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Bocca di dama with Orange Caramel - Dinner in Venice
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Bocca di dama with Orange Caramel

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almond cake BOCCA DI DAMA.HD

Whenever I bite into this delicious almond cake, I can’t help but wonder about the origins of its name: Bocca di Dama means “Lady’s Mouth” in Italian. Was a romantic baker in love with a beautiful customer? Or is the cake so sweet, soft and moist that it reminded someone of a passionate kiss? This Passover dessert, popular among the Jews of Leghorn and in several other Sephardic communities, is so ancient that nobody really knows. The only thing that’s certain is that, just like kisses, it’s highly addictive, and you probably won’t be able to stop at the first bite. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: if it’s just you, and the cake, you are set for failure. Surround yourself with lots of guests. My husband once made the whole thing disappear overnight. In this version, the tanginess of orange complements the mild and buttery texture and flavor of the almonds: use organic fruit for the best results.


A Passover Seder in Leghorn (1867 haggadah)

Bocca di Dama with Orange Caramel


  • 2 small/medium organic oranges
  • 2 cups (250 gr - a little over ½ lb) almond meal or freshly ground blanched almonds
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 gr - a little over ½ lb) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks (add 1, if medium eggs )
  • 7 large egg whites (add 1, if medium eggs)
  • 1/8 cup or 3-4 tbsp matzah flour. For GF, use GF matzah or potato starch.
  • oil or margarine, and parchment paper, to prepare the pan
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ orange cup cooking water (see instructions)
  • 1/3 cup finely sliced almonds (toasted if liked)
  • zest of one of the oranges
  • *** if you don't feel like making the caramel, just use orange marmalade and sliced almonds to decorate
  • (I like to use an 8 x 11" baking pan or a 10" springform round pan. You can vary the dimensions, but the baking time will change also)


Grate the zest of an orange and set it aside. If planning to decorate with the caramel, place the peeled oranges in a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes, covered (skip this step if decorating with orange marmalade).

Beat the egg yolks and 2 whites with the sugar and the salt until frothy. Add the ground almonds and the matzah meal, the zest of one orange , the liqueur if using, and combine well. In a separate bowl beat the whites with an electric whisk until stiff; gently incorporate them into the batter with a spatula, using an upward motion. Grease the sides of a baking pan and dust with matzah meal, and line the bottom with parchment.

In a pre-heated oven, bake at 350 F f(on a regular – NOT convection – setting) for 30 minutes, then lower the heat slightly (to 335 or 340) and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes (50-60 total), checking periodically with a toothpick until the cake is moist but not liquid inside. Once the top is golden, you may want to cover it with foil for the last part of the cooking. Once the cake is done, turn off the oven setting the door slightly ajar and allow the cake to rest inside for an extra 15 minutes (similarly to what you would do with a cheesecake!). Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely. In the meantime, melt the remaining ½ sugar with 1/2 cup of the water in which you boiled the orange. You can double the dosage for a thicker layer. Make sure to use low heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a caramel. Stir in the remaining shredded zest of the first orange, and brush on top of the cake. Decorate with sliced or slivered almonds. If you don’t feel like making the caramel, you can just glaze the top of the cake with about 4-5 tablespoons of orange marmalade diluted with 2 tbsp hot water.

* For those of you who love oranges, there is also a version of this cake that incorporates the boiled pulp of the 2 oranges into the batter. The recipe is pretty much the same, except that you should use only 4 yolks (beaten with the sugar), and 4 egg whites (beaten stiff). After removing most of the white membranes, place the cooked oranges into a blender, and add them to the batter. Other than that, proceed in the same way. Because the cake will be much more "orangey", you can decorate it with simple powdered sugar.


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  1. Absolutely gorgeous Ale, you’ve outdone yourself. So lovely!

  2. I make Passover almond cake using a New York Times recipe. it is a wonderful dessert. Your recipe looks better because of the orange peel. I will switch recipes.

  3. I’m so flattered, Ronnie! I never thought someone would pick me over the NYT! Yay.

  4. I happened to glance at my new iPad and saw this post, and it cheered me up. But it also sent my glycemic index skyrocketing and I had to give myself two shots.

    • Hi Roberta, I hope you are kidding about the insuline shots! there are many diabetic-friendly options to choose from in my “light” menu…. Try not to look at all the sweets. Hugs, Ale

  5. This cake looks beautiful! I love anything with caramel!

  6. The recipe looks terrific, but what dimension baking pan did you use? Thank you in advance for your reply

    • Hi Faleen, good point! I used a 9″x9″,
      that’s more or less the right size for this amount. Remember to line the bottom and grease the sides (you can also grease and dust well with matzoh meal)… It’s key, because these almond-based cakes are sticky! You can also use a round springform pan (9 1/2 or 10 diam)… Except that I love serving this cake cut into squares, which doesn’t work with the round pan. But springform are always safest with sticky baked goods 🙂

    • ops! Rushing to get out, I forgot to mention that in the post, and now everybody is asking: my bad!!!! I used a 9′ x 9″ pan…but that can vary slightly, although if the thickness varies you might also need to adjust the cooking time.

  7. I am thinking of giving my first night seder an Italian spin (since both my boyfriend and I have some Italian background and it’s absolutely our favorite food) this year, and this sounds perfect! Any other suggestions?

