What does it take to find lasting love? Tu B’Av, the 15th of the month of Av (the 24 hours following the evening of Aug. 6, 2017) is the Jewish holiday of love, an auspicious day for single Jews to meet their bashert or soulmate. Resilience, flexibility, and steadfastness are three attributes of people who maintain successful marriages. The lekach or sponge cake is like a long marriage. It has been baked in Israel since before the foundation of the modern state in 1948. This simple, honest pastry reflects what a true and lasting love should be.
Tu B’Av is an ancient Jewish holiday for matchmaking. During the period of the Second Temple (530 BCE – 70 CE) unmarried women would dress in white, and dance in the vineyards. They were hoping to attract a husband. This tradition has been revived in modern Israel. Many women wear white, and some still dance in vineyards. They also use the temptations of the kitchen to find love.
Nothing says “love” like a home-baked cake, fresh out of the oven. An Israeli sponge cake is the perfect choice. It has been baked in Israel despite every hardship. During the period of austerity of the 1950s, food supplies were short and most people did not have ovens. The oven problem was solved with the Seer Pele or Wonder Pot. A Wonder Pot was a retrofitted Bundt pan. It could bake over a burner. Another challenge was food rationing, which meant that all the ingredients for the cake were not available. Inventive Israeli housewives figured out a way to substitute things they could not get, like eggs,and serve their austerity torte and coffee anyway.
Sponge cake is such an integral part of life in Israel that a recipe was published by the Foreign Ministry. You may serve it plain or with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.Israeli Sponge Cake
Adapted from Israeli Missions Around the World
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 6 eggs, separated
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Beat the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt.
- Pour the whipped egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.
- Mix in the flour and sugar.
- Pour the dough into a 10-inch Bundt pan.
- Bake for 50 minutes.