Teen's Honey Cake from Our Community Table
It’s September—if you can believe it—and Rosh Hashana is only two weeks away. I have always loved this holiday, with its eternal promise of hope and new beginnings. Fond memories from my youth include taking days off school to go to the synagogue where I would see my Jewish friends and family, in a town where I was often the only Jewish student in my class, everyone dressed in their holiday best. And here’s a fun little extra—I am a honey cake snob. Which makes little sense as I know with 1000% surety that any honey cake I ever had as a child was born in a Manischewitz box, or from the grocery store, ready-made in its tacky little tinfoil loaf pan, plastic wrap intact, labeled Manischewitz, and stamped with a suggested 12th of Never expiration date. Like Twinkies. Or fruit cake. But Jewish. By all reason, I have absolutely no right to be a honey cake snob, yet, here we are. Memories. Honey Cake. Me. Snob!
So, what does an unjustifiably snobby girl from culinary skid row hope for in a holiday honey cake? Quite a lot. I like honey cake to be moist, not crumbly. And dense, but not too dense. And sweet—ish. And the color. For some reason color really matters. I like honey cakes that are dark in color and are rectangular loaves in shape —so they can be cut into nice, thick, satisfying slices. Is this all too much to ask?
Perhaps. But after a few years of trial and error, I have found what I think is a truly wonderful Honey Cake recipe for Rosh Hashana. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say it can compete with the nostalgic memories of my youth—because what could be better than a Manischewitz boxed mix from days of yore—I will say that it is wonderful, deeply satisfying, and a joy to bring to the family table. And of course, I am going to share it with you.
This excellent recipe is the Moist and Majestic Honey Cake, by well-known Jewish cookbook author, Marcy Goldman, and I think it is very nearly perfect. However, I do have a few significant “tweaks” to offer—as I’m sure you knew I would.
One is the choice of honey. I only and always use Buckwheat honey. It is considerably darker and much less sweet than the more typical clover, orange blossom, or wildflower varieties and in my opinion makes for a better cake in both flavor and color. Of course, you should choose whatever honey you like best because this is your honey cake!
Another thing that I sometimes do is brew a spiced tea blend instead of a plain black tea. Plain black tea works well, as does coffee if that is your preference, but the spiced tea adds a subtle dimension to the cake’s flavor profile that I find interesting and doesn’t change its basic nature.
And finally—prepare your baking pans well! And I cannot emphasize this enough. Use both shortening and flour to grease your baking pans because this cake likes to stick! If possible, lining the bottom of the pan with a parchment liner is wonderful, too.
Happy, Healthy Rosh Hashana wishes to you, dear readers. I hope the new year will be sweet, and meaningful, and will hold many, many wonderful future memories for you and your families. And possibly even the honey cake of your dreams!
Teen’s Honey Cake
Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s Moist and Majestic Honey Cake
Makes 3 standard size loaf pans, 2 9-inch square or round cake pans, one 9 or 10-inch tube or Bundt cake pan, or one 9 by 13-inch sheet cake.
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey (I prefer Buckwheat honey as it is not quite as sweet and is a bit darker in color)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar (light or dark, your choice)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coffee or strong tea, warm but not boiling
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, at room temperature
¼ cup rye whisky, or bourbon
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional—I never use these)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously grease the pans you plan to use with non-stick cooking spray. If using a tube pan or angel food cake pan, additionally line the bottom with some lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
Make a well in the center and set aside.
In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, combine the oil, honey, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and whiskey, stirring until uniform looking.
Pour liquid ingredients into well in center of dry ingredients and stir together well to make a thick, well blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl.
Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). If using, sprinkle top of cake(s) with almonds.
Place cake pan(s) onto 2 stacked baking sheet(s)
Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake’s center. For Tube cake pans, 60-75 minutes; loaf cakes, 45-55 minutes; sheet pans, 40-45 minutes.
When done, let cake(s) stand 15 minutes before removing from the pan(s), then cool completely.