Sospiri, meaning sighs in Italian, are little sponge cake sandwiches filled with lemon pastry cream and topped with a sweet glaze and sprinkle garnish – absolutely delightful!
little Italian cakes filled with lemon pastry cream

I think I’m going to bake my way through the Italian language.

It’s pretty much the best/most efficient/majorly delicious way to learn, don’t you think?

Plus it will teach me the most important phrases. Example – DAMMI IL VINO = GIVE ME THE WINE. That’s going to come in handy some day.


The.boy and I have started planning our honeymoon, which will hopefully involve stops in Rome and Venice before settling into Tuscany for a few days of pure relaxation (i.e. drinking all the wine and eating all the cheese), and in preparation, I have started brushing up on my Italian.

By that I mean, fooling around on the Duolingo app for 15 minutes a day and baking my way through every Italian cookbook I own.


So now I know that “sospiri” literallyΒ means little breaths (think suspiration), butΒ really means the cutest little sponge cake sandwiches stuffed with a bright and zesty lemon pastry cream and topped with a sugary sprinkle glaze.


AndΒ really really means the noise that you make when you bite into one of these little cakes. It’s instinctual, it’s guttural, it’s a little embarrassing, but it’s totally normal. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. You should, too.


Little Italian Cakes Filled with Lemon Pastry Cream {sospiri}
Sospiri, meaning sighs in Italian, are little sponge cake sandwiches filled with lemon pastry cream and topped with a sweet glaze and sprinkle garnish - absolutely delightful!
Yield: 16 cakes
For the pastry cream
  • 1½ cups half and half
  • peel of 1 small lemon
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup + 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
For the cake
  • 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar, divided
  • finely grated zest from 1 meyer lemon
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ⅔ cup cake flour
For the galze
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • ¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • rainbow sprinkles, for decoration
  1. First, prepare the pastry cream. Bring the half and half and lemon to a simmer in a small saucepan. Do not let it come to a full boil.
  2. Meanwhile, in a heatproof, non-reactive bowl, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until they are completely smooth. Whisk in the cornstarch until it is completely incorporated.
  3. Strain the lemon peel out of the milk mixture. Slowly pour the hot mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly as you do to keep the eggs from cooking. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until teh pastry cream boils. Continue to whisk and let it boil for 30 seconds, or until it forms a very thick cream.
  4. Transfer the pastry cream to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours.
  5. Meanwhile, make the cakes. Beat the egg yolks, ¼ cup of the sugar, and the lemon zest at high speed in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment for 5 minutes, or until pale yellow and thick.
  6. In a clean bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites along with a pinch of salt until thick and frothy. Slowly pour in the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, then beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
  7. Using a large spatula, gently fold the egg yolks until the whites until mostly combined. Sift the cake flour over the batter in 6 additions, gently folding in each, trying not to deflate the batter.
  8. Heat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Scoop the batter into a piping bat fitted with a ½-inch round tip. Pipe out 2-inch rounds onto the parchment paper, leaving 1 inch around them, to form 16 rounds on each sheet. Bake just until the tops begin to lightly color, about 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.
  10. Let cool completely on the baking sheets. When they are cool, slide a small offset spatula under them to release the from the paper. Flip them over and match in similarly sized pairs.
  11. For the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, corn syrup, hot water, and vanilla in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the glaze is smooth and warm, about 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.
  12. To fill the cookies, add a heaping tablespoon of pastry cream over half the rounds. Sandwich them together with their matching tops. Use a small offset spatula to smooth the pastry cream around the edges if it has leaked out. Place the filled cakes on a wire rack to catch the glaze.
  13. Pour the glaze over the little cakes, centering it over the top so that it spreads to cover them and drip down the edges. Decorate by sprinkling with rainbow sprinkles.
  14. Let the glaze stand until dry to the touch, about 1 hour. Place each cake into a paper cupcake liner and put into an airtight container. Cover and refrigerate for 24-48 hours before serving.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cake

