Italian lemon and almond Pesach cake (bocca di dama)

This moist delicate cake is a classic at my family's Seder in Rome.


I like to use whole almonds and crush them with a food processor so they keep their nutty texture and give a hint of brown. However blanched or ground almonds also work if you are in a rush.

Serves: 8-10

Preparation: 15 minutes

Baking time: 30 minutes


6 large eggs
160g caster sugar
220g almonds, finely crushed
Pinch of salt
2 lemons, grated zest and juice
Butter/margarine to grease the oven tray
Handful of matzah meal
Handful of flaked almonds to decorate (optional)
Icing sugar to decorate (optional)


Preheat the oven to 180°C fan.

Grease the base and sides of a 23 cm round spring form baking tin or a square/rectangular dish - bocca di dama is often served in squares rather than slices. Use the handful of matzah meal to coat the butter/margarine with a thin layer of matzah meal, discarding any surplus that hasn’t stuck. Line the base with greaseproof paper.

Separate the eggs and beat the yolks with the sugar, ideally with an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, until you have a thick, pale, creamy consistency. Add the crushed almonds, a pinch of salt, lemon zest and juice and beat again.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are very stiff.

Add the egg whites to the rest of the mixture in three goes, gently folding them in until blended but trying to retain as much air as possible.

Pour the mixture into the tin, sprinkle with flaked almonds – if using — and bake for about 30 minutes. Test if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer or toothpick; if cooked it will come out clean and dry. If there are any crumbs or wet mixture on the skewer, return the cake to the oven and check every 5 minutes until ready.

When baked, cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes – ideally an hour — before removing it from the tin.

Place on a cake plate and dust with a little icing sugar to serve. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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