You Won’t Believe These Are Passover Desserts!

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25 Mar 2009

The Passover cakes I remember from my childhood were almost always sponge cakes. The number of eggs in the cake would depend on whose recipe my mother would decide to try that year. Her biggest challenge was to create a cake that would reach the top of her tube pan. She might use anywhere from 8 to 10 eggs, sometimes up to a dozen in her sponge cakes, always striving to reach new heights. My mother always made her sponge cake with a combination of cake meal and potato starch. She hated the taste of potato starch in a cake. “Pheh!” she would mutter under her breath when one of her friends would offer her a slice.

Mom’s mixmaster was always put to good use during Passover – her mile-high cakes were light and wonderful and always disappeared quickly. If we were lucky enough to have leftover sponge cake, slices would be transformed into “Passover French toast.” No wonder that 15 dozen eggs were never enough for the 8 days of Pesach!

Passover cakes are somewhat challenging to make because they are made without flour. Their fragile structure is based on whipping the egg whites until they triple in volume to become a fluffy meringue. Then the delicate white clouds are gently folded into the egg yolks that have been beaten with sugar until they’re a pale golden yellow. My mother would carefully fold in the potato starch/cake meal mixture. She liked to add a little lemon or orange juice and sometimes folded in grated chocolate to add a special touch. Then we were sent outside to play while the cake baked “so it won’t fall in!” I still think that was her way of having a few minutes of peace from her children.

Today I received a phone call from the niece of a cousin of my late father. “What’s the best recipe for a Pesadick sponge cake?” “No problem,” I replied. Just make my Mother’s Passover Cake.” She said she would – and you should too!

I’ve also included my recipe for Mustachudos, a delicious gluten-free cookie that only requires four ingredients. It’s one of my favourite cookie recipes. Nothing could be easier – there’s no separating of eggs or beating of egg whites – and you can’t beat that! I hope you enjoy this wonderful Turkish delight that was shared by two “pan pals” from the other side of the globe, Helen Berg of Australia and the late Raya Tarab of Israel.

And last, but not least, some scrumptious recipes from Penny Eisenberg and Tamar Ansh. Penny Eisenberg has been a caterer and cooking instructor for over 20 years. Her specialties include desserts of all kinds including dairy-free, Jewish and low-fat desserts, Jewish cooking and bread baking. Penny is the author of two cookbooks: Light Jewish Holiday Desserts and Passover Desserts. I was delighted to learn that she just did a complete re-write of Passover Desserts, which is available only on CD-ROM. The updated recipes are easier to make for today’s lifestyle and they’re also easier to use (no flipping from page to page). Penny also added 50 new photos and drawings. For more information, visit her website at Her show-stopping fudge torte is guaranteed to please the guests at your table!

Israeli cookbook author Tamar Ansh, the author of “Pesach – Anything’s Possible!” kindly shared a wonderful cheesecake recipe with me from her new book. Tamar wrote, “This is one great cheesecake recipe and you needn’t make it only for Pesach. It serves so well, I’m sure you will want to use it again on Shavuot, on long summer afternoons, or at family gatherings. Depending on the time of year, you can arrange different fruit toppings on it, other than what I have done here with blueberries.”

Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author, cooking teacher and food consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Her latest book is NORENE’S HEALTHY KITCHEN: Eat YOUR Way to Good Health (Whitecap). For information about her cookbooks, cooking demonstrations and culinary services, call 416-226-2466 or visit her website at