Passover Torte

Photos: Courtesy of Michelle Jaeger

At the PRK “Meet Up” last month, Michelle Jaeger and I somehow got talking about cake. About her family’s Passover torte, to be exact, which may not sound unusual until you hear how the crust is made. Michelle offered to send the recipe to us, in order to share it with you. It’s been a part of her family’s Passover celebration for 25 years.

Meet Michelle. She’s a publicist, a graduate of Boston University’s Culinary Certificate Program, a die-hard Red Sox fan, a rower and a coxswain. She says that when she’s not baking for friends and loved ones, she can be found on the Charles, in search of the perfect stroke. Tweet her @tartandfit.

Michelle Jaeger
Guest Contributor

Growing up, I used to dread Passover. While I was certainly impressed with 12-egg cakes that actually stay up, they didn’t suit my taste buds. There were other options on the table – wine cakes and Mandelbrot, flourless cookies and brownies, plus macaroons from a can – but I found them too sweet, or too dry.

My dread turned to anticipation the year my mother discovered a recipe for a fruit and nut torte. From Day One, this was a keeper. Over time, we’ve built a tradition of finding and trying new recipes for the holiday, rotating many in and out of our repertoire. This one, adapted from Carol Guthrie’s original, has been a constant for about 25 years. It’s got a great balance of texture and flavors: the nut torte is pleasantly spongy and not overly sweet, the curd is smooth and tart, and the whole thing is topped with fresh fruit. It’s so good you can make it for any occasion, and people will ‘ooh and ahh’ and scarf it down in no time. They might even eat it for breakfast, as I’ve been known to do.


There are three major components to this recipe: fresh fruit, lemon curd and the torte itself. If you are pressed for time, or the thought of making lemon curd sends shivers down your spine, buy some at the store and pretend it’s yours. I won’t tell.

You will need an 11” tart pan with removable bottom for the torte, plus an assortment of three or four types of fresh berries — e.g., strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. One or two packages of strawberries, and one package of each of the others you plan to use, should do. (If berries aren’t to your liking, you could sub in sliced peaches or nectarines, and grapes).

Lemon curd filling:
2 lemons zested (need 1 TBS zest) and juiced (about 1/3 C juice. More is ok.)
½ C butter cut in pieces (can sub margarine if keeping kosher)
1/3 C sugar
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice along with sugar, eggs and yolks. Place the bowl over a pot of hot, not boiling, water and add butter, stirring constantly with a spatula until the butter is completely incorporated. Continue stirring until the mixture is very thick and coats the spatula well, 15-30 minutes. (It may take a while for the mixture to thicken, but when it does, it happens quickly).

Once the curd has come together, take it off the heat and run it through a sieve into a bowl to strain out the zest and any curdled bits. Cover the mixture directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. This can be made a day or two ahead.

Nut torte:
8 oz walnuts
2 TBS matzo meal
4 eggs, separated, at room temp
2/3 C sugar

Grease the bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a food processor, finely grind walnuts and matzo meal.

At this point, if you have an extra bowl for your standing mixer, break it out. If not, use a hand mixer for either one of the next two steps.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. In another bowl, at high speed, beat egg yolks and sugar until very thick and lemon colored. Fold nut mixture, and then egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.

Pour the batter in the pan. Bake 25-30 minutes until top of cake springs back when touched. Cool the cake pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and cool on the rack. You made need to run a knife or an offset spatula underneath to separate the cake from the pan.

Torte ready for baking

The guidelines below are for what I do, but have fun with it, and take the opportunity to create a design to your liking.

To assemble:
Place cake on a serving platter.

With a spatula, drop lemon curd onto the cake; smooth and spread the curd with an offset spatula. If it gets a bit thin at the edges, that’s ok. Once the fruit goes on, it spreads the curd out a bit.

Baked torte, ready for fruit

Wash and dry the strawberries and any of the other fruit you wish. Hull the strawberries and slice them almost all the way in half, leaving enough connection for you to fan them apart. Starting on the outside, fan the strawberries in a circle. Inside the strawberries, create a circle of blackberries, standing them up on end. Fill that circle in with raspberries, also standing on end.

3 thoughts on “Passover Torte

  1. Sue McCrory Post author

    We just tried a sample of Michelle’s torte and it is DELICIOUS! The crust is nutty and chewy, the lemon filling nicely tangy, and the overall flavor just sweet enough. It is making the rounds at WBUR as I write… Thank you, Michelle!!