Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mom's Extra Tall Sponge Cake #HolidayFoodParty

Today I'm joining my favorite group of holiday food bloggers to discuss a topic that's near and dear to everyone's hearts - my mom.  OK, maybe my own mom is only near and dear to me but I'm sure you all have your own moms to focus on and celebrate when Mother's Day comes.
Cooking for a holiday that doesn't have any specific food associated with it is more challenging but I decided that the only logical recipe for me to make and share with you is my mother's signature cake.  She'd be the first to tell you that she had a very small baking repertoire but this cake appeared on our table often.  I have happy memories of dipping it into hot cocoa in the winter and spooning ice cream over it in summer.  Through the years I've seen lots of recipes for sponge cakes and many for sale at bakeries but none were ever as tall as hers because of the stiffly beaten egg whites.  As it happens, separating eggs is one of my least favorite kitchen chores but it was totally worth it to recreate this cake.  And yes, of course, I shared it with my mom.
I realize I've never spoken much about her and, at this point, you're welcome to skip down to the great recipe and then to the tasty offerings from my fellow cooks.  But I'm going to take a moment and honor my mother.

She was born in a Jewish village in Russia in 1933 as the seventh child, but her mother did not survive childbirth.  In 1945, when the Nazis came, the villagers scattered as bombs went off.  She was separated from her father and siblings, none of whom survived the attack.  A group of Russian solders found her wandering in the woods, hungry and cold in the Russian winter.  They kept her with them by the fire they built, gave her food and told her stories.  In the morning, they got her to a caravan headed toward the ships that were leaving with the fleeing people.

Her ship was headed to Palestine but the British refused them entry and she spent a year in an orphan detention camp on the island of Cypress.  It was through the efforts of future Prime Minister Golda Meir (my personal hero) that the children were released and allowed to come into the future Israel.
She was sent to live on a Kibbutz that took in war orphans.  She told me many stories of how the starved children would steal food and stuff it into their pockets, still unsure that another meal would be coming.  The kibbutz staff knew but said nothing and allowed the children to settle and become comfortable with the fact that they were now safe and cared for.  When she grew up, she moved to Tel Aviv where she met my father, a German war refugee.  They married and eventually settled in New York where I enjoyed a childhood far safer and more privileged than either of them ever had.

My mother never had a maternal example to follow and many reasons for the fear and nightmares that always plagued her.  But she loved me more than she loved herself and she did the best job she could in raising me.  Her best was damn good and I love her dearly.  Happy mother's day to my wonderful mom and all the other wonderful moms in the world.  Now, let's get to that cake.  Enjoy!

6 Eggs, separated
1 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 Cup all purpose flour
1 Teaspoon baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (orange juice would be fine, too)
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with a stand or hand mixer until they've reached stiff peaks.

In a second bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until they're fully incorporated and lightened in color.  Mix in the vanilla and lemon juice.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and beat into the egg mixture.

Gently fold in the egg whites, careful not to deflate them.  Pour the batter into a buttered and floured tube style pan and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.  Allow to cool fully before removing from the pan.  Makes approximately 10 servings.

Be sure to check out all the other Mother's Day deliciousness our group has to offer.

1. Coconut Cupcakes from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
2. German Apple Cake from Magnolia Days
3. Baked Lemon Pasta with Broccoli and Shrimp from What Smells So Good
4. Cinnamon Pear Cake from Roxana's Home Baking
5. Strawberry Whiskey Sour from Girl in the Little Red Kitchen
6. Huevos Rancheros from Crumb Blog
7. Triple Lemon Cake from Created by Diane
8. Banana Chocolate Chip Bread from Chocolate Moosey
9. Lemon Thyme Shortbread from Jen's Favorite Cookies
10. Pineapple Coconut Sweet Rolls from Pineapple and Coconut
11. Caramilk Stuffed No-Knead Brioche from Gotta Get Baked
12. Mom's World Famous Sponge Cake from Hungry Couple NYC
13. Brown Butter Pecan Fudge Ripple No-Churn Ice Cream from Cupcakes and Kale Chips


  1. Thanks for sharing the story about your mom Anita. Loved reading about it and of course this cake! My mom makes a similar version but it only ever comes out during passover (probably one of the best passover desserts out there! It's all in the eggs!)

