Saturday, 23 March 2013

Passover Sponge Cake

It's that time of year again...Pesach (Passover) is right around the corner, and I am racking my brain trying to think of a menu that will satisfy the diverse palates and dietary restrictions of our Seder guests.

We have 2 people who should not have too much sugar or salt, a vegetarian, 4 meat lovers, 2 who prefer poultry, 1 who is allergic to fish and another who loves it...toss in the fact that this meal needs not only to be kosher, but also kosher for Passover and you can see why I am approaching this holiday with a looming sense of dread!  

Every year Mom and Ethel (1 of her 2 best friends) would engage in a Passover exchange - Mom gave Ethel a bottle of her home-made wine and Ethel brought a KLP (Kosher for Passover) Sponge Cake which Mom would serve for dessert with compote.  Last year I made my first attempts at sponge cake, the first was alright, but the second fell on one side and was a lop-sided disaster.  

This year I will try my hand, again, at making sponge cake, which I will serve with what I always knew as Mom's compote, but it is originally Aunt Adele's Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, and I think it is rather fitting that the family sponge cake recipe I am going to try - for the first time, I might add - is also from Aunt Adele.  Which brings me to a funny story...

This past week I had an appointment with Mom to see about continuing treatments to ease her ever-stiffening arms and hands.  I always walk into Baycrest with mixed emotions...I am happy to see my mom, but heartbroken by the pain and suffering that my beautiful, vital and loving mother has to endure every day.  I walked into the clinic in a bit of a fog, passing a woman in her 50s who was in a wheelchair.  We exchanged a brief smile, and I settled in to wait for Mildred to bring Mom down from lunch.   As I sat there an older woman came in and joined the younger woman.  Stuck in a stare, I thought to myself that this woman looked so familiar, even if just from behind.  As they walked off to their appointment, I made the connection and asked the secretary if the lady that just left was named Lil...she was!  I was taken was my long-lost great-aunt Lil, one of the authors of the mushroom brown rice recipe we all love so much!  

With the staff's permission, I went to the back and asked to speak with Lil.  It has been years since I last saw her - my uncle Harold Z"L died in Regina in the late 1980s when I was still a teenager.  I introduced myself and saw the light of recognition come on in her eyes.  She said she wouldn't have recognized me...then my cousin Mindy came out and we all took a few minutes to reconnect, after 20+ years.  We exchanged numbers and agreed to say goodbye before either of us left.  

Mom is quieter these days, and communicates more by expression than with words. Her smile still lights up her whole face, and brightens a room.  When her aunt Lil gently caressed her face and greeted her warmly and softly, I saw that smile, and she was happy.  Then Mindy recalled the amazing Yom Tov meals Mom used to make and I told them about this blog, and the Golden Recipes book I have with all the matriarchs' recipes.  I mentioned Aunt Adele, and Aunt Lil told me that Aunt Adele was the baker of the family.  You cannot imagine what a gift that little tidbit of information was...I often feel like I am lost on this journey, stumbling along and grasping at any little hint that may give me insight into the world that I've lost.  Aunt Lil started to recall anecdotes and it all felt so nice, so warm and haymishe, so comforting.  Another connection to the past that I thought was long gone and never to be rediscovered.  

Since I originally wrote this post, we agreed that Dad would bring a pareve KLP (obviously!) Strawberry Shortcake to our Seder because he knows our girls love it...and Aviva is bringing fruit...I will make meringues and that would likely be enough, but something is pushing me to bake Aunt Adele's Matzo Sponge Cake and make Mom's Compote...I suppose it it my way of having them with me at the Seder, even if it is only in my heart.

From my family to yours, I wish you a happy Passover - filled with family, friends, fun and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon,  Buon Appetito and Chag Sameyach  חג כשר ושמח.

Sponge Cake Success!!

Aunt Adele's Matzo Sponge Cake 

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1½ C sugar
  • 1C sifted matzo cake meal
  • 8 egg whites - beaten stiff
  • ½ lemon - juice and grated rind
Preheat oven to 350˚.  Beat yolks until light.  Add sugar and beat again.  Add pinch of salt, lemon and matzo cake meal.  Lastly, fold in egg whites (that have already been beaten stiff, but not dry).  Bake in spring form  tube pan or in 2 layers for 45 minutes.