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SALLY’S PERFECT SPONGE CAKE

One of my perfect childhood memories was visiting my Uncle Dave and Aunt Sally; Dave or Dejó (as he was known in Hungarian), was my grandfather’s brother.

Of my grandfather’s twelve siblings, the two eldest survived the Holocaust because they had immigrated to America before the war. My grandfather, Dave and the other 8 siblings had remained in Hungary with their parents. They lived in a large family compound in the town of Beregszász, at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. At the start of war, some of the siblings were already married and had families of their own. All, save my Saba and Dejó, lost their lives in Auschwitz in May of 1944.

Though Saba had moved to Israel and Dejó to America after the war, they remained incredibly close; and when Saba would visit us in New York every January for a month, they would spend hours in each other’s company. I often tagged along to Dejó and Sally’s Forest Hills apartment, where the conversation was in Hungarian, the tea was sweet, and the sponge cake was a perfect melt-in-the-mouth texture.

I relished those visits, because it was wonderful to see Saba so happy spending time with his brother, and because of the seemingly never ending amount of sponge cake that Aunt Sally would allow me to consume.

  • 300 g (1½ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 225 g (2¼ cups) plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 120 ml (½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 180 ml (¾ cup) orange juice (preferably fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
    1. Heat oven to 180˚C (350˚F), Set aside a loose bottomed, uncoated 10-inch tube pan.
    2. Remove 2 tablespoons from the measured out sugar and set aside.
    3. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and sift twice through a wire mesh sieve. Place the sieved flour mixture in an extra-large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, and vanilla. Mix until completely smooth and all the flour is incorporated.
    4. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, or using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Whisk in the cream of tartar, keep whisking until soft peaks have formed (should look like a dry cloud), add the two tablespoons of sugar slowly, one teaspoon at a time, and keep whisking until stiff peaks form.
    5. Gently but thoroughly fold the egg whites into the cake batter, one third at a time.
    6. Pour the cake batter into the tube pan, bake for 55-60 minutes until the cake top is golden, and the cake when gently poked springs back. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR THE FIRST 30 MINUTES OF BAKING TIME.
    7. Immediately, after taking the cake out of the oven, invert the pan over the neck of a glass bottle, cool upside down for 3 hours, before unmolding and serving.