Toasted pecan cake

Written by | Food

When it’s quiet around here, it generally means one of two things: 1. I’ve been cooking a series of duds, or certainly nothing good enough to clear my throat into this microphone and sing the praises of. Or 2. We’re heading for another episode of Just What Has Deb Gotten Herself Into This Time (see: any Friendsgiving or wedding cake adventure). A couple weeks ago was the former; last week was resoundingly the latter.

I took over first night Seder (a ceremonial dinner on the first two nights of Passover) duties last year, instituted Harry Potter haggadahs, and it was all going well until I got to planning this year’s meal (seemingly: writing potatoes, carrots, onions, eggs, almonds on a grocery list over and over again), decided we needed to shake up the guest list a little — really, I think I just miss my dad making bad jokes and trying to get us to stick even a tiny bit to the prescribed topic — and suddenly we were 17 (plus a waitlist; “only in the Smitten Kitchen…” a friend said), we definitely didn’t have this many chairs or table space, my fridge and freezer were bursting at the seams (the ice cube tray got evicted), and I haven’t even gotten into the part where a chef came over that morning to teach me a new dish that had nothing to do with Passover (but promise something fun is coming). The whole week was a heady mix of panic and delight. Someone is going to tell me it’s because I’m a Gemini, but truly the only thing that motivates me is being at the edge of a disaster, and that’s where the bulk of this month has vanished to.

In the middle of this, I made a new, wonderful cake. There are a lot of nutty cakes on this site, macaroon tortes are among my favorite, but also this hazelnut brown butter number, this almond intensity, and this walnut cake, but most of them (macaroons aside) have the gluten- and Passover inconvenience of just a little bit of flour. So when someone pointed me to this almond cake from Joan Nathan (NYT), I liked many things about it: it’s utterly flourless; the ingredient list is short and straightforward (you’re not going to end up with 7 unused egg yolks, hallelujah) and a quick test run told me what we really want to know, which is that it’s spectacularly moist and tender and keeps really well. But if I had to choose between eating an almond and eating a toasted pecan, I would never choose the former. And if I had to choose between eating a cake with vegetable oil over one with browned butter, well, what kind of question is that even. I added some needed salt, used vanilla instead of almond and cardamom, and then I heaped the cake with whipped cream and all of the berries I could find and the result is perfect, toasty, creamy, fresh, and pretty and also approximately the only thing in my kitchen that was calm and running on schedule last week.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday weekend, however you celebrate, and I’m super happy to be back to my regularly scheduled nonsense, when cooking food in less than 10-pound quantities feels like a vacation.

If you’re curious, this was roughly my Friday night Seder menu:
(If there’s no link, it’s not from an existing recipe, here or elsewhere.)

  • Herb and Garlic Baked Camembert (my SIL made it from Smitten Kitchen Every Day)
  • The Roumanian Steakhouse-Style Chopped Liver also in SKED, but I blended it and made a few tweaks, thus I owe you a new recipe. (Note: Wild Mushroom Pâté in the archives is a great vegetarian alternative)
  • Charoset: Ashkenazi (my mom makes it) and Sephardic-style
  • Gefilte Fish (my mother-in-law makes it)
  • Matzo Ball Soup (psst, there’s a vegetarian one in SKED as well)
  • Homemade horseradish
  • Potato Kugel
  • Harissa-Roasted Carrots
  • Cold Asparagus Salad with a variation on this almond pesto, minus the parmesan
  • Maya’s Sweet and Sour High Holiday Brisket (from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
  • Chocolate Caramel Crackers
  • Mini-Pavlovas with Lemon Curd, Whipped Cream and Berries (reminiscent of the lemon meringue smash in SKED, but inspired by the look of these beauties, although mine were not)

Last modified: May 30, 2019