This halva diva cake with tahini buttercream, chocolate ganache and crushed pistachios is a perfect cake for passover.
There was always a brick of halva in my mom’s refrigerator, right on the door, where the butter was supposed to be. I have no idea where it came from, because Vermont wasn’t known for its Jewish markets and yet, it was always there. I suspect she bought it when we would visit her family in Brighton Beach and it just lasted the year between visits.
Halva is basically tahini fudge and it’s rich, sweet, earthy and decadent. A tiny sliver cut off of the brick totally satisfied my craving for sweets. My mom didn’t keep sugar in the house, which you will know if you read my book! (I’ve since forgiven her for the “raisin lie” and we’re still working on the carob resentments). I now keep bricks of halva in my refrigerator and take a sliver once in a while to satisfy something deeper than just a craving for sweets. The halva I keep is from Seed and Mill and it is worlds better than what I remember as a kid.
This Halva Diva Cake is a mashup of several recipes from Zoë Bakes Cakes and the perfect example of how you can use the book, beyond all of the cakes I’ve stepped out in its pages. Mixing and matching cakes, fillings and frostings is where your creativity will shine through and inspire the rest of us. I do hope you’ll play with different combinations and share them with the rest of us.
You may recall my original Blackberry Diva Cake from years ago, it too is in the book and the assembly is the same for this cake, but I used the pavlova roulade cake layer (baked flat and kept that way), ganache, tahini buttercream, crushed halva (Molly Yeh has a fantastic recipe for it in her book, Molly on the Range, or get some from Seed and Mill) and crushed pistachios. This cake is gluten-free and perfect for Passover or any other occasion you want something delicious!
- 5 egg whites (150g), at room temperature
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 1 1/4 cups (250g) superfine sugar
- 1 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch (potato starch can be substituted)*
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp vinegar white wine, cider, or distilled
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream (dairy-free cream can be substituted)*
Tahini American Buttercream
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature (dairy-free butter can be substituted)*
- Pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1 cup crushed halva
- 1 cup crushed pistachios
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 16×12-inch sheet pan, then line it with greased parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar and beat on medium-high speed until medium peaks form, about 3 minutes.
- Turn the mixer speed to medium-low and drizzle in the water. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar a little at a time; this may take a minute or so. Turn the speed to high and whip until very stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cornstarch, vanilla, and vinegar into the egg whites.
- Evenly spread the pavlova batter in the prepared pan. Bake until the pavlova starts to turn a light caramel color, about 20 minutes. It will puff considerably while it bakes but will settle once it is out of the oven. Let the pavlova cool completely. (Just leave it in the pan, dust with confectioners’ sugar, and cover with a clean kitchen towel for up to 1 day.)
- Heat the heavy cream to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate.
- Swirl the pan to submerge the chocolate. Let sit for 3 minutes then gently whisk until smooth. Keep in pot until ready to use.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat confectioners’ sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla at medium speed until smooth.
- Add enough tahini, while beating, to make a smooth, spreadable frosting. Beat until combined and smooth, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Use immediately.
- Loosen the pavlova from the pan. Spread 1 cup of the ganache over the pavlova and sprinkle with the crushed halva and all but 2 tablespoons of the pistachios. Refrigerate until solid.
- Spread the buttercream over the chilled ganache. Refrigerate until solid.
- Cover the cake with plastic and invert onto the back of a second baking sheet. Remove the parchment from the bottom and invert onto a cutting board. Cut the cake in half along the long side and in thirds on the short side, so you have 6 sections. Stack the sections. Use a knife dipped in hot water to clean up any straggly bits.
- Pour the remaining ganache over the top of the cake and sprinkle with remaining pistachios. Transfer to serving plate. Serve at room temperature.