No flour, no leavening… no baking? No way! Chocolate Nut Cake is perfect for Passover.

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It’s with some trepidation that I approach April each year.

Not because of the prospect of showers (which do indeed bring May flowers); or tax season; or Major League Baseball’s opening day, which means I have at least 6 months of Red Sox-induced angst in front of me.

No, it’s because April brings Passover. Which, as far as I’m concerned, is my opportunity to be thoroughly humbled by my total lack of knowledge regarding Passover baking rules. Never mind kosher; Passover alone is enough to send me cowering into a corner.

I’m not Jewish, so I didn’t grow up trying to puzzle all of this out. All I had to remember was “no meat on Friday,” and even that simple rule went by the boards decades ago.

Luckily, three of my Web teammates, as well as one of my fellow test bakers, are Jewish or cook Jewish. So I have plenty of people to ask when I try to understand why, say, confectioners’ sugar isn’t appropriate for Passover.

My latest conundrum is matzoh meal.

“Andrea, I thought you couldn’t use flour on Passover. So I’m reading the list of ingredients on this box of matzoh meal, and it says ‘wheat flour.’ What’s up with that?”

Andrea – all-knowing maven in matters both molecular, and Passover – says, “It’s because the wheat flour was baked within 18 minutes of being combined with water, which means it didn’t have a chance to ferment.”

Oh. Lightbulb moment!

“So, couldn’t I just make whatever I’m making with flour, and put it in the oven fast? Like, how about shortbread? No water, no leavening…”

I should have known: not that simple.

“No,” says Andrea. “You don’t have the person in authority standing next to you saying, ‘OK, yes, you put it in the oven within 18 minutes.’ ”

Fine. Be that way.

Despairing of ever having the time to thoroughly absorb the nuances of Passover baking, I decided this year to hand most of the responsibility off to two of my aforementioned teammates: Halley, our Web marketing director, and Janet, our Web designer.

My contribution to the Passover baking body of recipes this year is our King Arthur Flour Bakery’s recipe for chewy Almond Cloud Cookies. Meanwhile, Halley will be posting her Passover Popovers later this week. And today’s Passover prelude comes from Janet, my long-time officemate and friend.

When I put out the mournful plea for Passover recipes (“Please don’t make me humiliate myself again this year”), Janet stepped up with an old favorite: Flourless Chocolate Nut Cake. Chocolate, eggs, nuts, granulated sugar – no flour. No leavening. No tricky confectioners’ sugar.

The recipe does call for vanilla, but you could certainly leave it out if it’s problematic. And the glaze includes both butter and cream – which makes it dairy, which means if you’re eating kosher, uh…. Andrea, help!

To all of my Jewish friends out there preparing to celebrate Passover; from this Irish-Catholic looking forward to Easter: Good Pesach! And happy (flourless, leaven-free) baking.

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Janet says to be sure to use a really good quality chocolate. Our Guittard baking chocolate comes in small, easily meltable disks, about 1g each.

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First, bring 10 large eggs (yes, 10) to room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, submerge them in a bowl of very warm water for about 10 minutes.

Lightly grease a 10” tube pan or angel food pan. For best results, cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit the bottom of the pan, and grease the paper. An easy way to do this is to cut a hole in the center of a 9” parchment round.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

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Combine 3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate and 1/2 cup ( 3 ounces) chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.

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Heat till soft…

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…and stir till smooth.

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When the 10 eggs are no longer cold, separate the yolks from the whites, putting them in separate large mixing bowls.

Hint: Drop the whites into a separate smaller bowl, before sliding them into the larger bowl. That way, if a stray bit of yolk or piece of shell sneaks in (as it did above), you don’t “contaminate” the entire bowl of whites.

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So, here’s your bowl of 10 egg yolks.

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Beat till till the yolks are smooth and lemon-yellow.

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Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2/3 cup granulated sugar.

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Beat till thickened and lightened in color.

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Add the melted chocolate…

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…and stir to combine.

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Next, you need 2 cups (8 ounces) of finely ground pecans; OR 2 cups (5 ounces) of pecan meal.

