Walnut Cake

Passover is upon us, and last night Mike and I had our annual interfaith seder. Three Catholics, three Protestants, and one Jew celebrated the story of the exodus along with a ton of food, including my traditional orange almond cake (this time made with Valencia oranges for the best result yet) and a new, delicious treat. I found this recipe for flourless walnut cake at Food 52, and it is life-changing.

The thing about Passover baking is: no flour. So what’s a baker to do? Ground nuts and eggs feature heavily in Passover cake recipes, and that was the case with this cake as well. It was my first experience whipping egg whites separately, then folding them into batter. Full disclosure: I had to start over with the whites because holy cow, it’s easy to over-whip egg whites. In any case, the end result was absolutely delicious, tasting almost like the nut filling in a nut roll pastry. The cake sinks in the middle as it cools, leaving a wonderful indentation for a pool of freshly whipped cream. I’ll absolutely make this cake again, for many occasions, and may try hazelnuts or pecans next time.


  • 8 ounces ground walnuts
  • 9 ounces superfine sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream, for serving


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat egg yolks and sugar until fluffy and light in color, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks. (Not sure how to do that? Watch this.) In three parts, carefully and gently fold the whites into the batter.

Gently pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, or with just a few small moist crumbs. Cool in pan about 10 minutes, then open the pan and peel back the paper, allowing the cake to cool completely. The cake will sink in the middle as it cools, and this is perfectly fine. Fill the indentation with fresh whipped cream, candied walnuts, or whatever you like. Store a plain cake at room temperature; if you’ve added whipped cream on top, keep it in the fridge.

Makes 8 servings.


Flourless Chocolate Cake







Our fun with interfaith baking continues, as both Passover and Easter are upon us!  I’m no Torah scholar, so I’ll leave the explanation of the symbols, foods, and rituals of Passover to the fine folks at www.chabad.org.  As a baker, though, I can speak to the creativity that Passover requires; observant bakers turn to matzoh meal, potato flour, and all manner of unleavened ingredients to produce cakes, cookies, and other treats for this special time of year.

Tomorrow night, Mike and I will celebrate the beginning of Passover with a Seder, and for the next eight days, Mike won’t eat chametz, or anything that contains leavened grain, like bread, cereal, pasta, even beer.  I don’t abstain from chametz for two reasons; as a Catholic with Eastern European roots, Easter bread is an important component of my faith tradition, and (to be totally honest) I’m nowhere near disciplined enough.

This cake is an excellent flourless option for Passover; it is very rich, so I recommend slender slices served with fresh whipped cream.  You can omit the espresso powder if you don’t have it and use unsweetened American-style cocoa powder instead of Dutch-process, but if you’d like to stick to the traditional recipe, you can get both ingredients from King Arthur Flour; Williams-Sonoma also carries Dutch-process cocoa.

A note about the chocolate glaze: mine didn’t turn out as smooth as I’d like, which means I need to spend more time stirring it once the chocolate has melted to make sure all of the tiny bits of chocolate are incorporated evenly.



  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease a round cake pan; line with parchment paper and grease the parchment.

Cut butter into chunks and combine with chocolate chips in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl.

Microwave in 30-second intervals until butter melts and chips become very soft, stirring after each interval.  Stir to melt chips completely and transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla and beat until just combined.

Add eggs and beat until incorporated.

Add cocoa powder and beat until just combined.

Gently pour batter into pan and bake for 25 minutes, until the top of the cake has formed a crust.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes; loosen edges with the tip of a knife and invert onto a cake stand or serving plate.

Allow to cool completely before glazing.

Garnish with toasted sliced almonds, if desired.

Chocolate Glaze


  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup heavy cream


Combine chocolate chips and heavy cream in a saucepan and heat until cream is very hot, but not simmering.

Remove from heat and stir until completely smooth.

Pour over cake, allowing to drip over the sides.

Allow the glaze to harden for several hours before serving.