Jews eat honey cake on Rosh Hashanah, AKA Jewish New Year, as a symbol of hope for a sweet year to come. This one is deliciously moist with an alluringly crisp edge.
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One day when my niece was about three years old, she declared, “I’m going to make a honey cake!” I don’t know if she even knew such a thing existed, but she does love honey, and I love her, so I started searching for honey cake recipes the minute I got home.
I perused and compared quite a few recipes, but was most intrigued by Smitten Kitchen’s version. SK’s Deb described her experiences with dry, dull versions. Her own research led her to a recipe from Marcy Goldman’s A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. Deb called it “Crazy moist and soft and plush with a little crisp edge about the corners.” Clearly it would be reckless and irresponsible to try any other honey cake recipe.
What Makes this the Perfect Honey Cake for Rosh Hashana?
Deb and Marcy’s versions use cinnamon, cloves, and allspice, but I’m not crazy about a spice cake. I just wanted to make a simple cake loaded with the flavor of honey. It may sound crazy, but I left all of those spices out. The result was exactly what I had hoped for:
- Not too dense
- Distinct honey flavor
- Crisp around the edges
A little trick that makes this honey cake pure magic
Remember those crisp edges I mentioned earlier? Before baking, I drizzled a bit of honey over the batter. It caramelized in the oven, giving the bottom and edges of the cake an extra crispiness as well as the deep, rounded flavor of caramelized honey.
My niece was delighted and proud of herself for coming up with the idea. My mother, who doesn’t even like honey cake, took home an extra-large hunk. [Breaking news: Mom called as I was writing this post, and said, “I just ate a third of the cake you sent me home with, and it is the most delicious honey cake I’ve ever had. I can’t stop eating it.”]
This recipe makes a lot (us Jewish ladies worry that someone will go hungry, so we always make extra). Use three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans or one 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or do what I did and make several smaller cakes. I used a mini Bundt pan with 6 cups as well as a few different sizes of small loaf pans. Just be careful not to overfill them–each pan should only be filled about halfway. Smaller portions will bake faster so be sure to adjust the cooking times and check early and often.
You can also cut down the quantity easily. To make one 9-by-5-inch loaf, use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup honey (save about 1 1/2 tablespoons for drizzling over the batter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/3 cup coffee or tea, and 2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice.
This morning I learned inadvertently that honey cake, paired with a cup of coffee, makes a great breakfast. If you’re a sweets-for-breakfast person, you might want to try this Japanese Souffle Pancakes recipe, too!
- 3½ cups (420 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup (237 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 cup (237 ml) honey, divided
- 1½ cups (300 grams) sugar
- ½ cup (110 grams) brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (237 ml) coffee or strong tea
- ½ cup (119 ml) orange juice
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease the baking pan(s). Use either three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, one 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or any equivalent-sized pans.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the oil, 3/4 cup of the honey, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, and orange juice. Mix thoroughly, until all ingredients are combined and no lumps remain.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s), filling each about halfway.
- Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of honey over the batter.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the cake is set all the way through and feels springy to the touch (30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of your baking dishes). A tester inserted into the center should come out clean.
- Let cool 15 minutes before removing from the baking dish. Slide a knife around the edges to help loosen the cake, if necessary.
Amount Per Serving Calories 265 Total Fat 10g Saturated Fat 1g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 8g Cholesterol 23mg Sodium 169mg Carbohydrates 43g Fiber 1g Sugar 28g Protein 3g