Friday, April 4th, 2014

Orange & Almond Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Orange and Almond Cake with Chocolate Sacue

One of the first meals my mother-in-law, Esmae, made for me when we moved to Australia ended on a high note—in more ways than one. For dessert, she served a deliciously bold, immensely moist cake made with almonds and oranges. As I took my first bite of its sun-drenched goodness exploding with citrusy perfume, a loud monkey-like call erupted from the surrounding eucalypts. Turned out to be the “laughing” call of the Kookaburra. You’d have thought we were in a jungle in Africa, not a suburb of Sydney! These are the first sensory markers of my early days down under. I was enchanted.

After dinner I was given a handwritten recipe. (Remember those?)  When I read it over I could hardly believe it was for the same cake I had just eaten.Oranges It called for two whole cooked oranges (rind, flesh and all), lots of ground almonds, sugar, many eggs and (gasp) no butter. I assumed I had just been given a very special family recipe.

But as I began to explore my new country one café at a time (what better way to get the lay of the land than with a coffee buzz), I soon saw that every other café had Orange & Almond Cake on the menu. I got the not-so-subtle drift…I’d been given a recipe for a popular Aussie dessert. The flavors and ingredients in this cake are so in tune with the agriculture and climate of my husband’s sunny homeland, it made sense.

Several years later I discovered that this cake is based on a traditional Sephardic Jewish recipe. Claudia Roden includes it in a couple of her books on Middle Eastern food. Orange and Almond Passover CakeShe writes in the head note that the cake is quite popular in Australia and New Zealand. (I would say so! It’s almost as if this cake went viral before ‘going viral’ even existed.) The versions of the recipe circulating at that time, including the one my mother-in-law gave me, called for small amounts of flour. However, the recipe that Claudia published had no flour since, according to her, it was often served on Passover.

There are now many adaptations of this cake recipe. Nigella Lawson has a few versions using clementines, kumquats and cocoa powder. She says it reminds her of sponge cake soaked in syrup while cooling. I agree—this cake has all that moistness built right in. Did I mention how easy this cake is to make, too?

Thank you, Esmae and Australia, for sharing the love and thank you, Claudia, for clueing me in on the origins of this cake and setting it on a journey around the globe. It has become one of my own treasured recipes.

Happy Pesach!

PS Happy almost-birthday, Esmae. See you for the celebration half-way around the globe soon!



Orange & Almond Cake with Chocolate Sauce

Serving Size: 10

This cake is great served on it's own or with the chocolate sauce. It's your choice. A dollop of sweetened marscapone cheese would also be delicious.


  • 2 cara cara oranges or other naval oranges
  • Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) packed ground almond meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs


  1. Place oranges in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer gently until oranges are very soft, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set oranges aside to cool. When cool, cut into quarters and remove any seeds if necessary.
  2. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Pulse oranges in food processor until pureed but still slightly chunky and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, baking powder and salt; set aside. Whisk sugar and eggs together in a large mixing bowl until combined, about 1 minute. Stir in orange puree and almond mixture and pour batter into prepared pan.
  4. Bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake has browned evenly on the surface (if the cake has browned only around the edges, it is probably not completely cooked), about 55-60 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack. After 15 minutes, run a small spatula or paring knife around edge to loosen cake; let cool completely. Serve with chocolate sauce.
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Chocolate Sauce

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

This chocolate sauce was adapted from David Lebovitz. He describes it as his “little black dress”.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
  • 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped


  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it’s just begun to simmer and boil, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted.
  3. Transfer sauce to a small pitcher or serving bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two until thickened. Sauce can be served at room temperature or chilled.
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I’ve scoured some of my favorite blogs and foodie websites and compiled a short list of tasty looking passover recipes that you might want to check out.

How about some homemade matzo? Sounds good huh?  

My good friend Adam Ried at the Boston Globe published several recipes for haroset - I’m going to make the variation with fig, chestnut and brandy. 

Serious eats has a great looking recipe for potato kugel and a really different take on brisket (think New York deli meets South Carolina barbecue.) 

Please feel free to drop me a line and tell me what’s cooking on your front burner. 


April 5th, 2014 at 10:07 am

This looks awesome! Definitely going to try it for pesach.

Margaret Wood
April 5th, 2014 at 10:16 am

Eva: This looks fantastic. As I think you know, I am a sucker for recipes for immigrant back-stories. This is a great one!

April 5th, 2014 at 10:30 am

Thanks Dvora and Margaret – I hope you enjoy!

April 5th, 2014 at 11:31 am

Eva, this cake looks beautiful and I am definitely going to try it! Thanks lovie!

Catherine kurtz
April 5th, 2014 at 11:41 am

I think I will give this a try for Easter!! Sounds delish!! Thanks Eva

April 5th, 2014 at 11:42 am

Just texted ingredients to Doug – he is at the store now. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks, Eva.

April 5th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I can smell it already! Cannot wait to make it. Xxoo

April 5th, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Hi Eva! Neville’s daughter here. We shall try this for Easter dinner. We could use a sunny, citrusy, moist cake for spring!

April 5th, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Thanks Cath for checking out the blog. Hope life in Alaska is treating you well. I hope this cake shines some light on your Easter day.

roz katz
April 14th, 2014 at 10:50 am

Eva–Everyone at Passover loved this cake (and the chocolate sauce with it). What a treat! Love, Roz

April 21st, 2014 at 3:31 pm

First of all, the smell of the oranges through the house as this was being prepared was to die for. Was a huge hit yesterday for Easter, and then I brought left overs into the office and they disappeared immediately. As one colleague emailed, “MOST DELICIOUS FLOURLESS CAKE I HAVE EVER EATEN! sorry I had to shout about it. ………” Thanks for sharing this recipe–I’ve passed along your blog address to those who wanted the recipe :-)

April 21st, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Glad to hear Danielle and thanks for the shout out! If you haven’t tried the nutmeg cake, you should.

April 23rd, 2014 at 9:17 am

Love it! Made it for an Easter dinner for 12 (during Passover this year) and it was a hit. Turned out perfect following your recipe. I’ll be making his again soon.

Maria Maffei
September 12th, 2014 at 5:10 pm

This cake was a huge hit. I served it with the confectioner’s sugar, but definitely plan to try it again with the chocolate sauce. I made the mistake of quartering the oranges before cooking them, so I compensated by reducing some of the “broth” and adding it to the food processor with the oranges. Next time, I’ll do it as instructed and find out if it’s even better followed to the letter.

June 25th, 2016 at 10:10 am
August 9th, 2016 at 8:51 pm


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