  2. What a history of your mom. I could not imagine what it must have been like for her separated from family and living in that awful detention camp. At least her story has a happy ending. Thanks for sharing it and her wonderful cake recipe too.

  3. Wow, that is an amazing story! (And an amazing cake!) I imagine you feel very grateful to have such a mother. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. What a nice story about your mom. Your cake looks moist and tasty!

  5. Oh, my gosh, your mother must be a strong woman and IS a true inspiration. Thanks for sharing her story with us, Anita. Her signature cake looks AMAZING!

  6. Holy shit, Anita!!! Pardon my language but the incredible strength of your mother and all the horrific things she went through really deserves expletives and exclamation points and all the admiration. I can't even imagine what she went through at such a young age. I'm in total awe. Your mom is a bad ass, plain and simple. Thank you so much for sharing her story and the wonderful photos. I love that you baked your mom's signature cake today in tribute to her. It looks amazing and is indeed super tall for a sponge cake.

  7. What a touching story of your mom Anita, I'm all teared up and now I NEED a piece of this fabulously tall cake!

  8. What a wonderful story. And your cake looks amazing.

  9. A very touching life and a beautiful tribute to your Mom

  10. Beautiful story and I'm going to make the cake to honor your mother. Thank you for sharing your mother and her cake with us!

  11. I love sponge cake, its a perfect base for so many flavours

  12. What a great post! This cake looks amazing. A wonderful way to celebrate Mom.

  13. Your mom sounds like she had amazing strength, and it has definitely been passed down to you. And I love it when a cake is extra tall because then there's more cake to eat ;)

  14. What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing it. And for sharing this cake. It looks perfect to serve with all of the wonderful fresh fruits that will soon be in season!

  15. Thank you for sharing, my Mother is also a Polish Holocaust survivor. She also has taught me her Sponge cake recipe. She remembers her mothers recipe. Her mother and her neighbors would prepare their Sponge cakes Friday afternoon. They would take their cakes to be baked in the neighborhood bakery oven, prior to Shabbat. In addition her mother would sell her sponge cakes in their grocery store. Happy Mothers Day!

  16. Oh Anita, what a history of your Mom, oh my goodness her loss is devastating. My family is also Russian and Polish, but most immigrated to the States before the Holocaust. I lost other family members, more distant, that stayed and I have family from my Mother's side that were able to survive and get to Israel as well. My Great Grandmother and Grandmother both lived in New York and then moved to New Jersey which is where I was born and grew up. My Grandma Ida also made a similar Sponge Cake that she would bring in a large blue tin when she visited. I still have the tin...thank you for sharing her story.

  17. Oh my goodness, your mother is obviously an INCREDIBLE woman-she's been through so much! She definitely deserves this ode to her and an entire ENTIRETY of this sponge cake! :)

  18. What a beautiful tribute to your mother and the generous souls on the kibbutz who took all the children in and gave them a safe place to grow up, Anita. You made me cry and I don't even have a slice of this extra tall sponge cake to console me.

  19. Well, now I'm crying. I would say your mom led an adventurous life if it wasn't so tragic - up until she got to the kibbutz. She is truly beautiful and you look SO MUCH like her! Of course your dad was as handsome man as well so how could you lose out in the looks department?? The extra tall sponge cake looks delicious too!

  20. Your mother sounds like a pretty amazing lady, to have struggled so hard and lost so much before she could finally get the happy ending she deserved.
    My husband's bubbie used to tell us hair-raising stories about how she and her family survived the war by escaping over the border and living in hiding, so I can only imagine what it would have been like for your mother, so young and separated from the rest of her family. :( I'm so glad you shared her story (and her cake) with us. xo.


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