As I’ve said before, Passover desserts fall into two camps: (1) recipes that are not based on flour and need little or no changes to work for Passover, and (2) recipes that are based on flour and need to be converted to work with potato starch and matzoh cake meal.
Generally, flourless desserts are a safer bet. But, sponge cake and chiffon cakes are a holiday tradition.
In the past, I have not had spectacular success with this kind of recipe. This year, I think I am finally making headway.
The inspiration for my latest attempt was a recipe for Genoise Electrique in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two and a recipe for chocolate sponge cake from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great American Desserts.
Maida’s recipe (originally from Craig Claiborne) and Julia’s recipe has something interesting in common: both called for taking whole eggs and whipping them a long time to get a light fluffy cake. Usually, a sponge cake is made by beating the egg whites and yolks separately, or, in the case of a genoise, by warming whole eggs and sugar and then whipping them. These recipes skipped the separating and the warming and used the brute force of a mixer to create volume with the eggs.
I first tried Maida’s recipe, but cut in half so that it would bake in a 8″ square pan. I used potato starch instead of flour, and reduced the baking time to take the smaller pan into consideration, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.
The resulting cake was very light, like an angel food cake. Not chocolately enough for me, but quite nice.
When I tried again, with a marble chiffon, I glanced at the Julia Child recipe, but kind of experimented. I added an extra egg (okay, this was an accident) and used oil instead of melted butter. The final cake had a very downy, moist crumb. It would be perfect for a birthday cake if I ever needed a traditional birthday cake on Passover.
Of course, after the fact, I did a search and found that someone else (Julie Weiseman) already figured out that you can make Passover sponge cake this way. And Marcy Goldman already tried a Passover genoise with oil instead of butter. Okay, so I sort of reinvented the wheel. But, not completely because Marcy and Julie use a mixture of cake meal and potato starch. I made the cake with just potato starch.
Gluten-Free Passover Vanilla Cake
Inspired by Maida Heatter’s recipe for Chocolate Sponge Cake and Julia Child’s Genoise Electrique
Beat room temperature eggs for 15 minutes on high (the mixture should be very thick and light, or at the ribbon stage; see also Joe Pastry’s tutorial on genoise. Warning: if you beat much more than this, the egg mixture can collapse.):
3 or 4 eggs, room temperature (I made it first with three eggs, and the second with four–both work, but more is—obviously–eggier tasting)
Towards the end of beating, gradually add:
1/2 cup sugar (125 g or 4.25 ounces)
On low speed, add:
1/2 cup potato starch (80 g or 2 3/4 ounces)
(for chocolate version, substitute 2-3 Tbl. cocoa for same amount of potato starch)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbl. oil (optional, for moistness)
Put batter into 9″ round or square pan (before adding batter, line bottom of pan with greased parchment (I was lazy and just lightly greased bottom of pan, and it was fine). Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
If you are wondering about the marble effect, I am still perfecting my marbling mixture. Meanwhile, take a look at the Julie Weiseman recipe.