Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cocoa Espresso Almond Passover Sponge Cake (gluten free)


It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  
- Mark Twain

The arrival of Passover each year means many things: springtime is in the air, the hard, driving, icy winter rain has transformed into a milder, warmer drizzle; boxes of matzo are stacked on my kitchen counter, anxious to be turned into sweet and savory treats or simply smeared with butter and jam for breakfast; and (best of all) I get to twiddle around with recipes and come up with a new cake for the family, one without either flour or raising agent.

Last year I made a marvelous Lemon Almond Sponge. It rose to dizzying heights, was light yet satisfying with a pronounced almond flavor and a hint of lemon. Add to that a zingy Warm Lemon Sauce and it was one of my best creations all year… and a surprisingly wonderful Passover treat. But this year I crave chocolate.

My men are never happy with any sacrifice made around their baguettes and morning cake. As these foods are forbidden and cleaned out from the kitchen as Passover comes into view, I make sure that there are wonderful cakes to make them happy (cakes that aren't dry and tasteless and scream "Passover circa 1965"), to carry them through the eight days of festivities. Happily, I have discovered or come up with a mighty fine collection of recipes suitable for Passover – more than suitable… spectacular! And since they are flourless, or use an appropriate substitute, this one uses potato flour, they are also great for those who are on a gluten-free diet.

Find the recipe for the Lemon Almond Sponge Cake with warm lemon sauce (and information about the food rituals of Passover) and links to other elegant, delicious and astonishing Passover-friendly, gluten free treats HERE.

On another note, As you know, Plated Stories, my collaborative blog with Ilva Beretta, is a finalist for a Saveur Magazine Best Food Blog Award in the category Best Writing. Voting is simple, quick and necessary. Ilva and I would really love your support. Just click over to, register and vote.


Whether you celebrate the Jewish festival of Passover or not, this cake is a splendid addition to your baking repertoire and your table. Made without flour, it is a wonderful, tasty gluten-free treat as well.

4 large eggs, separated
1 cup (200 g) sugar
¼ cup (65 ml) prepared strong coffee
¼ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup (45 g) ground almonds
½ cup (85 g) potato flour *please see note below
¼ cup (25 g) unsweetened cocoa powder *
Pinch salt + few drops lemon juice for whites
Handful slivered blanched almonds to decorate, optional

* I use what is called fecule de pomme de terre, potato flour but has the consistency more of a light cornstarch than flour. After a long discussion with friends, I recommend you use potato starch. When measuring both the potato starch and the cocoa powder, lightly scoop and spoon each into a measuring cup then scrape off the excess with the flat side of a knife blade. Do not pack into the cup.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Have ready a springform pan – I used a 7 ¼ inch-diameter x 4 inch-high springform but a regular 8-inch pan (with high sides) is fine, too, simply adjust baking time. 

Separate the eggs; place the yolks in a large mixing bowl and the whites in a medium bowl, preferably plastic or metal. Add a pinch salt and a few drops lemon juice to the whites and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks for a couple of minutes until thick and pale. Add the sugar and continue beating until thick and creamy. Beat in the prepared coffee and the vanilla extract until well blended and thick. Quickly beat in the ground almonds.

Using very clean beaters, beat the egg whites on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase the speed to high; beat the whites until thick, glossy and peaks hold. Do not overbeat until the whites are dry. Using a spatula, gently but firmly fold the stiff whites into the lemon almond cake batter in 3 additions. Sift the cocoa powder onto the potato flour and stir together; fold in the potato flour/cocoa mixture with the third addition of the whites in order to avoid overworking the batter. Fold in the whites just until all the lumps of white have disappeared.

Gently pour the batter into the springform pan. Dust with a couple of tablespoons slivered almonds. 

Bake in the preheated oven 30 – 45 minutes, depending on your oven and pan size. The cake is done when puffed, set and golden. Gently press on the top of the cake and it should feel set, much like an angel or sponge cake. A tester inserted in the center should come out dry.

Remove the pan from the oven onto a cooling rack and allow to cool to before unmolding, but carefully run a long, thin blade around the sides to loosen the cake while still warm. Be extra careful when unmolding as the top of the cake is crispy and flakey; it is best to use a springform pan so you can just lift off the sides then loosen and slide it from the bottom onto a serving platter. I did partially cool the cake upside down (which I often do for sponges as it helps keep them from sinking), placing a cool rack upside down on the top of the pan and slowly flipping it upside down.


Stacy Rushton said...

What a beautiful light cake! I love how tall it bakes up, even without leavening. Impressive!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

My goodness Jamie the texture of that cake is out of this world! It looks so light it might need weights to keep it on the plate :)

Angie Schneider said...

Looks so light and beautiful!

Noticed that you also have listed the weight measurement..this is really nice as I am not very familiar with American measurement.
1/2 cup potato flour (starch) is 90 grams...didn't know they are heavier than cake flour which weights just 110grams per cup.

Simones Kitchen said...

That is such a beautiful cake Jamie, and I will now hop over to Saveur to vote for you guys!

Jamie said...

@Simone Thanks so very much for your vote!!!

@Angie: I weighed the potato starch as I made the cake and got it at 90 g but now you have me wondering and I'll weigh it again. And when I weigh flour my 1 cup comes closer to 135 g!

Jenn said...

In my experience, fécule de pommes de terre is potato starch. In general, potato starch and potato flour (farine) are quite different things at least here en Suisse and in my experience in the US. The flour is often a bit drier and grainier, and the "fécule de pommes de terre" that is commonly available to me here is very much a starch rather than a flour, and resembles cornstarch in texture and consistency as well as how it behaves in the oven. I don't have potato starch in my gluten free weight conversion chart yet, but for 1 cup, my lightest starch is tapioca at 100g/cup, and my heaviest is glutinous rice flour at 155g/cup. It does seem a bit odd to me that the potato starch would be so much heavier than those… can I ask what brand you are using?? Looks like a great cake!

Jamie said...

Thanks so much, Jenn. I added a note suggesting they use potato starch. And Jenn and Angie, I weighed 1/2 cup of the fecule de pomme de terre - potato starch - and it weighed at 85 g (I adjusted the recipe from 90 to 85 g). I lightly scooped into the measuring cup then leveled with a knife.

Lisa said...

You make the most beautiful cakes, Jamie. Did I ever tell you that? The height you get on your sponge cakes is just awesome. We're stocked up with matzo here too, and in fact, I've already been indulging in matzo brei. I'm glad that your men join you in the celebration of Passover, even though they're a little reluctant to give up their 'daily bread'. xoxo

Cindy M said...

Could I substitute a sprouted spelt flour in place of potato starch?

Jamie said...

@Cindy M: good question. I don't even know what sprouted spelt flour is but I googled "sprouted spelt flour for potato starch" and came up with so many discussions and explanations. Check them out. Just remember that the potato flour I used was more like potato starch, feathery fine and light much like cornstarch. So be careful of the consistency.

Betsy @ Desserts Required said...

I missed the voting opportunity, but congrats on being nominated! That is FABULOUS!

This cake looks so delicious. Not the stereotypical Passover dessert, thank goodness! :-)))


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