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It’s too bad you can’t hold culinary seances. I don’t need any Blithe Spirit hijinks, but “Really? Ten eggs? No butter?” would do, for starters. A direct line to my great-grandmother’s baking spirit might settle what size eggs are critical for this recipe, and why it doesn’t require any butter or oil.

On the other hand, since my great-grandmother was known not necessarily for precise measurements but for using every pot in the house to cook, as I’m prone to do, she’d probably just laugh. The cake benefits from orange and lemon zest, so if you’re using fresh orange juice and lemon juice (which you should be, if you’ll pardon my saying so), zest those finely and add them to the batter.

Confession time: this is a really eggy cake. If you don’t like eggy cakes, or if your doctor would faint at the number of eggs in the ingredients, you might try one of the other cakes on this blog, or in the book. But if you pair this with a scoop of yogurt over the frosting–and maybe a drizzle of hot orange syrup–a slice of this cake satisfies a fall craving for a bright, simple dessert. (Or breakfast.)

Sunshine Cake

The counterpoint to my great-grandmother’s dark cake, this cake benefits from a carton of small-farm eggs with bright yolks.

9 large or 10 small eggs (if very small, use 10 egg yolks and 12 egg whites), separated
1 ½ scant cups sugar (sift once before adding)
¼ tsp. salt
1 ¾ cups flour
3 tbsp. orange juice (add up to 2 tbsp. more, if you wish)
1 ½ tbsp. lemon juice
zest of half an orange (optional)
zest of one lemon (optional)

Beat yolks until thick and lemon colored, adding sugar gradually. Sift flour and salt together four or five times, and add juices and flour, folding in, alternately, the egg yolks. Beat whites until stiff but not dry, and fold in to egg yolk mixture.

Bake in angel food pan for 1 hour–but test beginning at 40 minutes! Place in oven as soon as it is turned on; set heat at 225°F, increasing by 25° every 15 minutes until—for the last 15 minutes—oven is at 350°F. However, let cool in pan about 1 hour. Before frosting, poke all over with a cake tester to allow frosting to seep in.

Frosting for large cake
4 tbsp. orange juice
2 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. lemon extract
powdered sugar (enough to thicken so as to spread easily)

Mix ingredients together with wooden spoon; gradually add powdered sugar for spreading consistency.

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Now that I know I can whip egg whites into peaks, it’s incredibly satisfying.

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Aside from the vinegar-and-salt trick, I find having techno music playing at ample volume helps when whipping egg whites. I doubt my great-grandmother would approve.

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It’s 6:00 pm. Do you know where your Bundt pan is?

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Doubling the frosting recipe gives you enough to ladle over a slice or two. Bonus.