I LOVE Passover. I love that it means Spring is here. I love the story of my People’s deliverance from slavery to freedom. I love sharing our table with family and friends and I love the food. Baking for Passover was always challenging but not insurmountable and I make wonderful cookies and cakes that would be delicious anytime, but which I save for Passover to keep them special. However, our godson is deathly allergic to eggs and THAT is a real challenge.
Sephardic Jews i.e. Jews who originated from Spain, always considered legumes (pulses) and rice Kosher for Passover, but Ashkenazi Jews i.e. Jews from Eastern European traditions considered these foods forbidden. Thankfully in the last couple of years this has changed if you follow the Conservative or Reform Jewish traditions. Some Orthodox Jews now eat quinoa during Passover and others do not. Yes, it’s complicated, so before you get too excited about this cake, find out if your community’s traditions allow for the use of quinoa and aquafaba (the liquid from cooked chickpeas). Some allow one and not the other. I am not a rabbinic authority. However, if you follow Sephardic traditions or the Conservative or Reform movement then this cake may just be a revelation to those of you who cannot or do not eat eggs but wish to observe Passover traditions.
I saw a recipe for Paula Shoyer’s Chocolate Quinoa Cake on the Food52 website and was intrigued. I wondered if I could take the recipe and “veganize” (is that a word?) it. I made the cake 3 times until I was able to get what I wanted. And unlike the original, I did not make this in a bundt pan but chose to make it as a layer cake. I then went on the hunt for a vegan Kosher for Passover option for a chocolate mousse and purchased a Passover chocolate spread. Just follow the steps and this works. There are no tricks or special skills required, but it does take some patience. Thankfully I worked out all of the kinks for you. I made the cake layers a few days ahead of when I needed them but I didn’t assemble the cake until the morning of the Seder. Please use only the best baking chocolate and cocoa. There are many excellent Kosher chocolate options available now. I used a 70% cacao chocolate from Elite but there are others. I wouldn’t go below 60% cacao or above 70% for best results. Assuming you have any left-overs, they will last refrigerated for several days. This can easily be made a couple of days ahead.
I wish that I could have had this recipe ready sooner, but keep this in your file for next year and/or make it during one of the remaining nights of Passover. Why do you think there are 8 days in which to celebrate?!
Death by Chocolate Vegan Passover Cake (Good anytime!)
Yield: One 8-inch layer cake (It’s rich so this should feed at least 10 people.)
3/4 cup (130 g) quinoa
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water
Coconut cooking spray or melted coconut oil, for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the pan
Zest of one large orange (optional)
1/3 cup (80 ml) orange juice
Aquafaba from one 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas, beaten until it turns white and has begun to thicken but before real peaks form
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or other vanilla if for Passover)
3/4 cup (180 ml) melted coconut oil
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
2 Tablespoons of strong black coffee
1/4 cup matza cake meal
1/4 cup almond or hazelnut meal (ground nuts)
1 cup (80 g) dark unsweetened cocoa
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3.5 ounces (100 g) bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa or cacao powder
3/4 cup chopped cocoa butter
3.5 ounces dark chocolate (64-70%)
1 14-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk or coconut creme
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of Kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon of Powdered or Confectioner’s sugar (Kosher for Passover)
6 pitted medjool dates (you could substitute maple syrup but the mousse will be thinner)
2 Tablespoons 70% dark mini-chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
For the cake
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 8-inch cake pans (preferably non-stick) and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa powder. Set aside.
- Either use quinoa that has already been rinsed or rinse your quinoa. If you don’t, there can be a slightly bitter aftertaste. Place the quinoa and water in a small pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Open the pot and allow the quinoa to cool. This can also be made a day ahead.
- Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Give it a stir and then microwave for an additional 38 seconds. Set aside.
- Place the quinoa in the bowl of a food processor and process until the quinoa is broken down almost to a paste. Now add the sugar and pulse a few times. Add the zest, if using and coffee and pulse a couple of times.
- Add the cocoa powder and pulse about 5 times. Then add in the baking powder and salt and pulse twice. Add in the orange juice, melted chocolate and vanilla extract and pulse a few times. Now add the melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated. Lastly add the matza cake meal and nut meal. Just leave everything in the food processor, covered while you prepare the aquafaba.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the strained liquid from a 15.5 ounce can of chickpeas. I like the ones that have salt. It just always seems to work better for me. Using the whisk attachment, beat the aquafaba on high until the liquid turns completely white, has increased in volume and begun to thicken. This takes about 15 minutes so be patient. You do not need to beat until actual peaks form.
- Add the aquafaba to your food processor and process until it is completely incorporated. This can be done by hand if your processor isn’t big enough. Divide and pour the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with just a couple of crumbs on it. Remove the cake to a cooling rack and allow it to cool in the pan for about 12 minutes or until you can touch the rim of the pan with your fingers.
- Place a cooling rack over the pan and flip out the cake. Allow it to finish cooling completely. This can be made a couple of days ahead or even earlier if well-wrapped and frozen. If frozen, defrost the cake layers before assembling.
For the Mousse
- In a small saucepan, combine cocoa or cacao powder, cocoa butter, chocolate, salt, and (180 ml) coconut milk. Begin warming over medium-low heat, whisking to combine.
- Once the mixture is melted whisk until fully combined. Then remove from heat and add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar to taste (or just add more dates). I found 3/4 teaspoon sugar to be perfect.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add dates and blend on high until creamy and smooth.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more cacao powder for rich chocolate flavor, dates for sweetness, or salt for saltiness.
- Transfer to a bowl and cover. Refrigerate until cold and thickened – at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- To serve on its own, divide between serving glasses and top with coconut whipped cream, raspberries, and chopped vegan dark chocolate or cacao/cocoa powder (optional).
- Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
- Place one cake layer on a cake plate or cake board with the flat side facing up. (The flat side will have sunk slightly as it cooled but don’t worry since it will be filled with mousse and won’t show.) Spread with softened chocolate or chocolate hazelnut spread. How thickly you do this is between you and your cardiologist. I used about 10 ounces.
- Now spread half of the chocolate mousse over the chocolate spread. If you like, you can sprinkle about 2 Tablespoons of shopped walnuts and 2 Tablespoons of mini-dark chocolate chips over the chocolate spread for a bit of extra decadence. Place the next layer with the flat side facing up over the first layer and the fillings. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining mousse. Using an off-set spatula, just smooth around the sides of the cake to catch any bits that may have oozed. You should see the filling, but it shouldn’t be oozing out. You need to refrigerate the cake at this point to keep things from softening and to make cutting the cake easier.
- Add chocolate curls or sprinkles or piece of candied orange to the top if you wish but frankly nothing more is needed. Take the cake out of the fridge about an 45 minutes to an hour before you wish to serve it. This incredibly rich and decadent cake reminds me of a Chocolate Marquise cake that a wonderful French Bistro in Chicago used to make. No one eating this will think that they settled either for a Passover dessert or for a vegan dessert. This is one INTENSE chocolate experience.