Β More traditional Italian treats:

italian cream puffs with custard filling

Italian Cream Puffs with Custard Filling (St. Joseph’s Day Pastries)

italian rainbow cookies

Italian Rainbow Cookies

italian shortbread jam tart

Italian Shortbread Jam Tart

From Around the Web:

Italian Cream Cake from Sweetapolita

Ricotta Cheesecake from Bell’Alimento

Italian Rainbow Cookie Cake from My Name Is Yeh

Italian Lemon Almond Cake from Texanerin

Rustic Italian Sponge Cake with Creamy Cheesecake Filling from Dine and Dish


little Italian cakes filled with lemon pastry cream
Share →

44 Responses to Little Italian Cakes Filled with Lemon Pastry Cream {sospiri}

  1. Sune Moolman says:

    Oh, I love these! So darn cute. Should we try and see who can fit the most of them in their mouths? πŸ˜›

  2. Zainab says:

    You really know to prepare for a vacation!! These look amazing girl!

  3. Krista says:

    Lemon pastry cream sounds exquisitely wonderful, Joanne. πŸ™‚ Wishing you a fantastic time in Disney!!

  4. These are new to me, but anything with tangy lemony pastry cream must be GOOD!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  5. I think that’s the best way to learn Italian. I am loving these cute little cakes!

  6. These are so cute! And the lemon pastry cream sounds to-die-for.
    Yay for honeymoon planning!

  7. Lori R. says:

    Now there it s blog series theme for you. You do Italian and I’ll do German! You had me at the pastry cream. Such a fun treat!

  8. Julia says:

    I’m so jelly of your honeymoon plans! I need to lasso myself my own the.boy so that I can go on a romantic getaway with McDreamsalot. Ugh…Let’s cook our way through the Italian language together, shall we? And by cook OUR way, I mean, I’ll be there to eat all the foods as soon as you’re done photographing them πŸ˜‰ Have a great weekend!

  9. Lynn says:

    My tummy just rumbled a little just looking at these cakes.

  10. These look amazing!

    p.s. I lived (and blogged) in Rome for a year, so if you need recommendations of cool places to eat and hang out there, let me know!!

  11. These are so super cute! I wants to eat them ALL!

  12. Heather says:

    It is my dream to go to Italy one day. Don’t know when it will actually happen, but I like the way you prepare. πŸ˜‰ I’m thinking that’s a good way to start to planning for “one day.”

  13. Okay, my weekend kinda needs these adorb little cakes a LOT! I’m obsessing over how amazing that lemon pastry cream sounds—gimme all of dat awesomeness! πŸ™‚

  14. Aww – these are just too adorable!
    Btw – I guess it’s not ok for y’all to have a luggage stowaway when y’all are on your honeymoon? Cause if it is – then I’d like to volunteer!

  15. I love these!! I’ll never get enough of that lemon pastry cream! Bravissima! And you’re going to Italy?! I am so excited for you and the.boy!

  16. Love these little cakes! So excited for you guys to explore Italy – you will love it!! Check out ‘Earworms Learning’ rapid Italian – it’s a fun way to learn some of the language and it’s set to music so it’s easier to remember.

  17. Baking through the Italian language is a great idea. And I hope you do get to go to Italy for your honeymoon! If you need any pointers let me know. After my lab went to Berlin a couple years ago, one of my labmates went to Rome while the rest of us went home. I gave her a cheat sheet (I took Italian for 7 years) full of common/helpful words and phrases with their meanings and phonetic spelling. She said it came is super handy!

  18. Joanne, love these little italian cakes!! A honeymoon in Rome, Venice and Tuscany sounds so dreamy!!! I would love to go to Italy one day. . just to eat! We honeymooned in Paris for one week which was not long enough. . so I hope you and the husband can get away for at least two weeks!