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Pecan meal on the left; ground pecans on the right.

What’s the difference between using finely ground pecans, and pecan meal? The cake with the finely ground pecans will be a bit taller, and its texture will be less smooth; a bit chunkier. Our tasters said the texture brought to mind Passover charoset.

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Stir in the nuts.

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Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix again, till no big lumps remain.

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Now, back to the egg whites. Beat the 10 whites with 1 teaspoon vanilla till foamy. This isn’t foamy enough.

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This is. See how the bubbles are getting finer?

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Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar. It’s better to sprinkle the sugar in while the mixer is going; I kinda forgot to do that.

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Beat till soft peaks form.

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Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture.

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Easiest way to do this is to put the mixer at its lowest speed, and dollop in the whites in big spoonfuls.

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Mix gently till no streaks of white show.

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Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.

DARN – forgot the parchment. Oh well, it won’t really make any difference… will it?

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Gently shake the pan to level the batter.

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Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes, till a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

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It should rise nicely – even without any chemical leavening. Ah, the power of eggs…

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Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. Loosen the edges, and let it cool in the pan for 1 hour.

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Towards the end of the cooling time, make the glaze.

Put the following in a microwave-safe bowl:

1 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon espresso powder
3 tablespoons heavy cream

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Melt till very hot; the cream will be starting to form bubbles.

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Stir to combine the chocolate and cream. It’ll look unpromising at first; don’t panic, just keep stirring.

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Pretty soon it’ll all come together – oh ye of little faith!

Next, let’s turn the cake out of the pan onto a rack.

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WHOOOOOOPS. Guess the parchment really would have helped.

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No worries. We’ll just turn it over, and no one will be the wiser. Unless they look really hard.

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If the glaze isn’t pourable, add more cream to thin it out. Pour it over the cake. It’s OK if the cake is still warm when you glaze it.

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Spread it around so it dribbles artfully down the sides.

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Like this. If you play your cards right, icing will cover that gouge in the side…

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Ah-HA! This time I DID remember the parchment.

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And here’s the result. A wee bit wrinkled, but damage-free.

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And no need for any icing cover-up.

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Janet thinks the pecan meal version (on the right) is moister. The ground pecan version (on the left) is a bit taller and chunkier.

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You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate chocolate cake. Chag sameach!

And don’t forget, this cake is not only appropriate for Passover – it’s wheat-free and gluten-free.

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Flourless Chocolate Nut Cake.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Cholling

    “No fish on Friday”? I thought it was ONLY fish on Friday.

    Yes, you’re right. Gee, guess it really was a long time ago!! PJH

    Reply
  2. Debra

    This looks AWESOME!! I have a (potentially dumb) question, though. Could this be made in a different kind of pan? I don’t have a bundt pan (and don’t have room to store one if I were to buy one)… can this be made in a regular square or round cake pan and come out OK? Maybe halve the recipe?

    Also, the link to the recipe is not working for me. :(

    Reply
  3. LF

    Wow – that looks delicious! I join you in my lack of knowledge in Passover baking. Have a question regarding egg separating. I see that you let the eggs get to room temperature first then separate. I thought it’s easier to separate eggs when they’re cold. Is it okay to separate them first, then allow them to sit to room temperature (separated)? Thanks in advance!

    Either way is fine, LF – PJH

    Reply
  4. sugar plum

    Oh my God this is so fantastic and i sure am one Irish-Catholic looking forward to Easter”Good Pesach” Gal too and love these elicious passover recipes though am still posting about my Irish ones:-)))

    Reply
  5. Shannon

    I clicked on the two links you have for the recipe in the posting, but it just took me to the main website. I tried doing a search and couldn’t find it either.
    HI Shannon,
    I just tested the links in the blog, and they seem to be all up and running. Please give it another try and let us know if you are still experiencing troubles. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. Kristen

    I baked cookies for a Jewish women’s group for a few years and as a non-Jew, had to read a lot to understand what I could and couldn’t make for them during Passover. It was really interesting to learn about Matzoh meal and flourless baking. This sounds and looks like a wonderful cake. I am not sure I can see the difference between the pecan meal cake and the ground pecan cake…all I see is chocolate goodness!!

