon (use a potato peeler)

Chocolate Custard:


500ml full cream milk

75g castor sugar

1 vanilla bean

1/4 cup marsala

3 egg yolks

40g cornflour

3-4 tbsp good quality cocoa powder


1) Split vanilla pod vertically down the middle and scrape out seeds. Put milk with half the sugar, vanilla seeds and pod, marsala and lemon peel in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.

2) Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks and remaining sugar. Once incorporated, gradually add the cornflour to form a paste.

3) When milk has boiled remove from heat and pour a little of the milk into the yolk paste, whisk to incorporate. Adding a small amount at the beginning will prevent lumps in your custard. Slowly continue adding until half of the milk is used.

4) Bring the remainder of the milk back to the boil and pour onto the yolk mixture, then tip the whole lot back into the saucepan.

5) Cook over a medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard thickens. (At first it may look lumpy but dont panic. Keep stirring over heat and it will cook out)

6) Once the custard has thickened pour into a heatproof bowl. Quickly remove the lemon peel and vanilla pod, cover with cling film to prevent it from forming a skin on top. Make sure the cling film touches custard so it won’t steam and form water droplets. Refrigerate until cold.

7) Once the custard has cooled it will seem too hard, however begin beating it with an electric mixer and it will come together until smooth and silky. The consitency should be thick but not hard. If you find the custard is a little bit too firm, add about 1 tablespoon of extra milk or more if needed, until it becomes thick and smooth.

To make chocolate custard – Omit the lemon peel. Add the cocoa at the beginning of step three and stir to dissolve. Have a taste and adjust it to how chocolatey you like it. Follow on the remaining steps to making the custard as above.

To assemble cake:

Use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of liquer such as marsala, or sherry for each layer. For a non -alcoholic version use sweetened cooled coffee as a substitute. See note below.

Once the cake has cooled slice the cake horizontally to make two layers. You should have three discs of sponge. Place one disc of sponge onto a plate and moisten the sponge with chosen liquer or coffee. Spread the lemon custard over the sponge and place the second layer on top. Repeat the process with liquer or coffee mixture and spread over the chocolate custard. Top with the third disc of sponge and cover with cling film. Refrigerate overnight to set. Cake stored in the refrigerator for one or two days will allow flavours to improve.

To decorate:


300ml thickened whipping cream

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp vanilla essence

3/4 cup flaked roasted almonds or chopped hazelnuts

grated chocolate


1) Combine cream, vanilla and sugar into a bowl and beat to a soft peak.

2) Spread cream evenly over the sides and top of cake.

3) Press or throw nuts onto the sides of the cake. Collect the fallen nuts and keep repeating the process eventually you will have a wonderful result. Sprinkle top with grated chocolate.

Note- Any kind of your favourite liquer such as Tia Maria, Frangelico, Amaretto or Galliano will be a delicious variation to your cake. Even a combination of both liquer and coffee is very nice.

Whether it be a birthday, christening or wedding, this delicious Italian custard cake is wonderful used for a celebration. Let your imagination run wild with decorating creations and ideas. Experiment with liquer flavour combinations and custard flavours. One variation is to use orange rind instead of lemon rind for the custard with a chocolate liquer, creating a jaffa flavour. The flavour variations and combinations are endless.

It is best served with a hot cup of espresso coffee, or a sweet dessert wine. Enjoy!

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