Passover Sponge Cake

Passover Sponge Cake

Eggs are on sale, a sure sign that Passover and Easter are close at hand, since eggs play an important role in both. Eggs are a symbol of life and renewal, of the end of winter and the beginning of spring. They’re also a key ingredient in many of the dishes served during both Easter and Passover.

Passover, which begins at sundown on Monday, March 25, celebrates the Jews’ Exodus from Egypt where they had been slaves. Tradition says they had to leave quickly and didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise. They simply mixed the flour and water, shaped the dough, and baked it as quickly as possible.

Observant Jews eat only unleavened bread, known as matzo, for the eight days of Passover. To make sure no leavening has occurred, the dough used to make the matzo has to be mixed, shaped and placed in the oven in eighteen minutes or less.

Cooking for the holiday is more complex than usual, since another set of guidelines has been added to the separation of milk and meat that’s the cornerstone of Jewish cuisine. Baked goods can be made only with matzo cake meal and matzo cake flour. Whipped egg whites are typically used as a leavening agent, since baking powder, like yeast, is forbidden for Passover.

As is often the case, necessity has spurred creativity. For me, it isn’t Passover unless I make the ten-egg sponge cake that’s a family tradition. It’s the first cake I ever made, and the tube pan I bake it in is the first cake pan I ever bought. Strawberries are the perfect accompaniment.


Sponge Cake

Preheat oven to 350-degrees

10-inch tube pan, ungreased

Ten large eggs

Two cups sugar

Two tablespoons lemon juice

Grated rind of one lemon, optional

Two tablespoons potato starch

Matzo cake meal

  1. Separate the yolks and whites.
  2. Beat the whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  3. Beat the yolks until light.
  4. Add the sugar and beat until well combined.
  5. Put the potato starch in a measuring cup. Add enough matzo cake meal to make a total of one cup.
  6. Add the cake meal and potato starch to the mix of yolks and sugar. Beat until well-combined.
  7. Add the lemon juice and rind (if using), and beat until well combined.
  8. By hand, fold in the beaten egg whites, using a rubber spatula. The whites can be added in segments or all at once. Either way, folding in the whites takes patience and a light touch.
  9. Transfer the batter to the ungreased tube pan.
  10.  Put the pan in the center of a pre-heated oven. Bake for about one hour.
  11.  When the cake is done, take it out of the oven. Turn the pan over. Then set the upside-down cake on a rack to cool.
  12.  When the cake is cool, turn the pan right-side-up. Take the cake out of the pan. I usually use a butter knife to separate the cake from the pan.

Note: The cake can be made a day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap, and store at room temperature. If you’re searching for holiday recipes and guidelines, check the various books and articles written by Joan Nathan. Her recipes work, and her writing is easy to follow. I also recommend “Jewish Food: the world at table” by Matthew Goodman (HarperCollins Publishers, $29.95). I’ll be posting more Passover recipes as it gets closer to the holiday.


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