A number of famous Italian dessert use pan di Spagna as their base. Although the literal translation of its name is "Spanish bread," pan di Spagna is actually a cake, whose ethereal texture is due to a long beating of eggs and sugar to incorporate air into the batter, and not to the use of any leavening agent.
I saw pan di Spagna mentioned in a cookbook from the end of the 16th century (Il Trinciante), and there are several references to it in books from the following century, indications of a long history for this still popular cake.
A feathery and sponge-like texture recommends pan di Spagna as a base for desserts with a creamy filling. When I was in Italy, I would sometime buy from a bakery a portion of a whole pan di Spagna to make zuppa inglese with it (I will soon write a post on this dessert, so that, if you don't know what it is, you will be enlightened). Most notably, slices of pan di Spagna constitute the wrapping layer of the cassata siciliana, which will be the subject of the post after the next one (hence, enlightenment in this case will occur before long).
[Many thanks to historian Ken Albala for providing me useful information on this topic, based on which I changed the content of the post, which originally referred to a mid-18th century birth date for pan di Spagna.]
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