Parshat Lech Lecha inspiration:
“But it occurred, with Abram’s coming to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman (Sarai) was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they lauded her for Pharaoh and the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. And he treated Abram well for her sake…”
Despite its name, this hazelnut layer cake is Romanian in origin. I think it gets its name because when sliced, the brown, golden and white layers resemble the striped nemes headdress worn by pharaohs of ancient Egypt. This is a sophisticated cake that isn’t very sweet; it pairs perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee.
- 8 fresh eggs, separated into whites and yolks
- 1¾ cups sugar, divided
- 1¾ cups ground hazelnuts, divided
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon flour, divided
- 1½ cups hazelnut milk
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup margarine
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 3 cups whipped topping, already whipped
Make three hazelnut sponge cake layers:
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare 9-inch round pans by spraying with baking spray and lining with a round of parchment paper. You can use the same pan three times if you need to, but each time it needs a fresh circle of parchment paper and the pan resprayed.
2. Beat the 8 egg whites until frothy, gradually adding ½ cup of sugar.
3. Mix 1½ cups of ground hazelnuts and ½ cup of flour, and gently fold these into the egg mixture.
4. Divide into thirds, and use a spatula to spread ⅓ of the batter into each pan, flattening the top as well as possible.
5. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool on a rack, then turn out carefully and set aside. Each layer will be approximately ½ inch tall.
Make hazelnut custard:
6. In a bowl, beat 8 egg yolks with ¾ cup sugar until not grainy. Beat in remaining 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon cornstarch until well incorporated; set aside momentarily.
7. Heat the hazelnut milk in a saucepan on medium heat until just before boiling.
8. While whisking to prevent curdling, add the hot hazelnut milk to the egg mixture bowl and mix well. Pour it all back into the pan and heat on medium, while stirring continually, until the mixture thickens. Set aside to fully cool.
9. With a mixer, beat the margarine with powdered sugar and vanilla extract. When the custard is completely cold, add it to the margarine mixture and mix together. Chill until ready to use.
Make hazelnut brittle:
10. Prepare a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Set a spatula and the roughly chopped hazelnuts and remaining ground hazelnuts nearby. (The liquidy sugar mixture will be super hot; don’t touch with fingers!!!)
11. Pour remaining ½ cup sugar and ¼ cup water into a pan and briefly stir to wet the sugar. Without more stirring, heat the sugar on medium heat. It will bubble for several minutes before it begins to turn light brown. Don’t stir, but keep watching it until the sugar at the outer edge of the pan is just starting to brown.
12. Remove from heat immediately, mix in ground and chopped hazelnuts, and pour onto the parchment paper. Quickly spread it out, using a spatula if needed. Allow to fully cool.
13. Break into shards.
Assemble and immediately refrigerate (or you risk slumping, as I discovered) until serving.
14. Divide custard and whipped topping into thirds. Piping bags are useful but not essential.
15. On a serving platter, place a sponge cake, layer with a third of the custard, then a third of the whipped topping.
16. Repeat with the second layer of each, and then the third layer of each. Sprinkle the brittle shards on the top.
17. Refrigerate until serving, and when slicing, you may want to shift brittle pieces out of the cutting line for a clean slice.
Parshat Vayeira inspiration:
“He (Abraham) lifted his eyes and saw: And behold! Three men (angels) were standing over him. He perceived, so he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent and bowed toward the ground… So Abraham hastened to the tent to Sarah and said, ‘Hurry three se’ahs of meal, fine flour! Knead and make cakes!’”
Angel Food Cake
Because what else would an angel eat? This recipe comes from KingArthurBaking.com and I couldn’t possibly improve on it.
- 1 cup flour, all-purpose or cake flour
- 1½ cups sugar, divided
- 12 fresh egg whites
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract, or combination
- 1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1. Heat oven to 325°F. Don’t grease or flour your pan (this is important to achieve the classic Maillard-reaction brown exterior and to allow a friction grip when you turn the baked cake upside down when it comes out of the oven); an angel food tube pan or a 10” round pan will work well. A Bundt pan can also work if it doesn’t have many details.
2. In a bowl, mix together the flour and ¾ cup of sugar and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, salt and flavor extract. Beat until the mixture is just frothy, then sprinkle the cream of tartar on top and continue beating until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks.
4. Add the remaining sugar, a ¼ cup at a time, folding to incorporate, then gradually fold in the flour mixture.
5. Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.
6. Remove the cake from the oven, turn it upside down and allow it to cool upside-down (allow gravity to assist with keeping its height rather than collapsing the cake and making it dense. King Arthur recommends balancing a bottle through the center post, but I used wadded-up aluminum foil for better balance and to lift the pan slightly so the cake wouldn’t flatten if it extended beyond the pan lip—which it didn’t).
7. When fully cool, loosen the edges of the cake with a long knife or thin spatula and remove it from the pan. Serve as is, or dress it up with powdered sugar, a simple glaze, or get as fancy and complicated as you (or your kids) want.
When I realized I was left with 12 egg yolks, I also made snickerdoodle cookies, because Sarah laughed at the idea that she would become a mother so late in life. You can find the recipe on Edible Parsha’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EdibleParsha).
Victoria Lupia lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two children. She is an art conservator with a specialty in preservation of Jewish and Native American objects. Her sister, Jewish Link Editor Elizabeth Kratz, is trying to convince her to turn her year of edible parshiot into a book project.