This recipe for panatela was my mother's specialty. I have never eaten any that was not prepared by someone in the Jewish community, so I assume that it is our own Sephardic-style sponge cake. The trick is to have this cake rise beautifully and remain nice and fluffy for several days if properly stored in an airtight canister after it has cooled. For many years the panetelas that I made rose very nicely and tasted quite good, but they lost their fluffiness within a couple of hours. Then, totally by accident, I found out that you had to go through the preparations at very high speed, because that is how my mother always did everything, and her panetela was always perfect. One day when I was rushing to finish, I ended up making the best panetela ever.
It is a simple recipe which is often brought to those who are recovering from an illness, and also eaten at birthday parties and after Yom Kippur. But to do it right, remember to rush as if you are about to miss a plane.
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon milk (or non-dairy substitute)
1 teaspoon butter (or non-dairy margarine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Let eggs come to room temperature for about an hour. Beat eggs well, adding sugar slowly. Fold in flour, baking powder and vanilla. Heat milk and butter and add to batter, mixing thoroughly. Pour into well-greased and floured 9”x9” pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes in center of oven.
Cool on rack for about 15 minutes. Turn upside down on wax paper that has been generously coated with granulated sugar. Cut into 16 squares and sugar the other side as well.