Those of us who stay away from gluten often joke that it’s Passover all year round. But for me, when Passover actually rolls around, it feels like my birthday—better, even, because it lasts a whole eight days. I happily clip and bookmark Passover recipes for gluten-free celebrations all year.
Not all gluten-free cakes are kosher for Passover and not all Passover cakes are gluten-free, but the overlap means that there are plenty of options that work. Think of this as your (partial) guide to flourless cakes.
Flourless Chocolate Cakes
Flourless chocolate cakes are often a Passover staple, and for good reason. They’re a way to check a lot of boxes at once: gluten-free, nut-free and, if you use coconut oil or margarine, dairy-free—and who doesn’t love chocolate?
Brian Noyes knows something about that. The pies at Noyes’ acclaimed Red Truck Rural Bakery in Warrenton and Marshall, Virginia, are bestsellers—former president Barack Obama even orders them for Pi Day. But when customers started asking for gluten-free options, flavor was key; Noyes wasn’t satisfied with anything that was “good for gluten-free.” It had to be good, period.
So he started out with a flourless chocolate truffle cake, which is very rich and almost fudgy with a chocolate and vanilla glaze. It’s made from just a few, very high-quality ingredients, relying on whipped egg whites for structure. It has become one of Red Truck’s most popular items, and the staff makes and ships them around the country daily. Since then, Noyes has added several other gluten-free items to his menu, made with a gluten-free flour mix. Especially popular is the almond cake.
Flourless cakes are easy to make at home, too. Some, like Noyes’, rely on beaten egg whites, which often give a crackly top, while others are more “dump and mix.” You can dress your flourless chocolate cake up with meringue, caramel, ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream. You can count on flourless chocolate cake going far, since a thin sliver is usually enough, even for the biggest chocoholics.
Almond (and other nut) meals and flours have recently become popular in gluten-free baking, but Jewish bakers have long relied on them for Passover desserts. Nuts offer fat and richness, making them good for pareve/dairy-free desserts, and they shine on their own or can be easily paired with other flavor profiles, including citrus, chocolate, coffee, apples or pears, berries, spices like cinnamon and ginger and more. Some nut-based cakes are tall, fluffy and delicate (again, whipped egg whites), while others use whole eggs (either lightly whisked or simply stirred in) and are denser and very moist.
I always stock up on blanched almond meal or flour for Passover, but you can make your own (ditto for hazelnut and pistachio flour) in a food processor. At my house, Passover doesn’t go by without my super-easy and moist orange cake, but this year I also have my eye on this pistachio cake, this three-ingredient walnut cake and this walnut-date cake.
When you need something a bit less decadent, fluffy cakes that rely on lots of whipped eggs and just a bit of starch are your answer. The classic is a potato starch-based lemon sponge cake, but it can be made with cocoa or left plain. Whipped-egg-based batters can also be layered or rolled and filled.
Give dry, cloying meringues the cake treatment in a classic or chocolate pavlova, or make layers of meringue and stack them with whipped cream and berries, chocolate and cherries or just lots of chocolate. Switch up the fruit, add lemon curd or sprinkle with chopped nuts (or stir them into the meringue) to up the festive factor.
Even before going gluten-free, one of my favorite birthday cakes was my mom’s meringue pie—meringue baked into a pie dish as the crust and then filled with either chocolate mousse or ice cream (coffee chip was a favorite) and served chilled.
See? Even when you forego the flour, you don’t have to forsake the cake. And to my gluten-free friends, happy better-than-birthday.
Note: Red Truck Bakery is not a dedicated gluten-free facility, nor is it kosher certified or kosher for Passover.