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.

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Magical Honey Cake
Servings: 3 loaves
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Grease the loaf pans.
  2. Dry Ingredients
  3. 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.
  4. Honey Cake Batter
  5. 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.
  6. 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:

Cocktails


Provence des Papes Savoury Biscuits


Rosemary Cashews
Cocktails

First Course
Apples with honey
Pomegranate seeds


Ducklava with Chestnut Honey

Main Course


Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
Couscous
Green beans


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

Dessert


Beekeeper’s Honey Cake
Mango-Nectarine sorbet

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Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Server with nut-studded rice or couscous.
Print
Clay Pot Festival of Fruits Chicken
This recipe was created by my husband for the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a fruity, but not an overly sweet dish.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Peach Birwatt
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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.

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Peach Birwatt
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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Chocolate Almond Torte
Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus additional for dusting
  • 400 g 1-3/4 cups finely ground almonds
  • 85 g 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:
  • 85 g 3 oz fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 85 g 3/4 stick margarine or butter, cut into pieces
  • 75 g 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 22 cm 9-inch cake pan or springform pan ( I use a springform)
Instructions
For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350°F). Butter pan and dust with sugar, knocking out excess.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Stir one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites in 2 more batches. Fold in ground almond mixture.
  5. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

 

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.

Print
Chocolate Almond Torte
Ingredients
For the cake:
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus additional for dusting
  • 400 g 1-3/4 cups finely ground almonds
  • 85 g 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:
  • 85 g 3 oz fine-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 85 g 3/4 stick margarine or butter, cut into pieces
  • 75 g 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 22 cm 9-inch cake pan or springform pan ( I use a springform)
Instructions
For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 180C (350°F). Butter pan and dust with sugar, knocking out excess.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Stir one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites in 2 more batches. Fold in ground almond mixture.
  5. 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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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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