  8. Ohhh, this sounds so delicious! I want to make it.
    Two questions: What size baking pan and how much water do you use to cook the zested orange? Since you use that water to make the caramel, I’m worried about guessing.
    Thank you!
    Fullerton, Ca.

  9. This looks lovely, though I have a question about the oranges. If I understand correctly, I should grate the zest of one navel orange and one lemon and add the zests to the batter. The other orange I should peel and boil? The directions say to remove the orange, dry it and set it aside, but it does not appear to be used, just to flavor the water, is this correct? Finally, sorry if I’m being stupid about this, the directions don’t say how much water to use with the sugar to make the caramel. It’s just a few tablespoons of sugar (one third of one half-cup)? So too much water will make this not very caramel-y. Thanks, I hope to try this!

    • hi Beth, you are correct! One orange is for boiling and flavoring the water, and its zest is shredded and later added to the caramel. The other orange is only used for its zest, which is grated and added to the cake batter (that’s not to say the rest of that orange should go to waste: squeeze the juice into some prosecco and enjoy a nice “Rossini” cocktail while doing all your baking ;-). For the caramel, you need to use just a little over 1/3 cup of the water in which you boiled the orange.

  10. This looks fantastic! When you said that kisses are addictive, did you refer to the real baci, or the chocolate baci (Perugina)?

  11. Beautiful!

    Beautiful! 🙁 🙁 I don’t use Matzoh Meal what can i use as a substitute?

    • hi Aviva, it depends on why you don’t use it… if it’s just the gluten, go ahead and use gluten-free matzo meal. If you don’t like any kind of matzah, you can substitute a few spoonfuls of potato starch. I haven’t made it with potato starch, and you might need to test it twice to reach perfection, but start with 4-5 tablespooons and see what happens. Potato starch makes cakes fluffier, but also drier if you overdo it. You can also substitute rice flour if your tradition is to eat rice for Passover. And if you are making it at a different time of the year, go ahead and use regular flour (wheat, or any grain that agrees with you)

  12. these look amazing! a great passover recipe

  13. Sounds like a great pesach recipe! So fresh!

  14. Looking delicious!

  15. You are good at Passover desserts, this is another winner.

  16. Alessandra, in the last two days, I think I got you four more readers. 🙂

    I’m allergic to oranges (although not lemons or grapefruit; go figure). I usually substitute apricot nectar for orange juice in recipes … but I’m not quite sure of what I could replace actual oranges and zest with. Any ideas? Thanks, and chag sameach!

  17. This cake looks gorgeous! I would love to eat this year round!

  18. veramente raffinatissimo. anch’io mi domando da dove derivi quel nome, in Italia ci sono anche dei pasticcini (non credo siano ebraici) che si chiamano baci di dama. E poi i cioccolatini “baci” della perugina. Insomma hai ragione, i pasticceri italiani sono degli inguaribili romantici.

  19. SeattleCiclista says:

    It is always a treat to find a new passover recipe for a fabulous dessert. This will go well at our mid-week extended family meal of rossl borscht (fermented beets started at Purim.) Non vedo l’ora di cuocere la torta.

  20. I had high hopes for this recipe and so did my husband when I showed him the photo, but I found the recipe confusing and my cakes came out nothing like the luscious looking cake in your photo. The egg yolk, sugar, and almond mixture was so thick I couldn’t fold the egg whites into the mixture, even after lightening the batter with just a third of the egg whites before folding in the rest. There were thick clumps of batter stuck here and there. It certainly didn’t need the matzoh meal, it was already too thick, but I had already added it. The recipe didn’t specify blanched ground almonds, so my cake didn’t look light like this one.

    • hi Varda, yes – the almond should be blanched, or you can just use matzah meal. The batter will be smooth. Thank you so much for your comment, I posted the recipe too quickly and did not make sure to cover all the details the way I should have. I just went through the recipe again and clarified all those points. I maintain the blog on my own – which means that there is no proofreader or editor or recipe tester except for you guys… and sometimes (rarely, I hope!) you end up having to catch my typos 🙁
      I owe you one!

  21. lindahoffman says:

    looks like a great recipe.
    can I make it 2 days ahead of the seder??

  22. Oh my God! I made this cake yesterday planning to serve it on Monday night – since you said it keeps well. I liked the way it’s presented in the pictures, and thinking I’d serve it sliced i thought there would be no harm in tasting a piece. WRONG! I couldn’t stop! It’s AMAZING! My boyfriend and I polished almost the whole thing off! So moist and healthy-tasting, one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever had. THANK YOU! P.S. I didn’t make the caramel, I opted for the easier version with preserve. I was out of orange marmalade and used apricot jelly, which tasted really great. Too great, actually, now I need to make another one tomorrow.

  23. hi! the recipe i see here is different from the one i printed out last week and just made – both in the more detailed directions and in the ingredient amounts! as i made the first one with less sugar and fewer eggs, will that greatly affect how the cake tastes?

  24. I just HAD to come back and rave about how absolutely delicious this was! It was moist, and flavorful, the texture was fantastic, and the smell delightful spread throughout the house. I will be making this for years to come!

  25. Alessandra, wow, the almond cake is great!!!
    I baked it in a 10 inch spring form beginning at 350. (30 minutes ). I went to lower the temperature, but I followed your advice to check it and the cake was already done. I was concerned it would be dry because of baking so fast. I baked it on Sunday-we ate it at our second seder-Tuesday night. It was very moist. Thanks so much .

  26. Wow! This doesn’t even look like Pesach cake!

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