Passover almond apricot cake recipe moroccan jewish dessert gluten free
Photo credit Joanna Nissim

This Moroccan Passover Apricot Cake Is Lighter Than Air

With flavors of almond, orange blossom and citrus.

Moroccan Jews are well-known for their love for all things sweet, and are famed around the world for their spectacular Mimouna parties to celebrate the end of Passover. With elaborate pastries and cakes, it comes as no surprise that this community has a wonderful array of dishes that are served during Passover as well. 

Pellebe is a sponge cake flavored with orange blossom water and citrus zest, and then soaked in apricot syrup. This wonderfully light and airy cake is traditionally served by Jews in Morocco during Passover. Some bake the cake with the apricot halves and almonds gently placed on top of the cake, which gives a wonderful tang or with a layer of jam sandwiched between the middle. In this recipe, I slowly cook tinned apricots until they break down to make a delicious compote to serve on the side, but you could serve the whole apricots on the side if you prefer.

“Pellebe” is a Judeo-Arabic word used by the Jews of Morocco, who mainly hail from Spain. As well as for Passover, this popular cake is often made for birthdays and other celebrations throughout the year. It is often layered up with the orange marmalade called ma’azumor and sometimes also topped with meringue, making it extra decadent! Some start or finish the Yom Kippur fast with a slice of the cake and a coffee that has sweet egg cream added — and any leftovers are, of course, served as a breakfast cake, I see no better way to start the day! 

This recipe substitutes potato starch and egg whites for the traditional wheat flour to keep within the Passover kosher rules. They give the cake a light texture, with the wonderfully fresh syrup keeping it moist and giving a unique flavor. This also makes for a gluten-free cake, which can be served all year around. 

Notes:

  • Ideally, the syrup should be left to soak the cake for 1-2 hours before eating.
  • The cake can be stored in an airtight container for a few days but hold off pouring on the syrup until the day of serving. 
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Passover cake recipe pellebe moroccan jewish dessert Pesach
Photo credit Joanna Nissim

Moroccan Passover Apricot and Almond Cake (Pellebe)

This wonderfully light and airy sponge cake is traditionally served by Jews in Morocco during Passover. It’s flavored with orange blossom and citrus zest, topped with almonds and soaked in apricot syrup.

  • Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Ingredients

Scale

For the cake: 

  • 6 large eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp orange blossom water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • ½ cup Passover cake meal
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup flaked almonds, to serve

For the apricot compote:

  • 1 (410 g/14 oz) tin apricots in syrup, drained
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • splash of water (5-10 ml/1-2 tsp)

Instructions

  1. To make the apricot compote: Drain the tin of apricots, saving the syrup in a pouring jug. 
  2. Put the drained apricots in a saucepan with 1 Tbsp sugar and a splash of water.
  3. Cook on a low flame, covered, for 30 minutes, checking regularly and giving a stir so that it does not burn on the bottom. 
  4. Once the apricots have begun to break down, use the back of a fork to smash them down to create the compote. Leave to one side until ready to use.
  5. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C. 
  6. Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into one bowl and the whites into another.
  7. Whisk the whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks, and leave to one side.
  8. Whisk the yolks with the sugar, oil and orange blossom water, preferably with an electric whisk, until pale and fluffy.
  9. Gently fold in the whites bit by bit with a large metal spoon, being gentle to keep the air in. 
  10. Sieve the cake meal and potato starch into the cake batter, add the fruit zest and fold it into the rest of the mixture.
  11. Grease a 9-inch cake tin and pour the mixture in.
  12. Place gently into the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Check that it is cooked by inserting a skewer to ensure that it comes out clean. Once cooked, take out the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes until it is room temperature. 
  13. Gently take the cake out of the tin. Using a skewer,  gently poke approx 8-10 holes into the cake before sprinkling the flaked almonds on top. Then drizzle over the tinned apricot syrup, letting it soak into the cake ideally for 1-2 hours before serving. 
  14. Serve with the apricot compote.

Notes

  • Ideally, the syrup should be left to soak the cake for 1-2 hours before eating.
  • The cake can be stored in an airtight container for a few days but hold off pouring on the syrup until the day of serving.
  • Author: Joanna Nissim
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes + 1 hour 30 minutes soak time
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Holiday

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