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Lemon Sponge Cake at the Bakehouse for Passover—and More!

Lemon Sponge Cake
at the Bakehouse. Light, delicious, and made without wheat.

Light, delicious, and made without wheat

Over the course of the coming eight days of Passover, the Bakehouse’s lovely Lemon Sponge Cake will be gracing any number of local tables. That said, you don’t have to be Jewish or celebrating Passover to enjoy it—Rachel Seng, marvelous manager of the Roadshow, says this has long been one of her favorite Bakehouse offerings!

Sponge cakes, leavened as these are only with beaten eggs, go back centuries in culinary history, perhaps to medieval Spain. They gained popularity in England and the first written recipes appeared in poet Gervase Markham’s early 17th century The English Huswife. To this day, sponge cake serves as the base for jelly rolls, Swiss rolls, Bûche de Noël, and Tres Leches, and, I realize now, is the source of the Twinkies I used to eat regularly back when I was a kid!

Made without flour, sponge cake has long been a Jewish Passover tradition. In 1903 (the year after the Deli’s building was built), Milwaukee social worker Lizzie Kander put out the second edition of The Settlement Cookbook. The book was based on recipes from Settlement House, a Milwaukee institution set up to help immigrant families, many of whom were—like Kander—Jewish. The book was created to raise money, but the board of trustees refused to invest the $18 to have an initial 1000 copies made. Determined to get her book out into the world, Kander decided to accept advertising to fund the printing. The book sold for 50 cents, and it sold remarkably well. The second edition—which included the sponge cake recipe—had a bigger print of 1500. Today, it’s on its thirty-third edition.

The Bakehouse crew describes this delicious offering as a “light and lemony sponge cake with lemon curd between the layers and a caramelized meringue exterior. A pretty, flavorful, and light ending to any feast. Plus, it’s wheat-free!” (The Bakehouse itself is anything but wheat-free, so please use appropriate nutritional or religious caution that’s right for you and yours.) Back when I was a kid, Passover meant very dry sponge cake that was baked out of a Manischewitz mix. I’m happy to have learned in recent years that there’s a lot more to it than that! The Bakehouse’s version is terrific—light and lemony, not overly sweet, with a lovely long finish.

You’ll find the Lemon Sponge Cake at the Bakeshop, Deli, and, during Passover, on the dessert menu at the Roadhouse as well. Sip some of the Guatemala Todos Santos coffee, savor small slices of Lemon Sponge Cake, and see what wonderful things might come during the course of the day!

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