    Reply
  7. Susan from Oregon

    Is there any reason this couldn’t be made with ground hazelnut/hazelnut meal? I’m picturing a kind of nutella cake…

    Also, I recently purchased a subscription to the Baking Sheet (what finally pushed me over the edge was the free cd of the first 10 years — best bonus ever!) and I love it! It’s just as wonderful as I expected from King Arthur Flour. And I also want to mention that the Baking Sheet has made me appreciate this blog even more; as great at the Baking Sheet is, the step-by-step pictures on the blog are unparalleled in their ability to help ease the anxieties of a novice baker. I have been known to tell complete strangers whom I’ve overheard talking about having trouble with baking that they should visit this site. And I always make sure to mention the pictures, because I feel nothing is more helpful and instructive.

    Thank you all so much!

    Sure, Susan, any ground nuts are fine – and hazelnuts sound delicious. Go for it! PJH

    Reply
  8. Shanyn

    Thanks for the great recipe! I’m becoming more and more interested in kosher cooking, but I don’t know all the rules either. This really helps!

    Reply
  9. Angela

    Is it just me or does the link to the recipe not go to the actual recipe?
    Hi Angela,
    I just tested all of the links this morning, and they do all appear to be live and working. Please do try them again, and let us know if you continue to have difficulty. Sorry for any inconvenience. ~ MaryJane

    Didn’t work last night – but it’s fixed now. Sorry!! PJH

    Reply
  10. Eremita

    Sounds great. But why in the title does it imply “no baking”? Am I mis-reading it?
    Hi Eremita,
    The “no baking” means that PJ thought if she couldn’t use flour or leavens, she couldn’t bake, but happily that isn’t the case. It doesn’t mean the cake is a “no bake” style cake. Hope this helps. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. jami

    I just got finished telling a friend I only like a very few, vetted, Passover dessert recipes and the rest can take a hike. But I might just have to try this one… Thanks!!
    HI Jami,
    By all means, keep those tried and true recipes close at hand, but every now and then something new to bake and eat can be like the first breezes of spring, blowing the cobwebs right out. Have fun! ~MaryJane

    Reply
  12. dab70

    Interesting note – most wheat flours sold in the US, as I understand, are made from grain that has been tempered with water prior to being ground into flour. As such, it’s already considered to have become “chametz,” or a fermented product forbidden for Passover use.

    Flour used for matzot for Passover use is milled from grain that is kept dry and not tempered; special hand-made matzot, made from wheat kernels that are guarded from contact with water from the moment of harvest are customarily used in observant households for sedarim. This flour is not available to the general public, so even if one could make and fully bake a cake containing flour within the 18 minute timeframe, it would, if made from standard off-the-shelf flour, not be suitable for Passover use.

    Reply
  13. Aaron Frank

    Hi,

    This looks great. I had my three or four recipes lined up but I may have to make this too. You did a great job. There are tons of laws and like any other set of laws they change as they are reinterpreted by different people. When I was growing up chemical leaveners were forbidden too. Now they aren’t.

    I just found Kosher for Passover Confectiner’s Sugar this morning. I’ve never seen it before in my life. Potato starch (okay for Passover) has been substituted for corn starch. Corn is forbidden for some Jewish people.

    Vanilla may be a problem for some. Most people use imitation vanilla (ugh) or vanilla sugar as most everyday vanilla uses corn extract to get the vanilla out of the bean and into a liquid. So this might be a good time to use real vanilla beans if you cannot find vanilla extract that is Kosher for Passover. It flew off the shelves at my local store and hasn’t been restocked.

    Now I’ve gone on too long. Thanks for braving this topic and giving us a great recipe!

