We didn’t have a Rosh Hashana tradition of making honey cakes in my house. I didn’t even know there was a tradition to serve honey cake during this holiday. We made Honigkuchen, which were basically lebkuchen, a type of spice cookie that we always made for Hannukah. My grandmother always made Noodle Schalet (Noodle Pudding, not Kugel, with eggs, lemon zest and raisins) with lemon sauce for dessert. We had Suesse Apfel (carmelised apple slices in honey) as a side dish with roast beef.
So when I moved to Israel, people started asking me what does your mother put in her honey cake? Does she put nuts in, coffee or tea, schnapps, only cinnamon? I had no idea what they were talking about. All of the supermarkets and bakeries were selling different types of honey cakes. The few times I had them in the States, I always remembering them being dry and inedible. I made my first honey cake a few years ago and I could have built a house with it. It was heavy and dry. Then, I made the Beekeeper’s Honey Cake and it was less dry.
I finally decided which cake I am going to make for Erev Rosh Hashana, the Magical Honey Cake. As most of my regular readers know, I usually have to tweak a recipe and this time was no different. I used Janna Gur’s recipe as a base and added a few more spices, some orange rind, and substituted cranberries soaked in rum for the raisins. I cheated and tasted one of the cakes on the second day, it is moist, spicy and bursting with flavour from the honey. This is going to be my tried and true honey cake from now on.
Adapted from The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur
6 cups + 3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1-1/2 cups honey
1 cup oil
2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee
1 cup boiling water
2 level teaspoons baking soda
Zest of two medium oranges
1/3 cup dried cranberries soaked in rum, just to cover
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Grease the loaf pans.
Mix the flour, sugar, and spices in a bowl. Add the honey, oil and eggs, and whisk into a smooth batter. Dissolve the coffee into 1 cup of boiling water. Add the baking soda to the batter, and then add the coffee. Gently fold in the orange rind, cranberries and rum, and the walnuts.
Pour the batter into the greased loaf pans and bake for approximately 45 minutes until the cake is dark brown and the toothpick is clean with a few crumbs adhering.
Cool the cakes completely and wrap with aluminum foil. Place in a cool, dry place to mature for 7 days.