Flourless Chocolate-Pecan Cake with Meringue Topping

Serves 12-16, can be made 2 days ahead of time

Every year, I try to find a new Seder celebratory dessert. Inevitably, there is usually chocolate, meringue, or nuts involved – it wouldn’t be Pesach without them! This year’s show-stopping Seder dessert is a combination of all three of our Pesach dessert favourites: A flourless chocolate cake, with the addition of chopped toasted pecans to add texture and nuttiness, covered in a crispy meringue. This cake is so good, it just may make its way into your year-round dessert rotation.

Pesach baking is unlike year-round baking in that we eliminate plain wheat flour all together and there isn’t a real replacement. It’s not about substitution of ingredients, it’s actually about a different way of thinking. Here are a few tips that we hope will help you with your Pesach baking:

1. Look to your own recipe repertoire, both for baking and everything else: How many things do you make year-round that are already Pesach-friendly? You will be surprised by how many items you already make that will fit in with the restrictions of Pesach, but somehow we forget about them. Think about your fruit-based compotes and jellies, as well as pavlovas and mousses — many of them are already Pesach-friendly.
2. If you wouldn’t eat or drink it in its natural state, don’t add it to your dish and hope it will improve with the addition of heat. There are usually so few ingredients in Pesach foods that it is important to not leave one out or to use something that is less than delicious. If you wouldn’t drink a specific wine in its natural state, or eat a specific chocolate bar because they don’t taste nice, heat and some extra ingredients won’t improve the situation.
3. Keep your eggs at room temperature. Wondering why your cake didn’t rise? Or why your mousse didn’t set? Wonder no more, one of the biggest culprits is fridge-cold eggs. Make sure to bring your eggs to room temperature before you start to bake, otherwise the end results may be disappointing.
4. Toast your nuts: With so few ingredients in most Pesach bakes, it’s important to give each ingredient the attention and care it deserves — and with nuts that means toasting. Don’t skip this step, it’s one of those things where you won’t notice if it’s not done; but when you have toasted your nuts, it elevates any dish.
5. A spotless clean bowl for whisking up egg whites. It feels like we whisk more egg whites on Pesach than the rest of the year combined, and the step of ensuring that your bowl and whisk are spotlessly clean seems to interrupt the flow of everything that is going on in the kitchen. But this step alone will save you much heartache as you wonder why yet again your stiff peaks look more like a foamy mess!

For cake:
85g (⅔ cup) pecan halves
250g (1 cup + 1 ½ tablespoon) unsalted butter (or margarine)
250g (8.9 ounces) dark chocolate (60-75% cocoa solids)
6 eggs, room temperature
50g (¼ cup) granulated sugar
165g (¾ cup + 1 tablespoon) light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt

For topping:
3 egg whites, room temperature
200g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1. Heat oven to 180℃ (350℉) without fan. If you have a fan, lower the temperature to 160℃ (320℉). Lightly grease a 20×30 cm (9×13 inch) baking tin and line with baking paper that covers the sides of the tin as well.
2. Place the pecans on a clean dry baking tin and roast for 5-10 minutes, until toasted, keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn. Once out of the oven, allow to cool and then chop small.
3. Place the chocolate and butter (or margarine) in a large heatproof bowl and melt, either in a microwave and using short bursts of heat, or set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
4. Place eggs and both sugars and salt into a large bowl, and using either a stand mixer or an electric handheld mixer on medium high speed, whisk for 7-8 minutes, until the egg mixture has tripled in volume.
5. Pour the egg mixture over the cooled chocolate mixture in 3 additions, and gently fold until each addition is combined and no eggy streaks remain.
6. Fold in the toasted chopped pecans, reserving 2 tablespoons to decorate the meringue later.
7. Pour the chocolate cake batter into the prepared tin, and bake for 30 minutes.
8. When the cake has been in the oven for 25 minutes, make the meringue topping: Place egg whites and a pinch of salt into a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk until foamy, then add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue whisking until you have stiff, glossy peaks.
9. Gently spread the meringue over the top of the cake, being careful not to crush the cake below too much. Dust over the cocoa powder, and sprinkle the reserved pecans over the meringue and lightly swirl together. Bake for a further 25 minutes, or until the meringue is dry and starts to crisp.
10. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for at least an hour. The cake will keep covered at room temperature for 2 days.