Our all-time favorite family birthday cake is a Sephardi Jewish Passover cake. I got the recipe from my mother’s friend Lucie Ades, whose family came from France and was of Spanish ancestry.
I am guessing that they were from Bayonne in Southwest France, where Jews fleeing the Inquisition in the early sixteenth century settled and started the first chocolate manufacturing industry. It is there that chocolate cakes with almonds first appeared.
I have always made this with the Menier Chocolat Patissier that I find at my supermarket. Serve it with clotted cream or whipped cream. Serves 12
7 oz/200g best-quality dark chocolate(70%cacao),broken into pieces
6 eggs, separated
6 tbsp/75g granulated sugar
generous ¾ cup/100g almond meal
confectioners’ sugar for dusting(optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Butter and flour a 9-inch round nonstick cake pan with a removable bottom.
Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl placed over a pan of boiling water so that the bowl does not touch the water. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff.In another bowl, using the same mixer, beat the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until pale.
Mix in the almond meal and then the melted chocolate. Add 1 to 2 tbsp of the beaten whites and mix them in to loosen the very dense almond-chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, until firm to the touch. Let cool before removing from the pan. When ready to serve, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar, if you like.
Reprinted with permission from Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean: Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travelby Claudia Roden, copyright©2021. Published by Ten Speed Press, animprint of Penguin Random House.