Dolci Molfettesi | Yo-Yo’s

At some point during the pandemic, feeling overwhelmed by the unknown and trying to figure out the day to day logistics of working from home with two toddlers, I turned off my normal media sources and alerts, and turned to Pinterest and Twitter to find recipes that reminded me of better times. Because that’s what food does, right? Besides nourishing, it provides comfort, ignites memories, takes you back to a different time. And by the time May rolled around, I was desperately longing for a different time. I searched “dolci molfesttesi” and up popped a picture of these rum soaked, sugar coated pastries – and I am telling you, I could just taste it right then and there.

It took a bit of trial and error and mixing of different recipes to get these just right, but in the end, I think I landed a winner. This dessert consists of two Italian sponge cakes, pan di spagna, which are firm on the outside and, as you would imagine, pure sponge on the inside. They are sandwiched together with Nutella, then dipped in liquor and rolled in granulated sugar. This recipe traditionally uses a red Italian liquor called Alchemes, but I couldn’t find it here in the States. So, I added red food coloring powder to rum and it worked beautifully. The longer they sit, the better they get – perfect for impressing dinner party guests without the stress of making a stunner dessert the same night, or even the night before.

Dolci Molfettesi - Yo-Yo's

  • Servings: 15-20 cakes
  • Difficulty: medium
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    For the Sponge Cake:
  • 10 eggs, separated
  • 250 g 00 flour**
  • 50 g cornstarch
  • 1 package Lievito Pane degli Angeli*
  • 300 grams granulated sugar
  • For the Assembled Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups Nutella
  • 2 cups rum (or other clear liquor of choice)
  • red food coloring
  • 300 g of granulated sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare two cupcake tins by lining them with cupcake liners (silicone work best).
  2. Into a large bowl, sift the flour, cornstarch, and lievito into a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Separate the eggs. Place the egg yolks into the base of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or, by using an electric stand mixer) and start the mixer on a low speed. Slowly, add the sugar into the eggs, pausing to let the mixture incorporate, if necessary. Once all the sugar has been added, continue to mix the eggs and sugar on medium speed. Mix together for 5 minutes, until the batter is pale yellow and increased in volume. When stopped, the batter should flow in a ribbon from the whisk.
  4. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time. The mixture is going to form a thick, paste-like consistency. Transfer to a separate bowl.
  5. Wash the bowl of the stand mixer and dry well. Add the egg whites and whip them to stiff peaks. Add the egg whites to the paste mixture in three interval, and fold gently with a spatula. The mixture will be difficult to incorporate at first, but the egg whites will loosen the mixture as you continue to fold the egg whites into the paste. When the mixture is completely incorporated and has a uniform color, stop mixing.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake tins and fill between 1/4 and 1/3 of the way full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  7. Remove the sponge from cupcake liners. Create pairs of matching size. Spread about a tablespoon of Nutella onto one sponge, and sandwich together to form the yo-yo. Set aside on a cooling rack until you have created all of the yo-yo’s.
  8. In a shallow baking dish, combine the liquor and the red food coloring. In a separate shallow dish, pour into the granulated sugar. Dip the yo-yo in the liquor first – dipping the top, then the bottom, and then rolling it through to coat the sides. Use a pastry brush or spoon to coat any areas that have not absorbed any of the red color.
  9. Dip the liquor soaked yo-yo into the granulated sugar in the same manner – first the top and bottom, then rolled through to coat the sides. Set on a cooling rack until dry – about 2 hours. Store each cake in a cupcake liner, and store in an airtight container.

Lievito degli Angeli can be purchased on Amazon – it is a vanilla essenced Italian baking powder – I do not suggest using a substitute in this recipe.

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