Sponge Cake (Zucker-Leikach)

Shmil Holland

1 hour

10-inches / 26-cm cake pan

Sponge Cake
Photography: Matan Choufan

This recipe comes from Shmil Holland’s iconic book about Ashkenazi cuisine “Schmaltz.” Zucker-Leikach is a light sponge cake, traditionally leavened with beaten egg whites, which served as a touchstone for testing the skills of the Eastern European housewife. Despite its simplicity, it requires skilled whipping, folding, and stirring. Yiddish scholar Mordechai Kosover described the cake as “a pastry that has sweetened the lives of Jews for generations, then and now.”

In Israel, the cake went through a radical transformation; the quantity of eggs was reduced, the fluffy egg white batter was replaced with a floury dough, and the tall cake was divided into rationed individual portions, one for each diner.

If you like, mix 1.7 oz / 50 grams grated dark chocolate into the sifted flour before gently folding it into the egg white foam.

Ingredients

  • 7 eggs, separated
  • ¾ cup / 150 grams sugar
  • 1 cup / 140 grams flour
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • oil, for greasing the pan

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 170°C. Grease the pan with a little oil and line the edges with parchment paper that extends 7 cm / 3 inches beyond the pan. 
  2. Beat the egg whites, gradually adding the sugar, to stiff peaks.
  3. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating each one in a separate bowl before folding it into the foam.
  4. Sprinkle the lemon and orange zests over the foam and fold it in gently.
  5. Sift the flour over the foam, and fold gently. It is important to keep the foam airy, taking care not to break it.
  6. Carefully pour the batter into the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F /160°C and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Be careful not to overbake the cake or it will turn out dry.

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