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.
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!
- 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
- 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).
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- 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.
- 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).
- Let cool 15 minutes before removing from the baking dish. Slide a knife around the edges to help loosen the cake, if necessary.