Almond and Orange Passover Torte

Serving a really good Passover dessert is always a challenge. You can fall back on a box of Joyva jelly rings or marshmallow twists. Or my go to, toffee and chocolate covered matzo from Russ & Daughters. But what if you want to do something homemade? That’s why I decided to turn to Hana Shaulov’s 1988 book, Jewish Holiday Cakes – because I feel finding a delicious Passover dessert, worthy of praise, is a public service.

 

Historical Jewish cookbooks do show a lot of creativity when it comes to desserts for Passover. A few years ago, I attempted Matzahs Charlotte from the Jewish Cookery Book, published 1871. That recipe was a sloppy mess, but the author also offers a recipe for Grimslechs, a German sweet made from crumbled matzo mixed with almonds, raisins, apples, currants, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, beef fat and lemon zest. A bit like a haroset fritter, the paste is shaped into ovals and baked or deep fried.

 

The Settlement Cook Book, from 1945, suggests baked fruit but also offers a recipe for a matzo pie crust, and recipes for almond, chocolate, and apple tortes baked in a springform pan. The secret was lots of eggs, beaten long and hard, to provide the leavening for a light torte.

 

Jewish Holiday Cakes has recipes for every holiday and focuses on the ingredients traditionally associated with these holy days:” Rosh Hashanah is characterized by honey. Ground poppy seeds are used on Purim, cheese is typical of Shavuot and cakes baked without flour are served during Passover.” Shaulov throws in some recipes for Mother’s Day and Independence day as well, totaling over 70 recipes.

 

Her Passover cakes have some enticing options like a Coffee and Nut cake made with apples, walnuts and espresso; and a Hazelnut and Butter Cake, made with a touch of chocolate and brandy. But I settled on a cake with one of my favorite flavor combinations, Moist Orange Cake. An almond and matzo meal cake is soaked in an orange liqueur syrup and topped with a spread of whipped cream. This cake has a bright orange flavor with just a kiss of booze and a texture reminiscent of a cornmeal tres leches cake. The fat in the almond whipped cream cuts through the sweetness of the cake. Since Shaulov tells her readers to “let your imagination run free,” I updated the recipe to intensify the flavor and make it look a little more festive. It’s an appropriate end to a celebratory evening that will make your Seder guests “oooo” and “aaaah” in appreciation.

 

And for another exceptionally delicious matzo dessert, check out these Matzo Meal Cream Puffs I made last year. 

 

Almond and Orange Passover Torte

For the Pastry: 

1½ cups matzo-meal 

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 

4 eggs 

1/2 cup sugar 

3.5 oz almonds pasted, chopped fine 

  

For the Syrup 

3/4 cup sugar  

3 tablespoons orange liqueur 

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 4 oranges) 

  

For the Topping: 

1 cup heavy cream 

2 tablespoons sugar 

1 teaspoon Almond extract  

Orange zest 

Fancy sprinkles 

 

1. Preheat the oven to 350°degrees. Grease a 10 in. round springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

 

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together matzo meal and baking powder. Set aside.

 

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together eggs, sugar, and almond paste, starting at a low speed and working your way up to high. Beat for about 7 minutes, until pale and fluffy.

 

4. Using a spatula, fold in the matzo meal mixture.

 

5. Pour into pan and smooth to edges. It doesn't hurt to place the baking tin on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, just in case of leaks. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry puffs up and is deep, toasty brown. Leave in the pan and place on a rack to cool.


6. While the cake is baking, make the syrup: whisk together sugar, orange juice and orange liqueur until all the sugar is dissolved.

 

7. While the cake is still in the pan, pour syrup over top. It will seem like a lot of liquid; it may pool on the pastry’s surface. Give it time; it will soak in. Allow cake to cool, then refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours).

 

8. Just before serving, remove the cake from the springform pan. I’d recommend leaving it on the base; it risks destruction if you move it too much. To the bowl on an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, add cream, sugar and almond extract. Beat on high until fluffy, 1-2 minutes.

 

9. Decoratively spread whipped cream on top of the cake. Decorate with orange zest and glitter sprinkles. Serve. 

 

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Sarah Lohman is a culinary historian and author of Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine published by Simon & Schuster.  Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, All Things Considered, CNN, Gimlet Media, and NHK Japan. She appeared in two seasons of The Cooking Channel's Food: Fact or Fiction and was a video producer for New York Magazine's food blog, Grub Street.  She performs across the country giving food history lectures and cooking classes with Masters of Social Gastronomy as well as independently. Her next book Endangered Eating: Exploring America's Vanishing Cusine is set to release Jan 2023. For more information visit SarahLohman.com.

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