Chocolate Torte for Passover!

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I baked this cake for my dear friend Jen’s 40th Birthday. Just a private little torte for one, or 5 if she decided to share with her family. She’d had a lavish soiree at D’Amico Kitchen and phenomenal cupcakes from my favorite Minneapolis bakery, The Salty Tart. On the quiet Tuesday of Jen’s actual birthday she needed a cake. Her favorite sweet combination is chocolate and peanut butter. I decided to combine my devil’s food with a peanut butter buttercream icing. Because Passover is on my mind I tried my devil’s food recipe with matzo meal and it is a revelation, I may even prefer it and that is saying something! Matzo meal is something I usually only have on hand this time of year, but I may start to keep it in my pantry just for this recipe.

To get the evenly spaced stripes on the cake I used a cake decorating comb, which allows you to fancify your torte quickly and easily.

Other Favorite Passover Desserts:

Chocolate Caramel Matzo

Haystack Macaroons

Fruit Jellies

Passover Devil’s Food:

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/4 cup Matzo Cake Meal

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger Natural Cocoa Powder, not Dutch-processed), sift if it has lumps

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 small eggs (if you get large eggs pick the two smallest ones from the carton)

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup hot coffee

2 tablespoons rum or brandy (or more coffee)

Peanut Butter Buttercream:

1 recipe White Chocolate Buttercream

1 cup Peanut Butter (I used chunky peanut butter, but it would also be great with the creamy variety)

To make the cake:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8×2-inch cake pans with butter and parchment paper rounds.

Combine all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and whisk until combined, set aside.

Whisk together, eggs, milk, oil, vanilla, coffee and rum until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fill the prepared cake pans and tap them on the counter to bring any air bubbles to the surface.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before assembling the cake. Can be made ahead and frozen.

To prepare the buttercream:

Prepare the white chocolate buttercream. Split the recipe in two large bowls. Add the peanut butter to one of the bowls and mix until very smooth and well combined. Cover both bowls and set aside.

Cutting chocolate cake in half to create layers | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the cake has cooled split the two layers in half with a super slicer.

Peanut butter icing on a chocolate cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Separate out 1/4 of the Peanut Butter Buttercream for piping on the top of the finished cake. Place 1/3 of the remaining peanut butter icing on the first layer and spread out evenly, but do not go all the way to the edge. Repeat for the other two layers of icing and three layers of cake.

To decorate the cake you will need these tools:

Fat Daddio’s Pastry Bags

Ateco Decorating Comb

7.75

Ateco Extra Wide Pastry Decorating Tip, Set of 3

Wilton Professional Turntable

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Place a large blob (1 cup) of the white chocolate buttercream on top of your cake.

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Spread it evenly and flat with your spatula. Don’t get too crazy about it being perfectly smooth, because you are going to pipe the peanut butter icing over it.

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Crumb coat the sides of the cake by applying a very thin layer of the white chocolate buttercream. Cake will show through and that is alright for now. Refrigerate the cake at this point for about 15-20 or until the buttercream on the cake is a bit stiff. This will help to keep the dark chocolate cake from getting crumbs on the outside of your white icing.

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the icing is set up on cake then apply a thicker layer of the icing to the sides. The top doesn’t need anymore.

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Don’t worry about smoothing it out until the entire thing is covered in a nice thick layer.

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Smooth out the sides a bit with your spatula and then use the comb to create the ridges/stripes on the sides. Hold the cake comb straight up and down, but at a slight angle into the cake. If you do not hold it at this slight angle the comb will scrape off the icing too much. You need to have a very light touch and hold the comb steady as you turn the cake stand. Never move the comb, just rotate the stand. I think this would be a great video, don’t you? I’ll get a video camera one of these days!

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Combine any leftover white chocolate buttercream with the peanut butter icing and mix well. Fill the pastry bag, fitted with the decorating tip, with the icing. Pipe the peanut butter icing on to the top of the cake, starting with a ring around the outside edge and then move to the center until it is completely covered.

Chocolate torte | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Serve at room temperature. Enjoy!

51 thoughts to “Chocolate Torte for Passover!”

  1. Wow!! I have been experimenting with chocolate cake for Passover (I just made Julia’s Le Glorieux, and I like Chocolate Nemesis, too). I tried a chocolate sponge cake, but I really wanted a Passover cake that tastes like your devil’s food. Who knew it was this easy? Wow! So exciting! And I usually shun cakes made with matzoh meal in favor of flourless cakes or potato starch based cakes.

    1. Hi Memoria,

      I actually moved it twice, because I didn’t like it on the first cake stand. 😉 Just use a very sturdy straight metal spatula to lift the edge, then get your hand under it to lift it up. To put it back down place the spatula back under it so that when you place it on the plate you can get your fingers out from under it and then lower it down with the spatula.

