Pan d’Espanya (Orange Sponge Cake). Photo by Armando Rafael.
In cookbook author Stella Hanan Cohen’s childhood home in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), women gathered before celebrations to bake together. They made Sephardic sweets like marzipan, almond and sesame brittle, shortbread cookies filled with dates and walnuts, and this orange cake. The sweets were served on “mesas d’alegria” or tables of happiness, a tradition in their community that stretches back to a time in Spain before the Inquisition.
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (zest from 1 orange)
¾ cup fresh orange juice (juice from 3 oranges)
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)
10 inch tube chiffon cake pan (ungreased)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Separate the 8 eggs. Discard 2 egg yolks or use for another recipe. Place 6 egg yolks into a bowl and the egg whites from all 8 eggs into a separate large clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside, keeping at room temperature.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the sugar and 6 egg yolks at high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the oil, orange zest, orange juice and orange blossom water. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture to the sugar and egg mixture. Beat until the batter is just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar. Continue to beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. About 7 to 8 minutes.
In three batches, gently fold the whisked egg whites into the batter with a large silicone spatula or a metal spoon until just combined and no white streaks remain in the batter.
Pour the cake batter into the ungreased chiffon cake pan and smooth the surface with a spoon. Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Immediately invert the cake pan onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely before removing from the pan (about 1½ hours). To remove the cake from the pan loosen the outer edges of the cake with a long, thin knife around the inside of the pan and the center core. Gently ease out the cake onto a wire rack. Flip the cake back upright and serve. Lightly dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar if using.