The Washington Post

Poppi's Spongecake

Poppi's Spongecake 12.000

Marge Ely for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Aug 28, 2013

District resident Susan Barocas has made this family-favorite holiday-birthday cake since she was 8 or 9. She has tweaked the original recipe, using more citrus and less sugar in her version, which is suitable for Passover as well.

Barocas has discovered that spongecake fits in with her Sephardic heritage. Known as pan d'Espagne (bread of Spain), it was a favorite of Iberian Jews long before the Inquisition, which was when her father’s ancestors fled Spain to find a safe haven in the Ottoman Empire. Their descendants arrived at Ellis Island more than four centuries later.

You'll need a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.

Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries or fruit compote.

Make Ahead: The cake can be baked and kept covered at room temperature for a few days. To freeze it, refrigerate until well chilled, then wrap well in a layer of plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Once the cake has defrosted, refresh it in a 300-degree oven for no more than 10 minutes.

Servings: 12
  • 9 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (no pith) plus 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (no pith) plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup matzoh cake meal
  • 1/4 cup potato starch
  • Pinch kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low, then medium-high speed until lightened, creamy and thick. Stop to scrape down the bowl, then add the sugar, orange zest and juice and lemon zest and juice. Beat on medium-high speed until thoroughly incorporated.

Whisk together the matzoh cake meal, potato starch and salt in a mixing bowl. On low speed, gradually add the cake meal mixture to the egg yolk mixture and beat just until incorporated.

Rinse the beaters until completely clean, then run under cold water to chill them slightly.

Place the whites in a separate mixing bowl. Beat on low, then medium-high speed to form stiff peaks that are not dry.

Gently fold the beaten whites into the cake batter, one-third at a time, just until no white streaks of white remain and the batter is lightened. Use a light touch to spread the batter evenly in the (ungreased) tube pan. Bake undisturbed for 65 to 70 minutes; the top of the cake should be golden brown, and it should spring back when lightly pressed.

Immediately invert the cake (in the tube pan) so it rests on the pan's supports, or invert onto a sturdy long-necked bottle. Cool completely.

Turn the cake right side up. Use a large, rounded knife to release the cake from the pan, then transfer the cake to a serving plate. Slice using a serrated knife, to keep from squashing the cake.

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Recipe Source

From Susan Barocas, director of the Jewish Food Experience.

Tested by Jim Webster.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 190

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 4g 6%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 160mg 53%

Sodium: 75mg 3%

Total Carbohydrates: 33g 11%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 22g

Protein: 6g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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