      Enjoy! Zoë

  2. Wow! I’m so excited. Your devil’s food is my favorite recipe and to be able to make it to take to Mom’s (she lives in a home for Jewish people, she’s 92) for Passover just THRILLS me! Thanks!

    1. Hi Barbara,

      I was just as thrilled when I realized it would work! I only wished I’d tried it many many years ago when I was catering! 😉

      Enjoy the cake with your mom! Zoë

  3. Wow, Zoe. Seriously… That looks beautiful! I have to be honest, I suck at cakes. Always overbake, never been able to frost without a crumb party, you name it. This cakes me want to try again someday.

    -Sarah

  4. Zoe,

    I’m so enthralled with your website. My husband is a med student and we have two small children. A friend of mine is a professional cake decorator and before she moved she taught me a little. I didn’t know how hooked I could get. I just love baking. i love the journey. I mess up a lot, but I have a great clean up crew!

    Thanks for your extremely detailed instructions for a simple homemaker. I LOVE LEARNING IT! You are an inspiration to me.
    Tara

  5. This torte looks great. I’m not sure that the icing would work for Passover as peanuts are not Kosher for Passover to my knowledge.

    1. Hi Matthew,

      My peanut butter was kosher, but perhaps not for Passover? If that is an issue, you could always use a different flavored buttercream with the Passover Devil’s food cake.

      Enjoy, Zoë

  6. Hi Zoe,

    This cake looks fabulous! I like the fact that it doesn’t require a lot of beating of the egg whites.

    I’ll try to find a different frosting, though. That recipe requires beating eqq whites and cooking the sugar with a candy thermometer. With all the dishes to cook for Passover, I’d prefer a simple frosting recipe.

    Peanuts aren’t eaten by Jews of Eastern European descent on Passover. Western European and Middle Eastern Jews eat them, as well as beans, peas and rice. Just a custom. A lot of sages, over the centuries have commented that it’s a silly custom.

    I get a tub of freshly ground peanut butter at the health food store for my matzoh. So having a peanut butter frosting would be great!

    Thanks, Zoe

    1. Hi Judy,

      Thank you for the information about the peanuts. I love peanut butter on my matzo too!

      A simple ganache would be lovely with this cake and so much faster!

      Enjoy, Zoë

  7. Dear Zoe,
    I love your website!
    Passover Cake Meal and Matzoh Meal are 2 different products. Do you recommend one over the other or are either one workable in your cake recipe.
    Looks and sounds yummy and I want to try to bake it during Passover, this week.
    Kind regards,
    Deborah

    1. Hi Deborah,

      My mistake, I just meant to point out to those who may not know what Cake Meal. Thank you for pointing out my mistake, I’ll change it right now. I mean for you to use cake meal!

      Thank you and enjoy! Zoë

  8. Rick – this makes me want to be Jewish too! I’m not – and I have had Zoe’s Devil’s food cake before (this was my birthday cake, btw…) – and it was absolutely the best cake I have eaten. Bar none! Make it for Passover – or Easter – OR, just because it is delicious…doesn’t really matter at all! 😉

  9. Hi Zoe,

    I was telling people about your wonderful cake on Monday night. And they liked my macaroons.

    We decided anything must be possible to bake for Passover, if you work at it!

    They gave me a challenge–to make something non dairy, Passover appropriate (no soy) that tastes like a Reese’s peanut butter cup.

    Boy, were my wheels working! I don’t think I paid as much attention to the second half of the seder. I love a baking challenge!

    I found a substitute for powdered sugar, which uses potato starch, in case I use that.

    I thought of melting peanut butter and adding it to a macaroon and covering it with chocolate. But they didn’t want coconut flavor.

    I can’t make a merangue because the melting peanut butter will cause the beaten egg whites to melt.

    I am thinking of putting warmed peanut butter on matzoh and then covering with melted chocolate. I guess that might be more like a Kit Kat Bar. I might try that, with both regular and wheat matzoh.

    Do you have any thoughts?

    Thanks so much!!! You are sooo inspiring!

    Judy L.

  10. Dear Zoe,
    Thank you for your kind reply and I really do love your incredible, totally inspiring website.
    Are you ever planning to come to South Florida for a book tour or culinary event?
    Deborah

  11. this cake sounds wonderful, however it’s not the peanuts that are the problemo, it’s the baking soda and baking powder. Ashkenazi Jews cannot use corn anything, and baking powder contains cornstarch. Baking soda is considered a chemical leavener, and I’m not sure that’s “kosher” either. (Alas, that’s why passover cakes are either fudgey or rocklike 🙁 ) I think there may be some K for P baking powders out there, but have not yet come across them. Perhaps using that sans the baking soda might create a cake that is still an improvement over most of those others.

