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7 Layer Cake for Passover (Matzo Sponge Cake with Poppyseed Buttercream)

7 Layer Cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I love Passover for the ritual, the gathering of wonderful people and the challenge to come up with new desserts worthy of the day. This 7 layer cake was inspired by a conversation I had with Deb Perelman about Dobos Tortes, which is a cake made up of many layers (7 to be exact) of sponge cake, separated with chocolate buttercream and topped with a layer of caramel. It is a style of cake that is claimed by many cultures, each with a different name depending on heritage or the state you are standing in. Dobos Torte (Hungarian), Deberge Cake (New Orleans), Seven-Layer (I think of this as a Jewish cake from New York, but as soon as I write this, I’m sure I’ll hear from folks who will correct me) and Drum cake (I’ve never heard it called this before, but just read it on Wikipedia).

Purists beware, my cake is so loosely based on the cake I described above, that it will make some of you squirm. Stick with me, give it another name if you need to, but try this version, it is delicious. One of my very favorite Jewish desserts are poppy seed hamantashen, which I need to make for you soon. They are cookies stuffed with sweetened poppy seeds. I thought the poppy seeds would be a fantastic match for the layers of orange scented sponge cake and chocolate buttercream. It is also stunning to cut into the cake and see the speckled icing. I left off the caramel top and added chocolate shavings. But, if you want to add a bit of caramel, for tradition sake, then why not make a batch of my Caramel Matzo and use it to decorate the top.

Baking cakes without flour is something of a magic trick. The only saving grace to the baker during Passover is matzo cake meal, and it can be a touch overbearing if used all on its own. To create a sponge cake that is both delicious and light, adding a bit of potato starch to the recipe is key.

How to Make 7 Layer Cake

To Make the Sponge

Preheat oven to 350°F

Prepare two Baking Sheets (13 x 18-inch) by greasing them and lining with parchment.

Sift the matzo cake meal, potato starch and salt together, set aside.

Whipping eggs and butter in a mixer | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a mixer whip the eggs and sugar, for about 8 minutes.

Whipped eggs and butter with lemon zest | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The eggs should be very light in color and a thick foam. At the very end add the vanilla and zest.

Sifting flour for matzo cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Sift the dry ingredients over the egg foam.

Matzo sponge cake batter | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Very gently, but thoroughly fold the dry ingredients into the egg foam.

Matzo sponge cake spread on pan | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Pour the batter into one of the prepared pans and spread evenly with a spatula.

Baked matzo sponge cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Bake the cake for about 18 minutes or until golden and dry when poked with a cake tester. Repeat with the second cake layer.

To Make the Buttercream

Heating sugar, water and cream for buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a small pot, fitted with a Candy Thermometer, heat 2 cups sugar, water and cream of tartar to 242°F. This will take several minutes, so get your eggs started.

Whisking eggs, yolk and sugar | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Whisk together the eggs, yolks and 1/3 cup sugar.

Beating eggs for buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Beat the eggs on medium high speed until light in color and thick.

Adding sugar mixture to beaten eggs for buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the sugar has reached 242°F, add it very carefully and slowly to the eggs, while the beater is going on slow speed. Be sure to pour the syrup along the edge of the bowl, not directly onto the beater or it will splatter. Continue beating the egg mixture on medium-high speed until the eggs have cooled, about 8 minutes.

Adding butter to homemade buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the eggs are cooled add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time. The mixture will go through a stage when it looks soupy and curdled, but keep adding the butter and it will come together. After all the butter is added, mix in the vanilla.

Homemade buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

The buttercream will be smooth and glossy.

Stirring poppyseed into homemade buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Divide 1/3 of the buttercream into a separate bowl and add the poppy seed paste.

Adding chocolate to homemade buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In the remaining buttercream add the melted chocolate.

Chocolate buttercream and poppyseed buttercream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

If you are not going to use the buttercream right away, cover it and leave it at room temperature for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to use it, give it a good stirring or put it back in the mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until smooth.

To Make the Soaking Syrup

Heating sugar, water and orange zest | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

In a small sauce pot heat the sugar, water and zest over medium heat until the sugar has fully dissolved.

Sliced matzo sponge cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Cut each sheet of cake into 4 equal pieces (they will be about 4-inches-wide and 12-inches-long)

Brushing matzo sponge with syrup | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Lay the first layer of cake on the serving platter and brush with the soaking syrup. You want to dab the syrup on, but don’t overly saturate the cake or it will be soggy.

Buttercream on sponge for 7 layer cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Spread a thin layer of the poppy seed buttercream over the soaked layer.

Layers of sponge and buttercream for 7 layer cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Repeat with 5 more layers and then finish with the 7th layer of cake. This will leave you with one extra. Since my cake is not traditional anyway, you should feel free to use up that last layer. If you want to keep it to seven layers, then I suggest you use that lonely extra layer as a snack.

