The Shiksa Does Passover, Part 2 – Almond Cake

Almond Cake for Passover

In Part 1 of this series, I made a really good brisket that was not my mother-in-law’s recipe. This year, I decided to tackle dessert.

As anyone who has tried to make an unleavened dessert for Passover dinner knows, the words “baking” and “Seder” should probably not be used together in the same sentence, let alone a blog post. But dessert must be had at a Seder, and so an entire tradition of baked goods made without flour or leavening has evolved – cakes made with ground nuts, dense chocolate tortes and macaroons are traditional. (My mother-in-law Irene makes a fabulous strawberry shortcake every year using a light sponge cake made with ground nuts.)

This recipe is modified from one I found in Jewish Cooking by Marlena Spieler. The recipes in this marvelous book hail from both Sephardic and Eastern European Jewish traditions, and the pictures are gorgeous. The original recipe, Pesach Almond Cakes, has a bit more intense almond flavor than the one I’ve posted and calls for the creation of a thin icing made with confectioner’s sugar and brandy that is poured over the almost cooked cake, which is then returned to the oven while the icing crisps.

My first attempt at the original recipe was a fallen yet delicious failure that my friends Larry and Sally graciously served at their Seder with a large spoon. (I guess La Crueset lasagna pans are not meant for baking cakes…)

On my second attempt for Mr TBTAM’s family Seder, I used the right pan but the cake still fell a tad, so I just soaked the cake with some brandy and sprinkled the final product with confectioner’s sugar. It was delicious!

If you try the original recipe and it works perfectly, do let me know how you did it so I can figure out what I did wrong (probably too many years of Catholic schooling…) I’m thinking it may have been because I used the American measurements rather than the original metric ones, so I am posting only the metric units for you.

A few pieces of advice: (1) Don’t open the oven door to peek. (2) It may take longer than the stated time depending on your oven. Be sure the middle is set before you take the pan out to sprinkle the brandy on top. (3) Make sure the cake is really, really cooled before cutting it. (4) Finally, it will be difficult to get out the squares out of the pan unless you have a small cookie spatula, which I did not have, but Irene did.

Of course, the fact that this recipe needs so much advice only speaks to the difficulty of making unleavened baked goods. Then again, getting the Israelites out of Egypt was no small task…

Almond Cake for Passover
  • 350 grams cups ground almonds
  • 50 grams matzo meal
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 30 ml vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
  • 250 grams sugar
  • 300 grams brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 ml orange juice
  • 75 ml brandy for the batter
  • 50-75 ml brandy for soaking the cake
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 12×15 inch rectangular cake pan.

Whisk the ground almonds, matzo meal and salt together in a large size bowl.

Lightly whisk the oil, egg yolks, sugars, vanilla, almond extract and 75 ml brandy in another bowl.

Beat the egg whites in a small deep bowl till stiff.

Stir the oil-egg yolk-sugar mixture into the almond mixture. Fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the rest. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 mins till nicely set and lightly browned. (Mine took longer than 30 mins.)

Remove the cake from the oven and soak it with the rest of the brandy (A little spray bottle would work well, or you could just sprinkle or brush it – I still haven’t figured out the best way to do this). Pop it back into the oven for another 10 minutes, then remove it to a rack to cool.

Cool the cake in the pan. When completely cool, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. To serve, cut into squares in the pan, and use a tiny cookie spatula to remove the pieces carefully.

This is a cookie spatula

So is this

2 Responses to The Shiksa Does Passover, Part 2 – Almond Cake

  1. Passover is my very favorite holiday of the year – maybe because of the pageantry and preparation around the house, maybe because it was one of the few times we’d see our mother drunk and silly, and maybe it is just the challenge of the food.

    I start early and look for the perfect recipe that will impress.

    Here’s the dessert for this year, a total winner!

  2. I’m making this recipe right now, and boy, do I wish I’d read this post first. Looks like we’re going for the “serve with a spoon” option…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.