Not my Grandmother’s Honey Cake

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.

Magical Honey Cake

Yield: 3 loaves

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

4 eggs

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.

Dry Ingredients

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.

Honey Cake Batter

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.

Rosh Hashana 5768

Chag Sameach everyone! I hope you had a nice meal with your family. We went to my cousin’s house for the first night of Rosh Hashana and had a lovely time.

We invited some friends of ours for dinner last night. My husband made a Rosh Hashana favourite and I introduced several new surprises to our repertoire. Everything was delicious.

The cake calls for sour cream and one of my guests has a dairy allergy and can only tolerate butter in baked goods, so I substituted a non-dairy yogurt in its place. It worked fine.

And in case you are wondering about why I served a dairy cake, we keep kashrut according to the Italian tradition which is one hour between meat and dairy.

Our menu was:


Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Rosemary Cashews

First Course
Apples with honey
Pomegranate seeds

Ducklava with Chestnut Honey

Main Course

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
Green beans

Round Challah with dried fruits and nuts
Golan Winery Sion Creek red wine


Beekeeper’s Honey Cake
Mango-Nectarine sorbet

Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits

Yield: 24 biscuits

Recipe from Restaurant: La Garbure (Châteauneuf du Pape) Chef: Jean Louis Giansilly

5 garlic cloves

3 sprigs of basil

5 tbsp olive oil

50g (3.5 tbsp) pine nuts

300g (1.3 cups) flour

10cl (.4 cup) warm water

10cl (.4 cup) olive oil

2 tsp salt

25g (1.7 tablespoons) baking powder

4 egg yolks

Ground pepper

Prepare a pesto by crushing the garlic cloves with the basil, olive oil, and pine nuts.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, virgin olive oil, egg yolks, warm water, and some ground pepper. Add the pesto and blend well to obtain a smooth dough.

Roll into a long snake and slice the into 1/4 inch (6mm) wafers and bake at 180C (350F) for about 10 minutes (depending on size).

Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken

Serving Size: 4 to 6

This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.

1 chicken, cut into eighths

1 onion, thinly sliced

4-5 whole garlic cloves

2 cm fresh ginger, grated or chopped finely

1 quince, cored and cut into eighths

10-20 majhoul dates, pitted and cut into quarters

10 dried figs, stem removed and cut into eighths

10-20 dried sour apricots, cut into quarters

20 walnut halves

Couple of pinches of black pepper

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup water

½ c pomegranate molasses

½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Olive oil

On a low heat, place the olive oil in the clay pot, just to cover the surface. Add the onions when the oil is hot, but not sizzling. When the onion is soft, add the garlic. When the onion is lightly brown, turn up the heat and add the chicken pieces, stirring constantly until browned, approximately 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on a low flame for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes and checking that there is enough remaining liquid for a nice sauce.

Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.

Spice up your Life!

I decided to try something new for a change. I have been wanting to play around with warka leaves for sometime now. Warka leaves are a very thin pastry, thinner than phyllo which are used to make Maghrebi savoury and sweet pastries, such as beestiya and cigars. For an good explanation of warka and Algerian cuisine, see my friend, Chef Zadi’s blog.

I also made some clove-cinnamon ice cream. I really love the flavour of cloves and thought it would be an excellent compliment to the peach briwatt. It was. As usual, I doubled the amount of cloves and used about 9 cinnamon sticks. My husband loved the strong clove flavour, but you might want to follow the recipe the first time unless you are a spice junkie like me.

Cinnamon-Clove Ice Cream

Yield: About 1 liter (quart)

2 cups whole milk

2 cups whipping cream

1 cup sugar

6 whole cinnamon sticks

16 whole cloves, slightly crushed

8 large egg yolks

Combine milk, cream, 1/2 cup sugar, cinnamon and cloves in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Cover; steep 1 hour. Then, strain the milk mixture and put back in a clean saucepan.

Whisk yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in bowl until well blended. Bring milk mixture to simmer. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into yolk mixture; return to same pan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across (do not boil). Strain into another medium bowl; chill uncovered until cold, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.

Process chilled custard in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to container; cover and freeze. (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)

My husband thought the the peach flavour was a bit too subtle for the ice cream, but I liked it. You can use any fruit of your choice, but if you use a harder fruit, such as apple, you might want to sautée them before placing them in the pastry.

