I love Passover. Yes, I’m a baptized, white bread Methodist, but I also grew up on Long Island where Jewish culture is so pervasive that my church had an interfaith Seder every year while I was growing up. My friend Alexa and her family also always allowed me to invite myself over to their house for some noodle pudding every year. Even in my single digit years, I remember being a huge fan of the holiday and of Jewish cuisine. Whether we’re talking kreplach and brisket or more Israeli-style with figs, couscous and hummus, I am so on board. (Literally don’t get me started on smoked fish cause I might not stop.)
What has always struck me is the profound spirituality behind a Seder. There’s not much else like it. I only ever get that feeling otherwise at a somber late-night Christmas Eve or Good Friday church service. Every bite of the Seder is about remembering and you really do feel transported by the mitzvah of savoring some horseradish and thinking about what it symbolizes. At least I do.
Then, when I worked at a Kosher bakery for a few years, a whole new subsection of the Pesach meal became revealed to me — dessert. It’s crazy, er, meshugenah (Alexa’s mom teaching me that one) how many ridiculously delicious desserts can be made without wheat, rye, barley, oats and, often, without dairy. Gorgeous fruit tarts, chocolate-dipped matzoh with m&ms, coconut macaroons, apple cakes made with nut flour, meringue cookies, and more. It was the best time of the year at the shop and our manager would even bend the rules and order a little too much of everything so that we could all sneak samples of the treats during the day without ever selling out.
I recently made my first flourless chocolate cake which, depending on your kitchen dishes/utensils, dinner menu and the strictness to which specific Passover Kosher laws will be followed by your party, I probably wouldn’t recommend whipping up for a Passover meal. But, it could pass muster in the right circumstances! If you’re celebrating for a week, it might be worth making and having at-the-ready if you’re a chocolate cake fiend like I am. It could also come in handy in general if you need a gluten-free dessert. You can also just make it for no other reason other than it’s decadent, chocolatey, and delicious.
I used this recipe for Chocolate Idiot Cake from David Lebovitz. He deliberately developed this recipe so that it’s impossible to screw up, but also impossibly tasty. I actually made this for Dan’s birthday last week. He had to stay late at work, thereby missing his train home. He’d been planning to spend his birthday eating dinner with his parents. He called me, last-minute and disappointed, saying he was coming home after all instead of going to see his family. My heart broke a little, so I dashed into the kitchen to make him a cake, but realized I’d used up all of my flour earlier in the week (surely on something less deserving than birthday cake, ugh!). So, this flourless cake it was… and I think the healthy dose of fudginess helped to cure D’s birthday stress. It tasted just as good 5+ days later, too, allowing us two to slowly work our way through the whole thing!
Chocolate Idiot Cake from David Lebovitz
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
7 ounces butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. (Personally, I don’t own a springform pan, so I lined the bottom of a pie dish with parchment paper and it worked just fine!)
2. In a small saucepan or bain marie over low heat, melt chocolate and butter gently, stirring occasionally. When smooth, remove from heat. Your whole house will now smell like melted chocolate. You’re welcome.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar, then slowly add in melted chocolate mixture, whisking constantly.
4. When smooth, pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Put the pan into a larger baking pan, such as a roasting pan, and add enough water to the baking pan to come about halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.
5. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.You’ll know the cake is done when it feels just set, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away clean.
6. Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.
7. This cake is very rich, so serve at room temperature in small wedges alongside something creamy (ice cream, whipped cream) and something fruity (fresh berries, candied lemon peel). You can wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.