Happy spring! This week we celebrate a couple of spring holidays—Easter, of course, but also the Jewish festival of Purim.
Purim begins tomorrow evening. I have always enjoyed the story of Queen Esther, who saved not only her guardian but her people with a mixture of charm and craft. (These were the only weapons available to women for centuries, particularly to Jewish women living in an alien culture.)
Married to the king of Persia and hiding her Jewish identity, Esther could only keep Kosher if she subsisted on a vegan diet. Seeds were important to that diet; hence, people often eat dishes made with poppy seeds on Purim.
Becky Bixler, a friend of my neighbor Alice, provided the recipe for this simple, rich cake. It will represent the state of Iowa (where Becky lives) in my forthcoming book about funeral foods. Becky takes it to funerals frequently.
Happy Purim! May we all be as resourceful as Esther this week and every week.
If you’d like another Purim recipe, try my hamentaschen.
4 eggs, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (salted is best as there is no salt in the recipe, but sweet will work), at room temperature
1-1/2 cups sugar
8 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup poppy seeds
a little confectioner’s sugar (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan. (Becky says “oil a Bundt pan,” but I’m paranoid so I add the flour as well.)
Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites on high speed until they form peaks. Spoon the fluffy whites into a clean bowl, and set them aside.
Using the same mixer bowl you used for the egg whites (it doesn’t matter if a tiny bit of white is left in it), cream together the butter and the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Combine the sour cream and the baking soda, and add them to the butter mixture. On low speed stir in the flour, the vanilla, and the poppy seeds.
Gently fold in the egg whites, and spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 45 to 60 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let it cool for 10 to 12 minutes before removing the cake.
Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar if you want to make it look festive. Serves 10.