  19. Oh, delicious, fabulous – just damn yum:)

  20. Kate says:

    Like little mini birthday cakes!

  21. Okay, you have successfully won me over and I want these little Italian cakes stat! lol. I love this recipe.

    Kay of Pure & Complex

  22. Kathleen says:

    I CANNOT wait until you come home from your honeymoon and share all your great new recipes with us! And, although I don’t usually make desserts, I’m definitely going to try this one!

  23. Hotly Spiced says:

    How exciting to be planning your honeymoon. And heading to Italy! Absolutely perfect destination for a honeymoon. I love the little sprinkles on your Italian cakes. Sorry I haven’t been around much – I’ve had a challenging week with my daughter in hospital. Now she’s home but with me being at her beck and call 24/7 I’m starting to think it was easier when she was in hospital! xx

  24. Beth says:

    Your cakes are adorable. And your honeymoon sounds perfect! Venice is one of my favourite cities in the world, and Rome’s right up there too.

  25. I love your method for learning a language. These cakes are cuuuute. πŸ™‚

  26. I’m going to find that app and see if I can learn more Italian. Venice is amazing, you will love it. I love these sospiri and think I will make them next time I’m missing Italy πŸ™‚

  27. I like this approach to language learning. These are really cute!

  28. Susan says:

    Your honeymoon planning sounds perfect! I would love to eat (and drink) my way through Italy! Delicious little cakes.

  29. I bet these little cakes would be divine! Delicious photos πŸ˜€

    Choc Chip Uru

  30. Ala says:

    Hehe Joanne I just showed this to my friend (he’s from Italy) and he was like ooooh, and then he actually had to google the translation (so I guess you’re a step ahead of the game, haha). So poetic πŸ™‚ I knew the Italians had the Romance language thing in the bag. I loooove these cute little thangs!

  31. Kinsey says:

    You are going to love Italy for your honeymoon! I went to Florence and Rome 4 years ago and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Italian is also a super fun language to learn–I took Spanish in high school but I’ve spent the past 2 semesters taking Italian and I love it! Don’t forget to eat gelato every day, too πŸ™‚

  32. These are so delicate and simple yet so amazing! I didn’t realize you hadn’t been on your honeymoon yet. You must be excited to go!

  33. These cute little cakes sound sooo good and that lemon pastry cream is simply YUM!

  34. Kathy says:

    You will love Italy! Venice is fabulous!! A great place for your honeymoon!
    Love these little cakes…I have never seen them before, but I need to remedy that!

  35. Foodiewife says:

    Lemon pastry cream and sprinkles. It doesn’t get any better than that. Sigh.

  36. Cailee says:

    These are so cute!! Gotta love Italian desserts! I love sprinkles!! πŸ™‚ Delicious! Great recipe!

  37. Asha says:

    Oh wow, Italy. Exciting, hope you both enjoy and eat your way through Italy. Food in Rome was amazing..Have loads of fun.
    These are the cutest little cakes ever.

  38. I think as soon as it becomes March, I start thinking more about spring like treats and they always involve lemon. Yum!

  39. grace says:

    how fun and delicious! add these to the list of reasons i wish i had an italian grandmother. πŸ™‚

  40. Kelly says:

    Yay for Italy, so excited for you! These mini lemon cakes sound like the best way to prepare for your trip. They look adorable and I love the sound of the lemon pastry cream!
    Loved meeting you this weekend, hope you guys had an awesome rest of the trip πŸ™‚

  41. These little beauties make me very happy. We also are planning a trip to Italy, at least in theory. One of these days!

  42. elly says:

    These are SO cute! I definitely want to make them. Pastry cream should be its own food group, it’s so damn goof.

  43. Johanna GGG says:

    you have the best excuse for baking italian – sounds like a great honeymoon plan and those cakes are really cute

  44. What a fun little cake! I love the sprinkles! Honeymooning in Italy sounds amazing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.