Monday, March 22, 2010

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberry puree

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

I don’t know about you, but Passover baked goods fail to excite me for the most part. The sponge-cake I’ve been used to eating for the holiday is dry and boring with barely any flavor to offer. And we are talking about dessert here, people. The period at the end of the sentence. Because that is what dessert is. Without it, a meal feels incomplete somehow, ending with an ellipsis, waiting for more.

egg shells
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

But before I get carried away about punctuation and how it relates to dessert, let me say this: my Passover dessert woes are over. Completely, totally, wholly over. This cake you see here below comes together fairly quickly and doesn’t need much fussing. The olive oil makes the cake moist, giving it a delicate crumb. It’s not a dry and boring sponge cake that I remember eating in the past. Instead of flour, you use almond meal, which, if you cannot find it in your grocery store, you can make at home by taking almonds and pulverizing them in a food processor until the mixture becomes a fine meal. Some lemon and orange zest brighten up the flavors – whispering, “Spring is here!” and if that’s not enough – a homemade fresh strawberry puree takes this cake to a whole new level. When I tasted it, the bright, clean berry flavors made me want to take a leap in celebration of the brand new season and the most amazing weather New York has enjoyed since autumn last year. Immediately, I decided this is what I’ll make for our family Passover Seder this week.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Baking for my family is a tricky proposition. My mother, who is diabetic, can’t eat most baked goods and so I almost never bake at my parents’ house, because I hate the idea of her not being able to partake in it. But this cake here, without flour and low on carbohydrates (did I just write the word “carbohydrates” or what?) and a moderate amount of sugar – this is something she can have a slice of along with the rest of the family. And it makes me very happy to know that this time around, she’ll be able to have dessert after the Seder.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Lastly, the recipe on the web advises a 10-inch spring-form pan, which I didn’t have. I had a 9-inch cake pan, left a bit of batter in the bowl and adjusted my baking time accordingly – it worked for me. Be carefully cooling the cake – it’s delicate and might sink if you move it around too much before it cools completely.

almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries
almond-lemon torte with fresh strawberriesalmond-lemon torte with fresh strawberries

Almond-Lemon Torte with Fresh Strawberries
Adapted from Epicurious


Mild olive oil (not extra-virgin) for brushing pan plus 6 tablespoons

4 tablespoons unsalted matzo meal, divided in two
2 cups almond flour or almond meal
1 cup sugar, divided into thirds
6 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon orange juice (I used a blood orange)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Sauce and berries:
3 cups sliced stemmed strawberries (about 2 pounds), divided
1 tablespoon (or more) sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice


For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush 9-inch-diameter spring-form pan or cake pan with oil. Line the bottom of the pan with a parchment paper round and brush top of the paper with oil. Place 2 tablespoons matzo meal in pan and shake pan to coat, tapping out the excess when done.

In a medium bowl, stir together remaining 2 tablespoons matzo meal, almond flour, and 1/3 cup sugar. Take two large bowls and place egg yolks in one and egg whites in another. Add 1/3 cup sugar to yolks, and, using electric mixer, beat yolk mixture until thick and fluffy. You will see the mixture lighten in color.

Beat in 6 tablespoons olive oil drizzling the oil gradually, allowing it to emulsify with the yolks, then lemon juice, orange juice, and lemon and orange zest.

With a spatula, mix in dry ingredients until just combined.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to whites, and, using clean dry beaters, beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into yolk mixture in 3 additions. Folding is different from mixing. To fold, you gently lift the bottom of the batter with a spatula and gently place it atop the egg white. You delicately repeat the process until the mixture is combined, but not mixed. You will see the whites giving it lightness and structure.

Gently, as not to collapse the batter, transfer it to prepared pan. Sprinkle almonds over.

Bake cake until golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Place pan on rack; cool cake completely in pan. Invert the cake over onto a baking rack and then onto a plate or a cake stand.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover cake pan with foil and let stand at room temperature.

For sauce and berries:

Combine 3 cups sliced strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until smooth. Sweeten sauce with more sugar and/or more lemon juice, if desired and transfer to a bowl. Cover and chill. Can be made ahead.

Serve the cake slices with the strawberry puree.

