Celebrating Yom Tov

Stella’s Sephardic Table by Stella Cohen is a book bursting with information and tradition, a beautiful ode to the traditional cuisine of the Sephardic community of the Island of Rhodes (Rhodos).

After many centuries of life on the island, the community was decimated towards the end of World War II following the Nazi invasion. Survivors and those who had left the island prior to the invasion, including their descendants who live in Cape Town, carry on upholding the culture of their beloved Rhodos. 

The cover page of this month’s Cape Jewish Chronicle, provided by Stella Cohen, shows a table of mesas d’alegria – tables of happiness – which are the sweet treats served on festival days such as Rosh Hashanah. 

This wonderful book of food and culture is available for purchase at Exclusive Books at the V&A Waterfront and online, and for borrowing from the Jacob Gitlin Library.

RECIPE: Pan d’Espanya (pan Esponjado) – Orange Spanish Chiffon Cake

From Stella’s Sephardic Table by Stella Cohen

This “quintessential orange sponge cake, which featured among the Jews of Medieval Spanish origin, is traditionally served as part of the meal at the breaking of the Yom Kippur fast.” Pan d’Espanya has been made by the Jews of Spain for generations with the sweet oranges so prolific in Valencia and Andalusia. 

This moist, feather light cake is bursting with tangy flavours of freshly squeezed juice and zest of oranges and fragrant with a hint of orange blossom water. Pan d’Espanya is a delightful teatime treat or an irresistible finale to a meal with berries and dollops of lightly whipped cream.

•  8 eggs, at room temperature
•  1 cup, superfine (castor) sugar
•  ½ cup mild-flavoured vegetable oil 
•  ¾ cup fresh orange juice, strained
•  ½ tsp finely grated orange zest
•  1 tsp orange blossom water 
•  2 cups cake flour, sifted
•  2 heaped tsp baking powder 
• a pinch of salt 
•  ¼ tsp lemon juice

For decorating:
Confectioner’s (icing) sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. You will need a 25cm ungreased chiffon tube pan (without non-stick coating). Position the oven rack at the lowest setting.

In a clean, dry mixer bowl tip in the egg whites, covered with plastic wrap, keeping at room temperature. Place 6 egg yolks in a bowl. (Discard 2 egg yolks or use for another recipe).

In the bowl of a free-standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the sugar and 6 egg yolks at high speed until pale and creamy and the sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the oil, orange juice, orange zest and orange blossom water until well combined.

In a separate mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture to the sugar and egg mixture in two lots. Beat until the batter is just combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Add the lemon juice and continue to beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, about 7 minutes.

Fold the whisked egg whites in three batches with a balloon whisk into the batter with a light and quick hand until just combined and no white streaks remain in the batter.

Do not over mix.

Gently pour the batter into the ungreased, chiffon tin and smooth the surface with a spoon.

Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake is firm to the touch. Do not open the oven door. Five minutes before the end of baking, insert a skewer into the centre to see that it comes out clean.

Invert the cake tin onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely inverted in the pan before removing from the pan, about 1 hour. To remove the cake from the pan loosen the outer edges of the cake with a long, thin knife around the inside of the pan and the centre core. Gently ease out the cake onto a wire rack. Serve the cake upside down.

Before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar (optional).

• Published in the September 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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