Peach Birwatt

Serving Size: 2

2 warka leaves (also known as brik, brick, dioul and malsouqa)

1 peach, peeled, halved and cut into thin slices

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ras al hanout or cinnamon

Sliced almonds

50 g butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

Thaw out two warka leaves and cover them until ready to use. Place one warka leave on a flat surface and place the slices of one half of the peach onto the bottom half of the warka leaf. Sprinkle some sliced almonds, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of ras al hanout or cinnamon on the peaches. Dot with a pat of butter.

Brush water on the edges of the warka and fold the bottom edge over the peaches and then the sides. The, roll the parcel up until you have a burrito or blintz shape.

Melt the butter and the olive oil in a medium heat pan and fry the parcels until lightly brown on either side. Serve warm with ice cream.

Passover Desserts

As Pesach is fast approaching, I have decided on what desserts I am going to make to make this year: Chocolate-Pistachio Cake and the Orange-Ginger Cake (See Passover Preparations).

This pistachio cake is based on a recipe from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Italian Easy: Recipes from the River Cafe. It is a very easy cake to make. I would prefer to make it with butter, but I must make a parve cake for Passover.

Normally, I do not like Passover cakes made with matza meal, but this cake only calls for 1/2 cup and you really don’t notice it. Substitute with flour when it is not Passover.

Since the Passover hostess is a chocoholic, I am covering the cake with a bittersweet chocolate glaze, but the original recipe is served plain with a lemon glaze.

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Serving Size: 8 to 10

For the cake:

250g (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine

1 lemon

1 vanilla bean or equivalent of vanilla paste

150g (2/3 cup) blanched almonds

170 g (3/4 cup) pistachios

1-1/4 cups superfine sugar

4 eggs

1/2 cup matza cake flour

For the lemon topping:

1 lemon

113g (1/2 cup) pistachios

1/4 cup superfine sugar

For the chocolate glaze:

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

85g (3/4 stick) margarine or butter, cut into pieces

57g (1/4 cup) ground pistachios

Make the cake

Heat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Grease a 9-inch (22cm) springform pan with 4 teaspoons of the butter and line with baking parchment.

Soften the remaining margarine or butter. Finely grate the lemon peel. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Finely grind the almonds and pistachios together.

Beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the lemon peel and vanilla seeds, then fold in the nuts and sift in the flour.

Spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan, then turn out.

Make the lemon topping

Grate the lemon peel and squeeze the juice. Halve the pistachios.

Mix the lemon juice with the sugar, boil until reduced to a syrup, then add the peel. Stir in the pistachios and pour over the cake.

Make the chocolate glaze

Melt chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and add remaining 5 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth.

Transfer the glaze to a bowl and chill, covered, until slightly thickened and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

Spread the glaze over cake with a small metal spatula. Sprinkle pistachios on the top and sides of the cake.


The other cake I considered making this year is another favourite of mine. It is a spice cake with a chocolate glaze. Simple and delicious. I do not remember where I got this recipe.

Chocolate Almond Torte
For the cake:

1/2 cup sugar plus additional for dusting

400g (1-3/4 cups ) finely ground almonds

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely grated

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

5 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate icing:

85g (3 oz) fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

85g (3/4 stick) margarine or butter, cut into pieces

75g (1/3 cup) sliced almonds

22cm (9-inch) cake pan or springform pan ( I use a springform)

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 180C (350°F). Butter pan and dust with sugar, knocking out excess.

Stir together ground almonds, chocolate, and spices in a bowl. Beat yolks with 1/4 cup sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, then beat in zest.

Beat whites with salt with cleaned beaters in a large bowl until they just hold soft peaks. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Stir one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites in 2 more batches. Fold in ground almond mixture.

Pour batter into mold and bake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in mold on a rack 10 minutes, then invert onto rack and cool completely.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt chocolate with 1 tablespoon margarine in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Remove from heat and add remaining 5 tablespoons margarine, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until smooth. Transfer icing to a bowl and chill, covered, until slightly thickened and spreadable, about 30 minutes.

Spread icing over cake with a small metal spatula. Sprinkle almonds on the top and sides of the cake. Chill cake until icing is set, at least 1 hour. Transfer cake to a platter and bring to room temperature before serving.

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