Mrs. Strait's Chocolate Passover Cake

1935 Seder. Adelyn Strait Raich (3rd from L); Rose and Harry Strait (4th and 3rd from R) Click on photo to enlarge it.

Note: I finally made this recipe, but with so many edits that I've posted it separately over here.

As I recall, this is a moist chocolate cake. The recipe is from Mrs. Strait, my Hebrew teacher's mother-in-law.

My Hebrew Teacher
Abe Raich, worked as a statistical quality control specialist at the local steel mill, CF&I (Colorado Fuel and Iron). I was in seventh grade; Abe's second son, Ken, was my classmate. Years later, at age 57, Abe retired and began a four-year course to become a rabbi. Read more about Abe and Adelyn (Addy), his wife, here. Get a taste of Abe's teaching, by reading this.

1969: Addy Raich; Mrs Rose Strait
The Seders
Perhaps because we lived close by (across the alley and down a few houses) my family was lucky enough to be included in a number of their seders -- lengthy events with 20+ people of all ages. No doubt, that's how my mother ended up asking Mrs. Strait for this recipe.

Abe was a natural teacher; he taught through his actions. His message was clear: Passover is a delight to be enjoyed and shared. To make the evening fun, the clues for finding the Afikomen were always delivered in a rambling, imperfect, and humorous rhyme. A fake Afikomen (cardboard wrapped in a napkin) was hidden in a second location. Invariably, the fake was found first in a simpler (and lower) location -- giving the younger children a chance to find something. I'm smiling just remembering all this. Seders really have not been the same since.

The Photos
Abe and Addy's oldest son, David, has kindly provided some family photos. He says the one from 1935 was taken at the Blooms' (Addy's aunt and uncle on her father's side) and was probably taken in Denver. Addy is the third from the left. Her parents are the third and fourth from the right. Click the photo to enlarge it. It's really a great photo!  Now all I need is a picture of the cake! Notice the wine glasses. I wonder if this is what's meant by a "large whiskey glass" (see recipe below).

Abe Raich, Purim 1956
The Baking Soda
Can you really use baking soda for Passover? If Mrs. Strait used this recipe, then it must be OK, right? It turns out you can use baking soda during Passover -- see this article and this one. Still, for many it feels wrong. I like this article the best because is explains the difference baking soda and Passover baking soda. I know at least one of my friends plans to try this recipe -- minus the baking soda.

The Altitude
We have one more wrinkle -- high altitude. The Raichs, the Straits, and my family all lived at 4,668 feet. I'm not sure what that does to this recipe now that I live at sea level! If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.

The Recipe
O yes, the recipe. This posting was about a recipe, wasn't it. Some of the recipe directions were vague, so I took a few liberties, and clarified the details (I hope). 

ìThe recipe (typed by my mother) had asterisks in front of some of the ingredients, which linked to another asterisk that says "Jewish measurements." In my family, this recipe could easily start a talmudic debate! I promise, if I get more clarity on this recipe, I'll add notes.
ììIn other places, my mom first listed Mrs. Strait's amounts and then added her parenthetical commentary, which will appear (ìì"like this").

10 medium eggs, separated
1¾ cups sugar
1 cup chopped nuts
1 large whiskey glass of wine (ìì"whatever that means")
1/2 teaspoon salt
ì3 heaping tablespoons cocoa
1 cup oil
ì5 rounded tablespoons matzo meal (ìì"I used 3/4 cup")
ì5 rounded tablespoons cake meal (ìì"I used 3/4 cup")
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
  • Beat yolks. Add sugar. Beat until light yellow.
  • Add oil and wine. Beat well.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the salt, baking soda, and cocoa. Add to the batter. Mix well.
  • Add the matzo meal and nuts. Mix well.
  • Hand mix one third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Mix thoroughly.
  • Fold-in the remaining egg whites. Mix thoroughly.
  • Pour batter into an ungreased tube pan.
  • Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes.

Your Input
If you try this recipe, please leave me a note. Any advice/feedback on the following will be greatly appreciated:
  • The high altitude issue.
  • The amount of wine in a "large whiskey glass", and the kind of wine you used. (I plan to use Mogen David.)
  • Whether or not you use baking soda during Passover, or if you try this recipe without the baking soda, which one of my friends plans to do. 
  • Any other details regarding the ingredients or instructions.

1 comment:

Sherry said...

Oh, what a lovely posting! I love the pictures, the descriptions. And the cake.

Thank you so much for sharing this.

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