Pianono (Filipino Sponge Cake Roll)

Piano with soft, soft sponge cake and sweetened margarine filling is the perfect accompaniment to coffee or tea. This Filipino-style jelly roll is delicious for breakfast or a midday snack!

What is Piano

Piano or Pionono is a type of pastry popular in Spain, South America and the Philippines. It was named after the late Pope Pius IX. or “Pio Nono,” as he was called by the good people of Italy, where the Pope greeted. However, the original creator of Pionono is from Santa Fe, Granada, Spain, and Ceferino Ysla Gonzalez, who is a devotee of the Virgin Mary.

The story goes that years after Pope Pius IX. proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Gonzalez decided to pay homage by creating these bite-sized mini cakes shaped after the pope and named after him.

Philippine version

Like its Spanish and South American counterparts, where the bread or pastry dough is rolled around various fillings, the Filipino-style Pianono is a roulade consisting of a soft, pillowy sponge cake wrapped around a margarine and sugar mixture. It is also often adapted to include local flavors such as ube, mango and mocha.

Using cornstarch

Piano cakes are soft and airy and the key to this light texture is the use of cake flour due to its low protein content.

But since cake flour isn’t a staple in most kitchens, this recipe uses a mix of cornstarch and all-purpose flour for convenience. Some of the all-purpose flour is replaced with cornstarch to prevent gluten from forming in the all-purpose flour, resulting in a finer crumb.

A sponge cake like this Filipino jelly roll is usually leavened with eggs. Before baking, the egg whites are beaten to entrain air, then gently folded into the yolk batter to lift the cake.

Tips for making meringues

  • Eggs separate more easily when cold, but allow the whites to come to room temperature before whisking to create more volume.
  • Use fresh eggs if possible, they may not create as much volume as older (3-5 day old) eggs, but they will create more stable meringues.
  • Make sure that there is no speck of fat, grease or even a streak of yolk in the whites that will prevent them from foaming properly.
  • For best results, use clean grease-free bowls and whisk attachment. Use glass or metal bowls, as plastic can have a greasy film that prevents egg whites from being fully whipped.
  • Do not use high speed when whipping or whisking egg whites. Because it contains more air and creates larger bubbles, it tends to deflate the meringues during or after baking.

Egg white whipping stage

As a guide, we provide visual examples of each step.

Frothy Stage-mixture is a foamy and cloudy liquid with large bubbles.

Soft Peaks Stage egg whites have a slight sheen and fine bubbles. The peaks will start to form when the beaters are lifted from the foam, but they are too soft to hold their shape.

Stiff Peaks Stage compound is glossy, thick and very stiff. The tips stay straight without collapsing.

How to serve and store

  • Cut into portions and serve for breakfast or lunch with coffee, tea or your favorite snack.
  • To prevent the cake from drying out, transfer it to an airtight container or wrap it in cling film. With proper storage, it will last up to 3 days at room temperature.
  • For longer storage, wrap cake tightly in plastic wrap to retain moisture and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw at room temperature.