Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah

Honey Cake

Niece-inspired honey cake for Rosh Hashanah (or just whenever)

While my sister and I gabbed over breakfast at our local Russian deli/bakery last weekend, my three-year-old niece entertained herself by playing with one of those little single-serving honey packets. After poking at it and balancing it on the backs of her hands for a while, she declared, “I’m going to make a honey cake!” I don’t know if she even knew that there actually was such a thing, or if her intention was more along the lines of, “I’m going to make a mud pie.” 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 Deb, of Smitten Kitchen, who described how dry, dull, and coarse she found all honey cakes to be until rumors and research led her to a recipe by Marcy Goldman. (“Crazy moist and soft and plush with a little crisp edge about the corners.”) Deb persuaded me that it would be reckless and irresponsible to try any other recipe the internet had to offer.

rosh hashanah honey cake

Crispy around the edges, and moist on the inside, just like Deb said

Side note: somehow my own Jewish upbringing failed to inform me that honey cake is a Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, tradition. I knew about the apples and honey, of course, but somehow the cake part escaped my awareness. (Maybe because they’re usually awful?) Anyway, I was thrilled to discover that Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner—on September 28/29 this year (2011)—making this a timely post, Judaism-wise.


But back to the cake. Deb and Marcy’s versions use cinnamon, cloves, and allspice—and personally, I’m not crazy about a spice cake. I just wanted to make a simple honey-flavored cake for my little baby bear. So I left the extras out of my version, and the result was exactly what I had hoped for: moist and fluffy, with a distinct honey flavor. My niece was delighted and proud of herself for coming up with the idea; and my mother, who doesn’t even like honey cakes, loved it so much she let me send her home with an extra-large hunk. [Breaking news: Mom called me 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, or any bready cake, I’ve ever had. I can’t stop eating it.”]

By the way, I intended, and totally forgot, to make a few honey cupcakes while I was at it. If you try the cupcake version of this recipe, let me know how it goes!

Moist, Delectable Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
 
No spices, no distraction, just a simple, moist, fluffy honey cake. Perfect recipe for Rosh Hashanah, or any time of year. Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking, via Smitten Kitchen.
Ingredients
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
  • ½ cup orange juice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease baking dish(es). Use either three loaf pans, one 9x13" baking dish, or any equivalent-sized dish(es).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add oil, honey, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, and orange juice. Mix thoroughly, until all ingredients are combined and no lumps remain.
  4. Pour batter into dish(es) and bake in preheated oven until the cake is set all the way through and feels springy to the touch (about 45-60 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your baking dishes).
  5. Let cool 15 minutes before removing from the baking dish. Slide a knife around the edges to help loosen the cake, if necessary.

 

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39 Responses to Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah

  1. janet gallin says:

    Yes, yes, yes! Deb is so right in saying that honey cakes are “dry, dull, and coarse”. I, too, think that. Or did think that until I ate this honey cake of yours today. It is fabulous. Well, I can say “It WAS fabulous,” since it is almost all gone save a few crumbs of that wonderful crunchy thin covering.

    And, yes, Juliana, the reason you never knew about honey cake for Rosh Hashana was that I could never bring myself to bring one of those dry, dull coarse confections into the house. Sorry for the lapse in your childhood, but now we can have honey cake for Rosh Hashana thanks to you, Deb and Marcy. Hooray!!

  2. Elle Hyson says:

    I believe the reason most honey cakes are/were so dry and tasteless is that they were baked in a flat pan rather than a loaf or tube pan. My mother who was a world class baker never baked a honey cake and never liked honey cake until I took it upon myself close to 70 years ago to bake one – and have made the same recipe every year since, sometimes as many as 10 to be shipped to out-of-town family and friends.

    A Happy New Year to you and yours.

  3. I often make a honey syrup to drizzle over my cakes for extra moistness… However I’ve never made a cake completely based round honey. This looks absolutely delicious and a good place to start!

  4. erin says:

    i remember reading the recipe on smitten kitchen and thinking that, though it seemed yummy, it was a bit too involved for cooking with kids. thanks for the simplification, me and the kids made this today and it is pretty darn good.

  5. rosemary hepburn says:

    tried your recipe last night just have no words to say, accept i cant stop eating it. oh my have never tasted anything that good in years. thank you.

  6. Tania says:

    Being new to Judaism I came across this recipe for my first Rosh Hoshana and it is soo yummy! Super moist and just lovely. The edges sort I of caramelised into a lovely crisp. I used a large loaf pan and actually ended up cooking it for 1 and half hours.

  7. Marina says:

    This is the best honey cake I have ever made.Moist, soft and delicious! I added some raisins and orange zest. Everybody loved the cake ! Thank you very much for this recipe!

