Cracked Earth Cake — The Weekender

By: Marisa McClellan
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My cousin Amy starts planning for Passover in January. The save-the-date email comes first, with the time and location in bold (though they’re the same every year). A few weeks later, dinner assignments follow. Later there are email reminders and carpool arrangements.

It used to be that I willingly accepted whatever meal assignment was handed to me. In recent years, however, I’ve gotten more strategic. As soon as the first Seder planning email goes out, I reply with an offer of what I’d like to bring. This way, I can ensure there will be something on the table that my picky husband will eat, and I get to play to my strengths as a cook.

On Monday (and for the second year running), I’m bringing brisket and a flourless chocolate cake. I bring the brisket because I make a good one, and I do the cake, well, because nothing finishes a meal like a good chocolate cake.

Because Passover is a holiday during which Jews avoid all things leavened, desserts must be made either with matzo meal or without a flour (leavener team) of any kind. I’m of the firm belief that matzo balls are the highest calling that matzo meal can answer and all other applications should be avoided, so I opt for desserts that skirt the issue entirely.

I’ve made a number of flourless chocolate cakes over the years (including a very rich, fudgy one that I made for my wedding and my sister’s). But after a holiday meal, I want something that isn’t quite so dense. That’s where Tyler Florence’s Cracked Earth Cake comes in (he calls it that because as it cools, the cake settles and fractures). The secret of this cake is in the whipping of the egg whites. That step gives the cake lift and lightness that is entirely kosher for Passover.

Whether you’re preparing for a Seder or you’re just looking for a sweet treat, I can’t recommend this cake highly enough for your next Weekender.

Before you start baking, read these tips:

— Because there are so few ingredients in this cake, make sure to splurge and get good chocolate that doesn’t taste at all waxy or grainy.

— When you go to separate your eggs, make sure to break and separate each one over a small saucer or bowl. This way, if you happen to pierce a yolk, you’ll only spoil one egg white and not the whole batch (egg whites just won't whip well if fat is present).

— Make sure to test the cake with a toothpick or skewer before declaring it done. My cake needed to bake for nearly 50 minutes to set completely.

— In addition to being perfect for Passover, this cake is a dream for those who need to be wheat-, grain- or gluten-free.

Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round , is now available.

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