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  • 1

    Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine. I won’t take a slice. I’ll just take the whole torte. Oh, and the strawberry puree too. I can’t forget that. Wow! I am in love with this torte! It looks marvelous, and if only smell-o-vision (the one for laptops) existed, I’d be able to smell how lovely it was.

    And BTW, I am learning how to bake more GF and sugar free because my grandmas (both sides) and some of my friends at school are diabetic. I have been messing with a few sugar substitutes, but I find that agave nectar has worked best for me in almost every situation. It think a good substitute would be 2/3 cup of agave nectar to every cup of sugar… I haven’t really messed with it a lot, but when I do more messing, I’ll let you know how it works.

    Great post, Olga! :)

    March 22, 2010 1:26 pm
  • 2
    Radish said:

    Kamran – good point, this IS gluten-free as well, excellent!! You know, someone told me that the agave thing is a myth, I need to do more digging. Thank you for your lovely comments, as usual!!

    March 22, 2010 1:27 pm
  • 3

    That torte looks just delicious!

    I’m still anxiously awaiting the lemon tart recipe, by the way.

    March 22, 2010 5:03 pm
  • 4

    This looks amazing! And I’m on the hunt for the perfect passover dessert – looks like I found it! It is so pretty (rarely is a passover dessert even edible, let alone pretty). Thank you!

    March 22, 2010 5:38 pm
  • 5
    whimsy2 said:

    If you wanted to make it more diabetic friendly you could omit the sugar and use a reduced amount of Splenda. You non-diabetics wouldn’t probably be able to taste the difference and this would REALLY make a lot of Jewish diabetics happy.

    March 22, 2010 7:44 pm
  • 6
    Jacqui said:

    Even though I don’t celebrate Passover, this sounds too good to pass up. I love almonds with citrus zest!

    March 22, 2010 7:53 pm
  • 7
    Sprout said:

    Looks like we were sharing the same spring thoughts this weekend! I made Molly’s french lemon yogurt cake, and studded it with toasted instead of incorporating it ground as flour. I like a good crunch – even in cake!

    I’ll write about it soon. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    March 22, 2010 9:31 pm
  • 8
    Radish said:

    Whimsy2 – that is an option, but I abstain from using substitutes that aren’t natural. My mother’s dr recommended her small amts of sugar over Splenda as that is better for the body and she responds better to it as well. Of course, everyone has their own preference. You could sub for Splenda in your version!

    March 23, 2010 5:08 am
  • 9

    i don’t think i’ll be having Seder this year (where did all the time go??), however that certainly won’t stop me from making this. i LOVE the addition of olive oil and all that citrus and strawberry. i also have a deep love for matzoh meal. i used to force my grandmother to make me matzoh meal pancakes at all times of the year, not just around passover. :) i think i’m going to have to resurrect that recipe.

    March 23, 2010 7:17 am
  • 10

    Aspiring poet and baker here. Appreciate your commentary as much as your recipes.

    March 23, 2010 9:52 am
  • 11
    kickpleat said:

    Anything that starts to sing “Spring is here” is a-okay in my books. This looks fantastic and I’m sure it tastes amazing.

    March 28, 2010 10:03 pm
  • 12

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    March 29, 2010 5:44 am
  • 13

    Oh, I love almonds and everything that has them in it! Combined with strawberry puree this torte has to taste divine!

    April 9, 2010 2:23 am
  • 14
    ML said:

    I just stumbled upon this recipe and it definitely looks great, but I just want to warn you that it is NOT gluten-free because of the matzo meal, which is made of wheat. Even the tiniest bit of wheat, flour, matzo, or gluten in any other form can put those of us with Celiac disease at real risk, so please keep that in mind!
    Thank you.

    April 26, 2010 12:54 pm
  • 15
    Radish said:

    ML — you’re 100% correct, thank you for pointing this out – fixed now!

    April 26, 2010 5:00 pm
  • 16

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  • 17

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  • 18

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  • 19
    Hannah M said:

    Made this cake the other day for my grad school mates. Everyone loved it! Awesome to be able to include gluten-free people in the dessert happenings :)

    September 3, 2014 6:24 pm
  • 20
    olga said:

    Hannah M – so glad you liked it!!

    September 3, 2014 7:17 pm

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