  8. Joy says:

    Simple, amazing, delicious recipe! I made it into honey cupcakes. Worked like a charm. Batter formed 24 cupcakes and baked for 22 min. Like all honey cakes, they have improved with age. Thanks and Shana Tova!

  9. Lucky Stoller says:

    Since my Bubbie took all her recipes with her when she died and my first and last attempt at honey cake turned out so hard and dry I’m now using it as a door stop (!), I am looking forward to this moist and tender honeycake to share with 14 new friends tomorrow for Rosh Hashanoh in Denver. I will bake it today and let you know how it turns out. Wish me luck!

  10. Pingback: Rosh Hashana Honey Cake « Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert

  11. Sora Jacobs says:

    Everybody loved your moist honey cake. It will definitely be a family favourite .

  12. Sora Jacobs says:

    Everybody loved your moist honey cake. It will definitely become a family favourite. Thanks Shana tova

  13. Laura says:

    Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe! I made it for Passover and it was a hit! I took an extra loaf to my non-jewish coworkers and they loved it so much they asked for the recipe! I’ve shared it on my dairy-free cooking blog too!

  14. Medeja says:

    Nice recipe 🙂 sounds like a very delicious cake, looks good too.

  15. Mandy says:

    This sounds like a great recipe. Does it work in a round cake tin? If so, does anyone know what size round tin to use?

  16. Karen says:

    We’ve been looking for a great honey cake. The edges of a cake with this much sugar will burn easily. I tried this recipe at 350 degrees as recommended – and it burned the edges; the top was overly brown. So the burned sugar took away from the flavor of the cake. Next time, I will try 275 to 300 at the most for 60 minutes +/-. I rarely bake any cake over 325 degrees.

    We enjoyed the center of the cake, and the orange, coffee, honey is a delightful combination. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  17. Pingback: Rosh Hashanah recipes. | Over the Face of the Waters

  18. Andrea Keener says:

    What would be the best way to store my cakes for a few days. Great receipe!

    • Juliana says:

      I’m afraid I don’t have an official answer on that one. I think it would be fine on your counter (wrapped) for a day or two, or good in the fridge for a few days. Glad you liked the recipe!

  19. Daniel says:

    Honey cakes tend to store well and improve their flavour and moistness with age. If you added a dash of whisky, as in Marcy Goldman’s original recipe, the cake will store even better! A whole cake in a sealed cake tin stored in a cool place has always worked very well for me. Once you cut the cake, it’s best to eat it within a few days. The only problem for us has been keeping our greedy hands off it for long enough to let it mature!

  20. Rena Forg says:

    I love this recipe. I have tried 3 size pans. I made it in 1 big loaf pan and it overflowed and collapsed. Used 3 small loaf pans and it overflowed and collapsed. I used a large rectangle pan and it worked. I may try next time to lower the temperature and see what happens. All in all, this my favorite honey cake recipe.

  21. Marilyn says:

    Perfect recipe for 24 cup cakes!

    Thanks!

  22. Eleanor says:

    Can i use something to replace orange juice?

    • Juliana says:

      I don’t have anything to recommend offhand, since this is the only way I’ve ever made the recipe. If you find something that works, let us know!

  23. Pingback: 10 Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake Recipes to Impress Your Jewish Family & Friends With

  24. Leann says:

    L’Shana tova. Can the cup of oil be replaced by a cup of unsweetened apple sauce?

  25. Leann says:

    P.S. If applesauce is used, do I need to adjust the baking time?

  26. Jennifer Clark says:

    Leann, did you try the apple sauce? If so how did it turn out, also, did you have to make any other adjustments? Thanks!

  27. Y-Quyen says:

    This recipe looks delicious and I’m planning on making it tomorrow for my book club dinner, but I have a question.

    For the orange juice, do you just use store bought, or do you fresh squeeze and orange?

    Thank you for the lovely recipe!

  28. Rajani says:

    I made this cake. Super easy to make. I made no changes to recipe. Cake is delicious.

  29. Jo poss says:

    Loved the honey cake. Can I use extra orange juice instead of the coffee?

  30. Cal says:

    I’m a beekeeper and was looking for a honey cake recipe that would highlight the taste of honey, not bury it with spices and other ingredient flavors. So, I tweaked your recipe a bit and got exactly what I wanted. My changes were: melted butter instead of oil, dropped the white and brown sugar and increased honey to 1.5 cups, dropped the orange juice and coffee/tea liquids and just used 1/2 cup of warm water. Baked it in a 9 x 13″ pan, lined with parchment paper for 45 min, mostly at 350F, although I turned it down to 325F for the last 6-7 minutes because I was concerned about the top getting too brown. If I were too change anything for the next time, I’d think about increasing honey to 2 cups, to increase sweetness and moisture – maybe a tad more water also.

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