    Aaron

    Aaron, how about a link to your Passover shortbread blog? It sounds really tasty – PJH

    Reply
  14. Debra

    This looks awesome! I am definitely going to try it with the hazelnut meal I have at home! (Dumb) question, though. I don’t have a bundt pan and wouldn’t have anywhere to keep it if I bought one… would this work in a regular round/square cake pan? It should fit in a 9″ square pan. I think it would bake ok, but we haven’t tried it. It would be an experiment. Let us know how it comes out. Have fun with it. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  15. Mary Corbet

    No fish on Friday? I think the rule is (still is – in Lent!) no MEAT on Friday.

    There’s no rule that says you have to eat fish.

    Use vanilla beans! Eliminates the vanilla prob…

    I know, I know, Mary… I fixed it. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea MAXIMA culpa… PJH

    Reply
  16. Aaron Frank

    Hi,

    My Passover shortbread is here: http://gorillabaking.spaces.live.com/default.aspx. Fergie and Tommy are my two sons.

    Looking at the pictures of your recipe, what kind of beater are you using? It looks like a combination beater/scraper. Does it cut down on time scraping the sides of bowl?

    Thanks

    Yes, it’s called a Beater Blade. We stopped selling them because KitchenAid says use will void their warranty. However, if your mixer is already outside its 1-year warranty anyway, what’s the difference? Plus Cook’s Illustrated did the tests, and they say there’s less motor strain using the Beater Blade for a shorter time, than using the KitchenAid beater for the longer time it takes to beat the batter. Oh – and thanks for sharing the recipe, Aaron! :) PJH

    Reply
  17. Elaine

    Tried getting onto Aaron’s site for the shortbread and was unable to do so. Is the URL posted properly? Am definitely looking forward to making the chocolate cake. Always happy to have a new Passover recipe to try. Will let you know the results.

    Reply
  18. Vicki

    If you click on Aaron’s name (in orange on his comment above) and then just scroll on down through his blog (which I found very interesting!) you’ll eventually come to his shortbread recipe. Plus lots of other neat recipes and cooking adventures.

    Reply
  19. Deb

    This looks wonderful. I wonder if toasting the nuts/nut meal before use would add another layer to the flavor.

    Are there any non-dairy substitutes that can be made for the butter and heavy cream that go into the glaze? Even though the results might not be as good, it would still be nice so the cake could be served after a meat meal.

    You could certainly melt chocolate with margarine and 1 tablespoon soy milk – it wouldn’t be nearly as rich, but might work. Let us know how it goes. Janet says another option is to “Forget the meat, go for the chocolate!” :) PJH

    Reply
  20. Wendy

    Do you think this cake can be made in advance and frozen? I would ice it just before serving.

    It should freeze well for about 1 or 2 months. Mary @ KAF

    Reply
  21. Kevin

    Kosher for Passover rules are different for Ashkenazic (Eastern European) and Sephardic (Spanish/Mediteranean) Jews. Ashkenazic Jews, in addition to prohibitions against grain, can not eash kitniyot, or things that are grain-like (or anything that swells during cooking, so this includes beans and legumes). Corn, as a new world species, is not discussed in the Talmud, but it is so similar to other kitniyot that it also falls under the same prohibition. This posses many challanges that might not be at first obvious – as Aaron writes, confectioners sugar made with corn starch is not Kosher for Passover under Ashkenazi rules – same holds for chocolate (or anything else) sweetened with corn syrup, or margarine made with corn oil. If you are of Eastern European Jewish ancestry and want to know all the rules, check the Orthodox Union’s Passover website:

    http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/passover

    Reply
  22. Bill McGonigle

    Watch out on the soy milk – I offered to do AB’s chocolate tofu desert for passover for a friend after learning the flour rule and was told beans are right out. What do I know, I tried to give up church for lent as a kid.

    Ah, if only we could continue to see the world with our child eyes instead of our adult eyes! Happy Spring Holidays! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  23. Great-grandma B.