Trimming 7 layer cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

If your layers need squaring up, just trim them with a sharp serrated bread knife.

Stir the chocolate buttercream to make sure it is smooth and cover the entire cake in a nice even layer.

Spreading buttercream on 7 layer cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

It is okay if it isn’t perfectly smooth, because we’re going to add some rough stripes to the outside.

Spreading buttercream on 7 layer cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Take a small blob of buttercream on the end of your Spatula,

Spreading buttercream on 7 layer cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Starting at the end of the cake, on the bottom, spread that blob in a stripe along the cake. Repeat over and over again, but alternate which side you start on.

Spreading buttercream on 7 layer cake | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Repeat this on the top as well.

7 layer cake for Passover | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

You will end up with rough stripes all over the cake, which gives the cake some texture.

7 layer cake for Passover | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Using a sharp chefs knife, scrape the smooth side of a bar of chocolate with the blade, so that the chocolate curls up. If the chocolate is very cold and brittle, try sitting it in the sun for a few minutes and the curls will come more easily.

Cover the top with the chocolate shavings.

7 layer cake for Passover | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Other Passover Desserts:

Chocolate Caramel Matzo

Chocolate Almond Passover Torte

Haystack Macaroons

Fruit Jellies

Happy Passover!

Passover Cake

7 Layer Cake for Passover (Matzo Sponge Cake with Poppyseed Buttercream)

This 7 layer cake combines matzo sponge cake, poppy seeds, orange zest and chocolate buttercream for a delicious dessert for Passover.
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Course: bread, cake, Desserts
Cuisine: Desserts

Ingredients

Matzo Sponge Cake (you'll need to double these ingredients to make the large cake pictured – see note at end of recipe)

  • 3/4 cup Manischewitz Cake Meal not to be confused with regular matzo meal
  • 1/3 cup Potato Starch not to be confused with potato flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp orange zest

Soak Syrup

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp orange zest

Buttercream

  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 3 large yolks room temperature
  • 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 (6 sticks) unsalted butter You can use an unsalted non-dairy butter-substitute if you want to make this a parve recipe
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup poppy seed filling 1/2 cup poppy seeds mixed with 1 tablespoon corn syrup, allow to sit together at least 15 minutes
  • 6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate melted and cooled to room temperature
  • Bar of chocolate for shavings

Instructions

Make the Sponge

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two Baking Sheets (13 x 18-inch) by greasing them and lining with parchment.
  • Sift the matzo cake meal, potato starch and salt together, set aside.
  • In a mixer whip the eggs and sugar, for about 8 minutes. The eggs should be very light in color and a thick foam. At the very end add the vanilla and zest. Sift the dry ingredients over the egg foam.
  • Very gently, but thoroughly fold the dry ingredients into the egg foam. Pour the batter into one of the prepared pans and spread evenly with a spatula.
  • Bake the cake for about 18 minutes or until golden and dry when poked with a cake tester. Repeat with the second cake layer.

Make the Buttercream

  • In a small pot, fitted with a Candy Thermometer, heat 2 cups sugar, water and cream of tartar to 242°F. This will take several minutes, so get your eggs started.
  • Whisk together the eggs, yolks and 1/3 cup sugar. Beat the eggs on medium high speed until light in color and thick.
  • Once the sugar has reached 242°F, add it very carefully and slowly to the eggs, while the beater is going on slow speed. Be sure to pour the syrup along the edge of the bowl, not directly onto the beater or it will splatter. Continue beating the egg mixture on medium-high speed until the eggs have cooled, about 8 minutes.
  • Once the eggs are cooled add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time. The mixture will go through a stage when it looks soupy and curdled, but keep adding the butter and it will come together. After all the butter is added, mix in the vanilla. The buttercream will be smooth and glossy.
  • Divide 1/3 of the buttercream into a separate bowl and add the poppy seed paste.
  • In the remaining buttercream add the melted chocolate. If you are not going to use the buttercream right away, cover it and leave it at room temperature for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to use it, give it a good stirring or put it back in the mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until smooth.

Make the Soaking Syrup

  • In a small sauce pot heat the sugar, water and zest over medium heat until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  • Cut each sheet of cake into 4 equal pieces (they will be about 4-inches-wide and 12-inches-long).
  • Lay the first layer of cake on the serving platter and brush with the soaking syrup. You want to dab the syrup on, but don't overly saturate the cake or it will be soggy. Spread a thin layer of the poppy seed buttercream over the soaked layer.
  • Repeat with 5 more layers and then finish with the 7th layer of cake. This will leave you with one extra. Since my cake is not traditional anyway, you should feel free to use up that last layer. If you want to keep it to seven layers, then I suggest you use that lonely extra layer as a snack. If your layers need squaring up, just trim them with a sharp serrated bread knife.
  • Stir the chocolate buttercream to make sure it is smooth and cover the entire cake in a nice even layer. It is okay if it isn't perfectly smooth, because we're going to add some rough stripes to the outside.
  • Take a small blob of buttercream on the end of your spatula. Starting at the end of the cake, on the bottom, spread that blob in a stripe along the cake. Repeat over and over again, but alternate which side you start on. Repeat this on the top as well. You will end up with rough stripes all over the cake, which gives the cake some texture.
  • Using a sharp chefs knife, scrape the smooth side of a bar of chocolate with the blade, so that the chocolate curls up. If the chocolate is very cold and brittle, try sitting it in the sun for a few minutes and the curls will come more easily. Cover the top with the chocolate shavings.

