About this recipe:Homemade birthday cakes are the best! I prepared this one for my husband's 40th and it was so delicious that I decided to share the recipe! The cake is an Italian sponge cake or 'pan di Spagna'. It's made without any raising agents or butter making it lovely and light. Instead of sweet frosting or icing, I covered the cake with crème pâtissière and fresh fruit.
Preheat oven to 160 C / Gas 2. Lightly grease and flour a 25cm cake tin.
Place the eggs in a large bowl; add salt and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer for 10 to 15 minutes, gradually adding the sugar as you beat, about one spoonful at the time. After 10 minutes they will look whipped enough but if you keep beating, you will notice they will whip up even more and become really fluffy.
Fold in the flour, a bit at the time, using a plastic spatula or wooden spoon. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. After 25 minutes, check if a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Otherwise cook for a further five minutes. Turn off the oven; leave the cake inside with the door ajar for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool before filling or decorating.
For the pastry cream:
Heat 300ml of milk over low heat until lukewarm.
Beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Whisk in warm milk gradually. Whisk in flour and remaining 300ml milk. Pour into a pot and cook over low heat for a few minutes, whisking continuously until the sauce has thickened.
Remove from heat and transfer into a bowl. Cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool. Transfer to the fridge to chill.
Use a long bread knife to slice the cake horizontally. Spoon orange juice evenly over the cut side of each sponge. Cover one half with some of the pastry cream and fresh strawberries, set the other half on top and cover with top and sides of the cake with remaining pastry cream.
Decorate the top with fresh fruit, shaping them into a number or name.
Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.