There is a sad truth about Passover: Its dessert always falls short. Hanukkah has donuts, Purim has hamantaschen and Rosh Hashanah has honey cake. Poor Passover has no signature sweet.
Perhaps you’ve put in the extra effort to make a kosher for Passover cake for your Seders past, but if you’re like me, you’ve never found one you love enough to sacrifice sweet brisket-braising time to make it each year. But as Julia Child said, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” So, this spring I set out to create a kosher for Passover cake that wouldn’t compromise even a crumb’s worth of quality.
I pulled my copy of Dan Cohen’s cookbook, “The Macaroon Bible,” down from my shelf and got started. Cohen’s recipes call for small batches that produce rich and chewy macaroons that come in flavors like rice pudding and salted caramel. Each recipe highlights the thick coconut shreds and sweet condensed milk that make up its base. His recipes have made macaroons a year-round treat in my home — passing the test of something that’s conveniently kosher for Passover but not designed for it.
This cake batter borrows from Cohen’s recipe and enhances the celebratory qualities of a macaroon. It takes a traditional Passover dessert and morphs it into a beautiful, festive and delicious centerpiece. It’s a Passover cake for all seasons.
2 14-ounce bags sweetened coconut
2 cups sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon red food coloring
4 large egg whites
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1) Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans or three 6-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Then, line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the paper with cooking spray. Set aside.
2) In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, condensed milk, vanilla, cocoa powder and food coloring. In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and salt. Beat the eggs using an electric mixer until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
3) Gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture, about 1/3 of them at a time, and then distribute the batter evenly among the pans, spreading it out with a spatula for a smooth top. Bake for 35–45 minutes, until the tops begin to brown.
4) Turn the cakes onto a wire rack and let them cool.
5) To make the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Once the mixture is smooth, mix in the vanilla.
6) You can frost the cake and eat it as soon as it’s cooled to room temperature, but it will be much easier to decorate and cut if you wrap the layers individually in plastic wrap and stick them in the freezer overnight before decorating (they can also be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer for up to a week). To frost, spread about 3/4–1 cup of frosting in between each layer, using an offset spatula or a rubber spatula. If desired, reserve some frosting to spread on the outsides, as well. Let the frozen cakes thaw on the counter for 30–60 minutes before serving.
Photos by Molly Yeh