Notes

A note on sponge cake: You will need to make this sponge recipe twice to get a large cake. It is too much to do in a 5-quart mixer all at once. Make one layer, then repeat with the second. The layers can be made and frozen if you want to make them ahead.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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27 thoughts to “7 Layer Cake for Passover (Matzo Sponge Cake with Poppyseed Buttercream)”

  1. I love how you’ve made this into so many layers and managed to keep the matzo meal moist with the syrup. I made a layer cake similar to this, not for passover, and it had layers of raspberry jam in between. I think that could work well with this cake too. I’m making a chocolate torte for Monday evening but may have to try yours for the second night. Great recipe!

  2. Dear Zoe . . . Lovely recipe. I always run into the problem at Pesach of not being able to add butter to anything because we often have people who keep kosher so a meal that has brisket and chicken, can’t have a buttercreme or in my case ganache for dessert. I have settled on fruit filled macarons. Got any ideas of how to make your frosting butter free? I love your website. Thanks!

    1. Hey Marnita,

      How lovely to see your name pop up! You can make any of this with a butter substitute. They have gotten much better as of late, because there are so many people with dairy allergies and vegan alternatives. I am not sure which are available in unsalted, but that is the way I’d go. Maybe try a small batch of the non-butter-buttercream to make sure you like it.

      Cheers, Zoë

  3. Hi Zoe,

    Instead of cake meal can I add almond meal. If so, would it be the same qty and also would I still need the potato starch then. Thanks.

  4. ashkenazi jews (i.e. from european countries, not sephardic jews from middle eastern countries) don’t eat various legumes and seeds on passover, called kitnityot, and poppy seeds are included among the ingredients not eaten on passover by ashkenazi jews (the majority of american jews). Shame as it looks like a beautiful cake.

    1. Hi Kitniyot,

      Thanks for letting me know. The cake is great when made with all chocolate buttercream, so that may be a good option for anyone who can’t use the poppy seeds.

      Cheers, Zoë

  5. This is hard, I trying your recipe and another recipe but still failed. My sponge cake didn’t make a sponge like you did. I don’t think that I do wrong. Help me please!

    1. Hi Kake,

      Can you tell me what your cake was like, so I can help you figure out what may have gone wrong?

      Thanks, Zoë

  6. Hello Zoe!
    Your cake looks amazing as everything else you bake <3
    Can I ask you about the butter cream with the egg yolks?/
    Is it better than the classic egg white one? does it have more flavor?
    I might try it myself soon but I just thought I'd ask you first:D
    can't wait to see more and more .

    1. Hi Marta,

      The taste is a little richer, but the real difference is the texture, it is more luxurious than buttercream made with just the whites. I love both of them!

      Cheers, Zoë

  7. Hi Zoe, this looks spectacular! I wonder if the sponge cake could be modified to use regular flour rather than matzo cake meal and potato starch? Would it be a straight substitution of flour for the matzo meal, or for both the matzo meal and the potato starch? Could corn starch be used instead of the potato?

    1. Hi Korena,

      Yes, I believe you can just swap out the matzo meal and potato starch with flour. I would suggest going with a cake flour, since it has a higher starch content than All-purpose.It may have a slightly different texture to the cake, but it will be lovely.

      Thanks, Zoë

    1. Hi Sharlene! Yes, it should do well being frozen. Just wrap before decorating and do the buttercream at the last minute. Enjoy!

  8. Thank you for your response. Another question is how long in advance can the buttercream be refrigerated before decorating the cake?

  9. Hi Zoe! Clarification: for the sponge cakes, am I dividing the ingredients above into 2 batches to accommodate the large size, or am I doubling the measurements above?

    1. Hi Jessica! In the notes of the recipe it mentions you’ll need to make this recipe twice for a large cake because it’s too much for a 5 quart mixer to do all at once. Since it’s easy to miss this note, we’re going to revise the recipe and make it more clear. Thank you for calling this out!

  10. If I omit the poppy seeds and do all buttercream how much melted chocolate would I need. Looks like since 6oz. if what’s required for two thirds of the frosting, so how much chocolate will the entire mix need. Hopefully I’ll hear back within the next couple of days since I’ll be making this for Saturday evening. Thanks!

    1. Hi Wendy! Depending on how chocolatey you want it, you could go up to about 8 oz. of chocolate. Enjoy!

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