Spectacular desserts that leave out dry and spongy

With all the restrictions, are decent desserts even possible during Passover?

“My particular talent is working around restriction,” says Paula Shoyer, author of “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy.”

Her cookbook contains a chapter on Passover baking, as well as many sensational recipes sans flour or yeast — Passover taboos. Flourless Chocolate Cake, Marble Chocolate Matzoh and Mocha Matzoh Napolean are some of the book’s gems.

Shoyer wants the eye rolls to stop upon hearing the words parve desserts — pastries made without dairy products. She laments that kosher bakeries year after year for Passover offer the same dry brownies, sponge cakes, coconut macaroons and vanilla rolls with jam inside.

Her most stunning Passover dessert? Without doubt it’s the Key Lime Pie — even though Shoyer’s favorite is the Chocolate Chiffon Cake.

Chocolate Mousse Meringue Layer Cake is one of the items featured in the Passover chapter in “The Kosher Baker.” photo/jta/michael bennett kress

Shoyer says that when she was growing up, her mother stuck to traditional dessert fare at Passover. She relied on Manischewitz mixes to make brownies, coffee cakes and sponge cakes. Her grandmother baked the perfect lemon sponge cake using a recipe straight from the Streit’s matzah box, then changed it so frequently over time that one couldn’t recognize the airy but distinctly citrus result.

Shoyer had started baking for fun during college. She brought back chocolate from a trip to Belgium in 1984 and began experimenting with it in recipes. During her 20s she moved to Geneva

to work at the United Nations. In Switzerland, she tasted some sensational desserts and decided to reinvent them as dairy-free without sacrificing their buttery flavor.

Then in her 30s, while living in Paris, Shoyer received her pastry diploma from the Ritz Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise. She returned to Chevy Chase, Md., and started Paula’s Parisian Pastries Cooking School.

The following recipes are from “The Kosher Baker.” All are parve and kosher for Passover.


Strawberry Mousse

Makes 8 servings

16 oz. fresh strawberries

1 tsp. rum or cognac

2 tsp. kosher for Passover

    confectioner’s sugar (or

    confectioner’s sugar after Passover ends)

juice of 1 lemon

6 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. unflavored kosher gelatin powder

1 cup parve whipping cream

Remove stems from strawberries. Select 6 strawberries, slice thinly and place in a small bowl with rum and confectioner’s sugar. Mix to combine and then place in refrigerator.

Cut remaining strawberries in half and place in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Puree strawberries completely, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl or blender so that all the strawberry pieces are pureed.

Place the strawberry puree in a small saucepan. Add lemon juice and sugar and stir. Cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts. Add the gelatin, whisk and then remove from the heat. Strain into a medium bowl, pressing hard to get as much strawberry puree through as possible, and place in refrigerator for 20 minutes, stirring twice during that time.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed, whip the whipping cream until stiff. Remove the strawberry puree from the refrigerator and fold in the whipped cream in four parts. Scoop the mousse evenly into ramekins (or wine or martini glasses) and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight. You can store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To serve, remove from the refrigerator and place a few of the rum-soaked strawberry slices on top.

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

Makes 16 servings

1 cup matzah cake meal

1⁄2 cup potato starch

1 Tbs. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

11⁄2 cups sugar, divided in half

1⁄2 cup kosher for Passover

vegetable oil

8 large eggs, separated

3⁄4 cup water

1 Tbs. rum extract

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

4 oz. parve bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1⁄4-inch chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the cake meal, potato starch, baking powder, salt, and 3⁄4 cup of the sugar. Add the oil, egg yolks, water and rum extract; beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on high speed to beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until stiff. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the remaining 3⁄4 cup of sugar. Turn up speed to high and then beat until whites are very stiff and shiny, about 1 minute more.

Use a silicone spatula to fold the egg-yolk mixture into the whites and then fold in the chopped chocolate.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch Bundt or tube pan. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool in the pan. When cool, use a knife to loosen the edges of the cake and turn onto a serving plate.

Store covered in plastic at room temperature for up to 5 days or freeze wrapped in plastic for up to 3 months.


Key Lime Pie

Makes 8 servings


4 Tbs. parve kosher for Passover margarine

2 cups ground walnuts

3 Tbs. light brown sugar

5 large eggs, plus 3 yolks


11⁄2 cups sugar

7 limes, or 14 Key limes

1⁄2 cup (1 stick) parve kosher for Passover margarine

1 drop green food coloring  (optional)

Meringue topping:

2⁄3 cup sugar

1⁄4 cup water

candy thermometer

2 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For crust: Place the margarine in medium microwave-safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until melted. Add the ground walnuts (make your own by grinding 4 cups walnuts in a food processor, but not as fine as flour) and brown sugar; mix until combined. Place this mixture into an 8- or 9-inch pie pan and press to cover the bottom and about 1 inch up the sides. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.

Paula Shoyer

For filling: Place the eggs, yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and set over a medium saucepan with simmering water (or use a double boiler). Zest 3 of the regular limes (6 of the Key limes) and add to the bowl. Stir to combine. Juice the 3 zested limes, plus the remaining 4 limes (or 8 Key limes) to obtain about 1⁄2 cup of juice. Then stir juice into the egg and sugar mixture. Cook uncovered over simmering water for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a thick mixture forms. Be patient and do not stir too much. If the water in the saucepan or double boiler boils too fast, turn down the heat. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the margarine in small pieces until the lime cream is smooth. Add the green food coloring, if using, and stir.

Pour lime cream into the prepared crust and smooth. Place the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until the outside edges of the lime cream are set (the inside can remain wobbly). Let cool and then place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

For meringue: In a small heavy sauce-pan, bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook sugar until it reaches 230 degrees on the candy thermometer. You can dip a pastry brush in water and wipe down the sides of the pot if any sugar crystals appear on the sides. While sugar is cooking, in a medium bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff. When the sugar is ready, turn the mixer speed to low and then slowly pour the cooked sugar into the bowl, down the side of the bowl, not directly onto the wire whisk. When all of the sugar has been poured in, turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat for 1 minute, until the meringue is thick and shiny.

Use a silicone spatula to spread the meringue over top of pie. You can use a blow torch to lightly brown the top or place the pie in a 450-degree oven for a few minutes, watching the entire time until the top browns. Chill in the refrigerator. Pie can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.