Continuing the almond theme, I became entranced by a flourless nut cake called tishpishti. The name alone gives pause–two Turkish words that mean quick (tish, originally tez) and done (pishti), and indeed it describes how quick and easy it is to make the cake. A classic of Sephardic cooking in Spain and Turkey and a specialty for Jewish Passover celebrations around the world, it’s dense and sweet and has no flour (see the Note below). Ground almonds or walnuts, maybe both together, sometimes pistachios or hazelnuts, fill in for flour, so it’s a marvelous sweet for guests who don’t tolerate wheat. To add a fruity, saucy note, rather than the usual soak in a citrus-flavored syrup after the cake is cooked I garnish it with fresh berries and sweetened yogurt. In winter, I might replace the berries with poached orange segments. Or, most simply, the cake can stand alone anytime of year and serve to accompany a morning coffee or a tea time tipple with a glass of sherry or old vine zinfandel.
Note: Many versions of tishpishti include matzo, which is a wheat product, albeit one that is not leavened so it can be used in Passover preparations. For those who eschew any wheat, whether for medical or life-style considerations, cakes with matzo aren’t acceptable whereas completely flourless cakes, such as this one, are.
Makes one 8-inch cake
Oil or butter and sugar for preparing the baking pan
5 large eggs
2 cups finely chopped but not pulverized blanched almonds
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons finely chopped organic orange zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Fresh berries, for serving (optional)
1 cup Greek yogurt whisked with 2 teaspoons powdered sugar, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 º F. Grease the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan with oil or butter all across the bottom and up the sides and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
2. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the almonds, sugar, zest, and orange juice and mix thoroughly. Turn the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake until brown across the top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and set it aside to cool.
3. When cool, transfer the cake from the pan to a serving plate. Cut into portions and serve accompanied with the raspberries and sweetened yogurt, if using. Will keep, loosely covered, at room temperature for up to several days and actually improves in flavor and texture over time.