Bocca di Dama is a soft and spongy flourless almond cake of the Jewish Libyan tradition. It was historically crafted to be kosher for Passover, but it also makes a simple, gluten-free dessert that is absolutely perfect year-round.
This recipe is pretty much a family heirloom: it came all the way from Libya with my grandparents, who fled their country of origin alongside the rest of the Jewish population of Libya in the Fifties and the Sixties to escape the pogroms and prosecutions at the hands of the Arabs.
While we mostly traditionally prepare Bocca di Dama for the two seders of Pesach, we also make this flourless almond cake for other Jewish holidays, as it feels quite festive, and if there are leftovers we enjoy it as a snacking cake with a cup of coffee on random weekdays. The cake stays moist for a really long time and keeps very well just wrapped in tin foil if you hold the icing until you serve it.
Flourless almond cake Bocca di Dama
- 300 g sugar
- 220 g almond flour or ground almonds
- 6 eggs + 2 egg whites
- 2 extra egg whites to frost the cake
- 80 g powdered sugar
- slivered almonds to decorate
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a springform pan with baking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- Process whole almonds in a food processor or blender until finely ground, unless you're using ready-made almond flour.
- Whisk 6 egg whites on medium speed in the stand mixer until stiff peaks form, then set aside in the fridge.6 eggs + 2 egg whites
- In the stand mixer (ok to reuse the same bowl!), whisk together egg yolks, sugar, almond flour and the remaining 2 egg whites until well combined.300 g sugar, 220 g almond flour or ground almonds
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the almond mixture until just combined, then scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake the cake until golden and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. If the cake top looks like it's going to bake and brown too fast, cover it with foil.
- When done baking, let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edge of the pan and gently remove the side ring, then carefully transfer the cake to a serving platter.
- As the cake cools, prepare the frosting. With an electric mixer on high speed, whip the 2 extra egg whites you kept aside with powdered sugar to obtain a soft, glossy frosting.2 extra egg whites to frost the cake, 80 g powdered sugar
- Let the slivered almonds toast for a couple of minutes in a pan, just until nicely browned. Keep an eye out because they can burn quickly.slivered almonds to decorate
- Cover the cake top with the prepared frosting, then sprinkle with slivered almonds.
- If you don't feel comfortable eating raw eggs, you can broil the frosting with the overhead grill of the oven or with a cooking torch.
If you enjoy this recipe and are curious to learn more dishes of the Libyan Jewish tradition such as this one, I suggest you also try your hand at making a small nibble such as roschette, our classic savory breadsticks, or go all in with an ambitious main dish such as mafrum (twice cooked vegetables stuffed with meat) with homemade couscous.