  12. May I sneak a dacquoise question into this thread? (A dacquoise would be OK for Passover, too, wouldn’t it?)

    I read your previous post about making a dacquoise (about two years ago). I’ve just made my first one (from a recipe in The Opera Lover’s Cookbook) and, well, it tasted good but had its problems!

    The meringues did not contain ground nuts but did include coconut. The recipe called for four 8-inch meringues (8 egg whites plus 1 c. of superfine sugar, vanilla, salt and cream of tartar) to be baked for an hour at 250, then left in a turned-off oven for another hour. The recipe didn’t say how they were supposed to look but I assumed they should be crisp and dry. They weren’t. They were sticky and sort of flexible. I stacked them with custard, raspberries and lavender-flavored whipped cream. Unfortunately, the custard slid down the sides, carrying some of the raspberries with it. Cutting it into slices was impossible (I used a serrated knife). The layers compacted together when cut. The meringues seemed to disintegrate in the custard and whipped cream, and the whole charm of the contrasting textures was lost.

    Though it looked like a godawful mess, I have to say it tasted pretty darn good!

    Any advice for a “neater” result next time?

    Thanks so much!

  13. Actually, you can get kosher for Passover baking soda and baking powder.
    I have in my pantry Gefen brand baking powder and baking soda that is certified as kosher for Passover.

    You can go to the website for the OU to find other brands as well.
    http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/passover/

    If you are interested in an informed rant (and reader comments) on this topic, you can go to kosher blog:

    http://www.kosherblog.net/2006/04/05/as-if-there-werent-enough-confusion-this-time-of-year/

  14. Revelation indeed! Brilliant and all of us who search desperately for delicious Passover treat recipes thank you from the bottom of our hearts! And it is simply gorgeous!

  15. Question related to gluten free breads: Do you ever use garbanzo bean flour instead of sorghum or other flours in your book healthy bread in 5 mins a day? Pls advise.

  16. Dear Zoe,

    A quich question. Since My oven is small and can accommodate only one cake tin at a time, do you suggest that I make 2 separate rounds of batter ? or is it fine that the batter sits while the first one bakes.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Gauri,

      I have mixed up the entire batch and then baked it at two separate times, but this only works with certain cakes and can be risky. You are generally better off mixing in two batches.

      Thanks, Zoë

  17. Just stumbled onto your beautiful website and know I’ll be a devoted fan! Do you have a recipe box? Love your pictures but it does make for LOTS of pages to print out – hence the question!
    Many thanks!

  18. Must be my lucky day because I found your website. I enjoy reading your recipes and stories. I’m a baker wanabe and I will continute to visit your site. Thanks for the wonderful cakes.

  19. Hi Zoe,

    I made this recipe last night and am freezing them now for Monday! It looks great, but I’m a little concerned because each of my layers is about an inch thick…nothing like your tall airy looking ones. Did I mess something up here? I’ve looked over the recipe and I can’t really find anything I did wrong or left out. Did you secretly double it or use 6-inch rounds or something?

    My batter was pretty thick, can you describe yours?

    I’m probably going to do it again today, so either I’ll have 4 of my weird layers or it will go better later!

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sammy,

      What size cake pans did you use? Did the cake seem to rise up at all or just bake flat? Did a cake tester come out clean when you tested it for doneness? It is not overly thick, but I am baking this cake this weekend and will let you know the consistency I get.

      Thanks, Zoë

  20. Zoe,
    This is a very appealing recipe but in all the discussion about Gefen kosher for Passover baking powder etc. where does the peanut butter come into the picture? It is my understanding that since peanuts are legumes, they are not allowed during Passover, likewise peanut butter is not kosher for Passover. Even those people who are OK with eating kitniyot and would be OK in principle with consuming peanut butter during Passover – where will such person find a kosher for Passover peanut butter? As far as I am aware, not a single brand has a kosher for Passover peanut butter…

    1. Hi Maria,

      This was my mistake, and any nut spread can be used instead of peanut butter. Almond butter, hazelnut spreads and the like are often found in the health food section of the grocery stores. If not, you will find them in co-ops or through online retailers.

      Thanks, Zoë

  21. Hi!

    Many fabulous recipies here, but just to let you know, peanuts are not at all kosher for Passover. That said, one could easily make a cocoa/vanilla/strawberry/etc. buttercream and I’m sure it would still be delicious! Thanks for the great ideas!

    1. Peanuts can absolutely be kosher for Passover if you are Sefardi or accept kitniyot, as many do. That being said, it is up to the baker to determine for him/herself what is an acceptable Passover choice.

      This cake is amazing. My child has a Passover birthday and I have made this cake many times with different fillings. It adapts very well to non-dairy conversions so that it can be served at the Seder.

  22. I can’t eat matzah meal or cake meal as I am gluten free, unfortunately. I wonder what might work in place of it. My mother made Passover cakes with ground almonds, but I doubt if just almond flour would work.

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