    Living alone and trying to diet, I do my “baking” vicariously through the KA blogs. There are always chuckles and often good, hearty guffaws. My knowledge of Jewish dietary laws was rather cursory but reading the requirements plus the nuances mentioned here and in other KA blogs, it’s “Hats off!” to all the Jewish cooks and bakers. How you keep it all “legal” is beyond me. Wonder how long it will take my grand-daughter to learn it all? And I have a lot to learn too. Not the cooking part, but the Jewish traditions and holidays. I was clueless untill they started talking about the logistics of the priest and rabbi for the ceremony. All’s well, that ends well.
    Love to all, and Happy Holiday. (Generic, so as to not offend anyone.)

    Happy Easter! Good Pesach! Does that cover the late March/early April bases here? Nice to hear from you as always, GGB :) PJH

    Reply
  24. Debra

    I made the cake last night using my 9in square cake pan. Since I wasn’t sure how much it would rise, I left some room in the pan and cooked the extra batter in little 3.5oz ceramic ramekins. Happy to report the cake baked up fine in both – in fact it was great because as the cake cooled, it separated away from the sides – that plus the parchment on the bottom made for ridiculously easy pan/ramekin removal!! I just cut it into squares and brought it to work and it was very well-received, even by a few Jews who were very wary of trying a kosher for passover baked good because we have all had bad experiences with those ;)

    thanks for another awesome recipe!

    Sounds like your colleagues had a nice treat today, Debra – thanks for letting us know how the different pan size worked. PJH

    Reply
  25. Jenoir

    How is it that ou advertise this cake as needing no baking, when the instructions say to bake for 35 to 40 mins.?

    Sorry, a misinterpretation. I meant, if you can’t use flour or leavening, does that mean you can’t bake? Not at all – here’s a cake that needs no flour or leavening. Sorry for the confusion! :) PJH

    Reply
  26. Robin

    You can get kosher for Passover vanilla extract and confectioners sugar but you have to look really hard. Most grocery stores won’t carry it; you have to go to someplace which has a very large kosher selection. If you live in the Philadelphia area, two of the area Shoprites (Cherry Hill and NE Philadelphia) have what they call the Kosher Connection — everything you could possibly want and more for Passover (and for the rest of the year as well). You can also buy pareve (non-dairy) margarines and coffee creamers which may be the solution for those who keep kosher and are serving meat for the main meal.

    Reply
  27. Sandy Bryan

    You would do much better, when separating eggs, to separate them while cold and then let them come to room temperature. When you separate a room temperature egg, the yolk is much more likely to break. Try it both ways and see the difference.

    Reply
  28. Heather

    Would almond milk (my new favorite thing) work in the glaze? I haven’t ever tried to cook or bake with it, but it’s parve and would fit with the nut theme.
    Give the almond milk a try Heather, it should be fine. Ganache (that’s the glaze) can even be made with water, but keep an eye on the texture and adjust as needed. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  29. Sylvia

    I want to try this cake!!! I try to be away from flour as much as I can, and this cake sound delicious!!!

    I have a question. Can I use splenda instead of the sugar?

    Thanks for sharing…

    Sylvia, I wouldn’t substitute Splenda and expect the same result. It may work; it may not. I know it wouldn’t work with a regular flour cake, but maybe with the nuts… just not sure. If you try it, let us know how it goes, OK? Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  30. tapper

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I noticed that on the volume recipe is it 2 cups finely ground pecans or 2 cups pecan meal but on the ounces recipe is is 8 oz finely ground pecans or 5 oz pecan meal. Is it really a different weight for the pecan meal or should it be 8 oz for either?
    Sorry for the confusion, yes this is correct as written, there is a different weight measurement for these two items. ~Amy

    Reply
  31. Lydia Dignard

    Can you please tell me how many carbs, protein, fibre and calories are in this recipe

    Sorry, we don’t have that information. We’re working on providing nutritional breakdowns for our new recipes going forward, but don’t yet have the software… PJH

    Reply
  32. Mariel

    Yesterday, I saw this recipe while looking for a cake with not gluten and no leaven. I just did it with almond meal (what I had in my house) and came up, amazing! Thank you so much!
    Happy Pesach! Happy Resurrection Day!
    Shalom, shalom!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Chag Pesach Sameach, Mariel – and Happy aster! So glad you liked the cake – PJH

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