Pistachio Studded Holiday Sponge Cakes

6 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp grated orange peel
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup finely chopped shelled natural California pistachios
1/4 tsp salt
Orange Syrup
1/2 cup chopped shelled natural California pistachios

Beat egg whites until frothy; add cream of tartar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add 3/4 cup sugar; continue beating until stiff but not dry. Set aside. Beat yolks about 3 minutes or until very thick and light in color. Add remaining sugar 1 tablespoon at a time; beat until thick. Add orange juice and peel; blend until smooth. Throughly combine flour, finely chopped pistachios and salt; gently fold into egg yolk mixture until well-blended. Fold yolk mixture into beaten whites.

Pour into six 5-3/4x3-1/4x2-1/4 inch ungreased pans; cut through batter with spatula to remove air bubbles. Bake at 325F for 25 to 35 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pans on wire racks; cool completely. To remove cakes, loosen around edges of pans with knife. Pour Orange Syrup over cakes; allow to sit until syrup is absorbed. Garnish tops of cakes with chopped pistachios.

Makes 6 loaves.

Orange Syrup:
Combine 3/4 cup each sugar and water
1 tsp orange peel

Bring to boll. Simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes; cool 10 minutes

Makes about 1 cup.

Orange - Butter Cream Icing - Can be substituted for Orange Syrup.
3 cups powdered sugar
6 tbs softened butter
5 tbs half-and-half or milk
1 tsp grated orange peel.

Makes 1-3/4 cups. Spread about 1/4 cup over top and sides of each cake. Garnish with chopped shelled natural California pistachios.

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Cajun Country -- New Iberia, Louisiana