Pantispania? Pandespania? My grandfather told me the name comes from ‘Pain d'Espagne’ or 'Spanish bread'. Except it’s not bread, it's a very light cake. A Google search brings up a Greek lemon cake made with a similar technique, as well as a few French websites comparing ‘Pan di Spagna’ to their Genoise sponge.  It’s a cake that every member of the Jewish community in Sudan is familiar with, and every recipe I received for it is almost identical.  I can only guess as to how it came to be so popular within the community, as well as so unique to it.  Perhaps it was adopted and adapted through the Greek community, perhaps it made its way in through the Franco-Egyptian connection, or maybe it came from those few members of the community with Spanish heritage.  Nobody I've asked seems to know...or really care!  All I can definitively say is that it definitely was popular, and really is delicious.

Pandespania (I'm settling on that) an airy and moist sponge cake that can be decorated with piped icing, dusted with icing sugar, or my favourite – eaten plain with a cup of tea (for breakfast...).  After a few days, if it’s not already finished, you can cut it into 1 cm thick slices and bake in the oven on a low heat of about 150°C until dry, and then eat it as a type of rusk biscuit.  In my family, we eat Pandespania just before we begin the fast on Yom Kippur, and then again to break it - as well as on nearly every birthday and celebratory occasion!

My grandmother makes the recipe with 8 eggs, in a huge and battered aluminium tin that is at least 50 years old, but it can easily be halved and baked in a 15cm round cake tin.  

Serves 10

8 eggs
8oz. self-raising flour
8oz. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla essence
2 tangerines, zested and squeezed
2 tablespoons sunflower oil



  • Preheat oven to 170°C

  • Separate the eggs

  • Beat 2 tablespoons of the sugar into the egg yolks, along with the tangerine zest and juice, oil and vanilla extract until pale and fluffy, then beat in 3oz of flour

  • Make a meringue mixture with egg whites and the rest of the sugar

  • Very carefully fold the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites

  • Sieve and slowly fold the remaining flour into the egg mixture, taking care not to lose any air

  • Bake at 170°C for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160°C and bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown. Avoid opening the oven until the cake is cooked. Turn off the oven and leave the cake to cool inside it