Passover Desserts

As Pesach is fast approaching, I have decided on what desserts I am going to make to make this year: Chocolate-Pistachio Cake and the Orange-Ginger Cake (See Passover Preparations).

This pistachio cake is based on a recipe from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Italian Easy: Recipes from the River Cafe. It is a very easy cake to make. I would prefer to make it with butter, but I must make a parve cake for Passover.

Normally, I do not like Passover cakes made with matza meal, but this cake only calls for 1/2 cup and you really don’t notice it. Substitute with flour when it is not Passover.

Since the Passover hostess is a chocoholic, I am covering the cake with a bittersweet chocolate glaze, but the original recipe is served plain with a lemon glaze.

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Serving Size: 8 to 10

For the cake:

250g (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine

1 lemon

1 vanilla bean or equivalent of vanilla paste

150g (2/3 cup) blanched almonds

170 g (3/4 cup) pistachios

1-1/4 cups superfine sugar

4 eggs

1/2 cup matza cake flour

For the lemon topping:

1 lemon

113g (1/2 cup) pistachios

1/4 cup superfine sugar

For the chocolate glaze:

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

85g (3/4 stick) margarine or butter, cut into pieces

57g (1/4 cup) ground pistachios

Make the cake

Heat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Grease a 9-inch (22cm) springform pan with 4 teaspoons of the butter and line with baking parchment.

Soften the remaining margarine or butter. Finely grate the lemon peel. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Finely grind the almonds and pistachios together.

Beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the lemon peel and vanilla seeds, then fold in the nuts and sift in the flour.

Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan, then turn out.

Make the lemon topping

Grate the lemon peel and squeeze the juice. Halve the pistachios.

Mix the lemon juice with the sugar, boil until reduced to a syrup, then add the peel. Stir in the pistachios and pour over the cake.

Make the chocolate glaze

Melt chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and add remaining 5 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth.

Transfer the glaze to a bowl and chill, covered, until slightly thickened and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

Spread the glaze over cake with a small metal spatula. Sprinkle pistachios on the top and sides of the cake.


The other cake I considered making this year is another favourite of mine. It is a spice cake with a chocolate glaze. Simple and delicious. I do not remember where I got this recipe.

Chocolate Almond Torte
For the cake:

1/2 cup sugar plus additional for dusting

400g (1-3/4 cups ) finely ground almonds

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

5 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate icing:

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

85g (3/4 stick) margarine or butter, cut into pieces

75g (1/3 cup) sliced almonds

22cm (9-inch) cake pan or springform pan ( I use a springform)

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 180C (350°F). Butter pan and dust with sugar, knocking out excess.

Stir together ground almonds, chocolate, and spices in a bowl. Beat yolks with 1/4 cup sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, then beat in zest.

Beat whites with salt with cleaned beaters in a large bowl until they just hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Stir one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites in 2 more batches. Fold in ground almond mixture.

Pour batter into mold and bake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in mold on a rack 10 minutes, then invert onto rack and cool completely.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt chocolate with 1 tablespoon margarine in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and add remaining 5 tablespoons margarine, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth. Transfer icing to a bowl and chill, covered, until slightly thickened and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

Spread icing over cake with a small metal spatula. Sprinkle almonds on the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake until icing is set, at least 1 hour. Transfer cake to a platter and bring to room temperature before serving.

Yafo, Yafa, Jaffa, Joppa

Whatever you choose to call Yafo, it will always be that magical place on the sea. I love the Arab architecture, the amazing sea views and cultural mix.

Don’t get me wrong, Yafo is not a perfect place, but there is something that draws me to the old city of Yafo. Maybe because it reminds me of some of the villages David and I visited in Provence.

I would love to buy an old house there and fix it up.

David’s uncle and aunt lived in the middle of the old city of Yafo. His uncle was a painter, potter and stained glass maker. The menorah outside in the courtyard of the Ihud Shivat Zion Synagogue in Tel Aviv was made by his late uncle, Peter Rozsa, and the stained glass windows in the synagogue were designed by his aunt, Claire Szilard and built by his uncle.

Yafo also has some very nice art galleries, restaurants and a Yafo institution, Abulafiya.

Abulafia is open 24 hours a day. There is always a line to buy fresh pita and other wood fired bread straight from the oven, some sprinkled with za’atar or kashkaval cheese.

I try not to do this very often, but I love to go to the Arab pastry shoppes and look at all the beautiful pastries. Okay, sometimes I buy one or two pieces. The best Arab pastries come from a shop in Nazareth. My boss is from there and sometimes she brings us treats when she goes to visit her family. They are not as sickeningly sweet as you find at Greek restaurants in the States.

The best baklava that I ever had was in Istanbul. However, the best baklava is suppose to be from Lebanon. Maybe one day I will be able to cross the border and try some.

Since we are on the subject of baklava, I found a savory baklava recipe some years ago that I would love to try, but the main ingredient, duck, is just a little too expensive here to play with. This definitely is a special occasion dish. Perhaps for an anniversary…..

I finally made the Ducklava and it is delicous. However, I have to call it Clucklava, because I made it with boneless chicken thighs instead of duck and I also made it with very large dried cranberries (I thought they were cherries) instead of the dried cherries. I also used round warka leaves, fried the cigars in a frying pan instead of baking them, and drizzled chestnut honey on the outside of the cigar instead of adding it to the filling. It was a perfect first course and I will definitely make it again.


Serving Size: 6 as an appetizer

2 c (500g) cooked duck meat

1/2 c (113g) almonds, pecans, pistachios or walnuts

1/4 c bourbon

1/2 c (113g) dried sour cherries

2 T minced shallot

1 T honey (optional)

1/2 pkg phyllo, thawed

1/2 c melted butter or olive oil

Chestnut honey or similar strong honey such as Greek Fir, for drizzling

Soak cherries in bourbon for 30 minutes. Grind the nuts and duck meat in a food processor or chop by hand until combined. Add cherries to duck mixture, reserving the bourbon. Briefly pulse to combine. Add shallots and three tablespoons of bourbon, pulsing to incorporate. Add more bourbon by the tablespoon until the mixture is thick and chunky. Season with salt as needed and add honey, if desired.

Preheat oven to 375F (190C).


With a pastry brush, brush butter or oil on the top layer of two sheets of phyllo. Fold in half to form a long rectangle. Brush top lightly with more butter or oil.

Making Ducklava

With your hands, use 1/2 cup of duck mixture to form a log to place at the short side of the phyllo dough, leaving about 1/2-inch on either side. Roll the short end with the duck mixture into a thick cigar.

Rolled up Ducklava

Place the cigar, seam-side down on baking sheet, tucking in the phyllo on either end. Brush lightly with butter or oil. Repeat this five more times.

You can refrigerate the ducklava for up to 6 hours by wrapping the cigars in plastic wrap. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden, or according to the phyllo package directions. Remove from oven and slice cigars diagonally into two-inch sections, if desired. Drizzle with honey. Serve hot.

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