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Not Your Bubbe’s Recipe: Kosher for Passover Citrus-Flavored Flourless Cake

Since Passover is just a few days away, you may want to stop your Gchat conversation or pause that TED talk and run to the store to buy a 40-box variety pack of Manischewitz products. Seriously—these things run out fast. Remember the time there was a kosher for Passover margarine shortage? That’s such serious business that even the Wall Street Journal covered it. The good news (if this should ever happen again—God forbid!) is that you don’t actually need margarine to make a kosher for Passover cake. Besides, as I’ve said before, margarine is gross.

People spend so much time fussing over the myriad things they can’t eat during Passover (bread, pasta, oats …), but there are always the wonderful treats brought to us by science and the modern era: boxed cake mix. All you need to make those is some combination of water, oil, and eggs. But the fact is that those cakes just aren’t that good and just remind you of that list of things you can’t eat. Let’s face it: Duncan Hines may have perfected the brownie mix and the Mad Men of the 1940s and ‘50s may have convinced house wives that they didn’t need to feel guilty about using a mix, but the kosher for Passover version just doesn’t quite cut it.

Which is OK, because there’s a secret that those advertising gurus wanted to hide from the world: It doesn’t actually take that much more time to make a cake from scratch than it does from a box. A 1951 study at Michigan State University concluded that it saves 13 minutes and 21 seconds. Thirteen minutes isn’t insignificant, but shouldn’t we have to work a little for taste and quality?

And when Passover rolls around, it always amazes me that people who spend 51 weeks of the year conscientiously checking for organic labels and scanning ingredient lists and eating local suddenly throw these principles out with the (insane quantities of) pre-Passover trash. It wasn’t until last year that Whole Foods Market even tried to maintain their standards in their kosher for Passover section. A quick, not-at-all-scientific survey of Passover cake mixes reveals that the first ingredient seems to always be sugar, followed by shortening and glycerol and the catch-all “natural and artificial flavors.” Yum.

My brother has an April birthday and lives in fear that it will fall on Passover; the trauma of yet another gooey (or, conversely, dry) sponge cake is just too much. Passover’s so early this year that he doesn’t have to worry. But for all of the people out there with birthdays between March 25 and April 2—and, more importantly, for all of the people who just don’t want to go a week without cake—I have some important information: Your cake doesn’t have to come from a box and it doesn’t have to be bad.

Now, you may have heard that flourless chocolate cake is the savior of Passover dessert tables. And, sure, it’s delicious. But it’s also so boring! So surprise your guests with a twist on flourless: a citrus-flavored flourless cake. I recently went to one of my favorite bakeries in Chicago and sampled the lemon lavender pound cake they had cut up on the counter. It was a pretty life changing little cube of cake (okay, fine, I had two). This recipe aims to bring some of that life-changing goodness to your taste buds during a time when they might otherwise be feeling neglected.

This recipe is special for a few reasons. To start, sugar is not the primary ingredient. It is also pareve without involving any kind of fake butter product and therefore does not contribute to future margarine shortages (you will need something to grease the pan, though). It is gluten free, moist, and fairly light.

Once, sometime in early spring a few years ago, my mom stopped by my aunt’s house to pick something up. My aunt, who had never been much of a baker, asked her to try some brownies she had just made. My mom tasted it, thought about the brownies, and said, “These are the best Passover brownies I’ve ever had.” Unfortunately for both parties, it was not a Passover brownie recipe and my mother will never live the comment down. There will be no confusion about this lemon lavender flourless cake—people are just going to think it’s a great cake with no “for Passover” caveat.

Not Your Bubbe’s Kosher for Passover Citrus-Flavored Flourless Cake

Cooking spray to grease the pan

For the cake:
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon zest, packed
½ teaspoon dried lavender flowers
½ cup white sugar
1 ½ cup finely ground almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Pinch of salt

For the glaze (optional):
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons water or milk substitute (you may need extra depending on desired consistency)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon lavender (optional)

Special Equipment
9-inch springform pan (if you don’t have one, a 9-inch round cake pan works)
Parchment paper
Electric mixer (optional)

Some things to keep in mind: The easiest way to separate egg whites and yolks is while they’re cold, but after separating them give them a chance to reach room temperature before mixing them with the other ingredients. This will help give your cake more lift. While this cake isn’t the most challenging in terms of technique, it will require a few bowls and, ideally, an electric mixer. If you don’t have an electric mixer or you are making this cake on yom tov, don’t worry, it’s possible to do this by hand and the vinegar and salt will help; your arm will just get a bit of a work out! It is important that the almond meal be finely ground—the bigger the pieces of almond, the chewier the cake will be.

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, lemon zest, and ¼ cup of sugar until smooth.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the almond flour, lavender, and baking powder. Pour into the bowl with the egg yolks and mix until smooth.

4. Using an electric mixer and a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on a low speed and gradually increase. Once the egg whites start to become frothy, add the salt and vinegar. As the volume increases, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites. Beat until the mixture forms soft peaks.

5. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture, one large scoop at a time. Blend using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.

6. Scoop the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes. Do not open the oven during this time, since the cake is soufflé like and will deflate. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan. Use a knife to separate the cake from the sides of the pan before releasing the springform sides or taking the cake out of your pan.

7. To make the (optional) glaze, mix the liquid into the powdered sugar. Add more liquid, one tablespoon at a time as needed to reach desired consistency. Add vanilla and lavender (if using). Drizzle over the cooled cake before serving.

Also try:

Not Your Bubbe’s Egg Salad Frittata

Not Your Bubbe’s Purim Poppy Seed Scones

Not Your Bubbe’s Caribbean Matzoh Ball Soup


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