Passover desserts don’t exactly have a reputation for being the tastiest. Of course, with gluten, grains and leavening agents off-limits, baking can get challenging. Plenty of people skip it altogether and just go for a box of macaroons or fresh fruit. If this is you, no shame at all. We have all been there.
But the truth is, Passover baking doesn’t have to be complicated or produce second-rate results. In fact, some of my favorite desserts are the ones I make for this holiday. The trick? Working with the restrictions instead of against them. Rather than attempt gluten-free versions of the desserts I make year-round (potato starch pound cake will never taste like the real thing, so why bother?) I work with what is allowed, and use ingredients like eggs, nuts and chocolate to create pavlovas, nutty cookies and truffles. I think of it as a time to elevate the classics, and to let simple, good quality ingredients shine.
This cake is versatile: don’t like almond extract? Use vanilla, or skip it. Serve it with lemon curd. Add finely grated chocolate to the batter, or if you have some ricotta laying around, whisk in 1/2 a cup. I like serving it with a simple strawberry rhubarb compote. The sweet-tart fruit is a perfect, seasonal complement to the crackly almond and powdered sugar top of the cake.
For the cake:
- 4 large eggs, room temperature, white and yolks separated
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp almond extract
- Juice and zest of one lemon
- 1 ½ cups almond flour
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- ½ cup raw sliced almonds
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
For the strawberry rhubarb compote:
- 1 lb rhubarb, sliced into ¼ inch chunks
- ½ lb fresh strawberries, halved
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 9” springform pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with cooking spray.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, around 5 minutes. In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar, almond extract and lemon juice and zest. Stir in the almond flour and salt.
- Add ¼ of the beaten egg whites to the almond mixture. Gently fold in. Once well mixed, gently fold in the rest, taking care not to over-mix.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly golden and slightly puffed up. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the cake before removing the sides of the pan.
- To make the compote: Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, lemon and vanilla in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir to combine. Turn the heat to medium, and let cook until the mixture begins lightly bubbling, around 5-7 minutes. Cook for another 10 minutes on low-medium heat, until the fruit has broken down and the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside to cool.