Relax with orange cake and a cup of coffee

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

I live by a Starbucks, and every time I pass by, I see cars winding around the parking lot to queue up at the take-out window. Coffee on the go is a way of life for Americans. It is a time to fuel up and go fast.

Europeans view coffee culture in a completely different way. Cup holders are not standard equipment on European cars. For them, having a cup of coffee is something you do with friends in a relaxed manner. This is most evident in Sweden, where fika (coffee break) has been turned into a social institution.

In Swedish, fika is used as both a noun and a verb. It is a time when everything stops and people get together to have a cup of coffee (or tea) and chat. Fika is built into the work schedule, with some companies having one at 10 a.m. and another at 3 p.m. Colleagues get together and engage in non-work-related conversation. It is a type of psychic recharge.

Fikas can take place anywhere — at home, in a park or at a café. Unlike the British high tea, they are spontaneous. “Let’s fika” is something you might say when running into a friend. It is a part of everyday life. No matter where they take place, accompanying sweets, preferably homemade, are crucial.

Swedes are famous for their baked goods. Every household owns a copy of “Sju Sorters Kakor,” meaning Seven Kinds of Cakes. Although the book has over a hundred recipes, in the past, seven was designated as the number that a good housewife should offer guests at a fika.

Below is a recipe for a simple cake to have on hand for when an urge to fika strikes. It is not particularly Swedish, but it keeps well and makes a great accompaniment to coffee or tea.

Orange Cake

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

1¼ cups sugar, divided

4 eggs, separated

1 cup fresh orange juice

Zest of one orange

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Spray a bundt pan with baking spray. Use a brush to make sure it covers all the surfaces.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and set aside.

Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. One by one, incorporate the egg yolks into the butter/sugar mixture. Using a whisk, alternately mix in the flour and orange juice. When well mixed, add the orange zest.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a separate bowl, begin beating the egg whites at a medium speed. When the egg white foam increases in volume with smaller bubbles, add the cream of tartar at the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium-high. When the egg whites have increased approximately 4 times in volume, add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar slowly in a steady stream at the side of the bowl. Continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised. Spoonful by spoonful, fold the egg whites into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Allow to cool 15 minutes, and then unmold onto a plate. When completely cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.