Biancomangiare (lit. "white food" and same as blancmange popular throughout Europe), is a simple pudding prepared by infusing milk with spices and thickening it with starch. Its origins date back to the Middle Ages and in Sicily it usually comes in 2 basic versions - with regular milk or with almond milk - plus a number of variation or flavour - chocolate, lemon, cinnamon, just to name a few.
My grandmother would shape hers in a beautiful mould and have half chocolate-flavoured and the other half flavoured with lemon zest.
Another way to make biancomangiare, was by reducing the amount of starch, thus creating a more custard-like consistency, that could be then topped with nuts (pistachios or almonds) and served in a cup.
Here I used it to fill up the layers of this beautiful cake.
The sponge is a simple Pan di Spagna, a soft and airy kind of Italian sponge cake (despite its name suggests a Spanish origin).
The thin layers of sponge are soaked in Marsala - a Sicilian sweet wine - and dusted with a very generous amount of cinnamon - another favourite ingredient in Sicilian cuisine.
Everything topped with colourful sugar sprinkles for a festive look! Perfect for this season.
For the Pan di Spagna:
70g 00 flour (you can use any cake flour alternatively)
30g potato starch
125g caster sugar
3 tbsp milk
2 tsp yeast
A pinch of salt
For the Biancomangiare:
500ml full-fat milk
100g caster sugar
50g corn starch
Zest of half lemon
Colourful sugar sprinkles
1/2 glass Marsala wine dissolved in 1/2 glass of water
Firstly, prepare the Pan di Spagna sponge cake.
Divide the egg yolks and egg whites and beat the yolks with the sugar and two tablespoons of milk until you get a light and foamy batter.
Add the remaining milk, the starch, the flour, a pinch of salt in batches while continuing to mix. Lastly, stir in the yeast and mix well, then gently fold the whipped egg whites.
Line the oven baking tray with parchment paper, pour the mixture and level it well - it should be about 1-2 cm thick, no more than that.
Bake at 180C for 10 minutes. Times may vary slightly depending on the oven, check with a skewer.
Allow the cake to cool slightly, then brush with the marsala-water mixture. Then cut the cake into 12 equal rectangles.
Now prepare the biancomangiare cream. Add all the milk minus 50ml to a pan on a medium-low heat and dissolve the sugar in it while stirring. Add also the lemon zest.
Whisk the corn starch into the remaining milk making sure there are no lumps, then add this mixture to the pan. Reduce the heat to low, and use a whisk to stir continuously until the cream starts to thicken and pull off the pan edges. This should take about 10 minutes.
Moving quickly, as the cream will start to solidify as it cools down, take one rectangle of sponge cake, dust it with cinnamon and cover it with a layer of biancomangiare cream. Then top with a second layer of cake, again dust with cinnamon, followed by another layer of biancomangiare. Lastly, top with one more layer of cake, dust with cinnamon and top with the sugar sprinkles.
Repeat with the remaining sponge and cream - you should obtain 4 cakes of 3 layers each.
Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before eating.