As some of you may or may not be aware, last week was Rosh Hashanah the Jewish holiday celebrating the New Year. Because there are so many Jewish families in our town, the public schools had the day off for the holiday.
As I’ve mentioned before, my father is Jewish but has never celebrated any Jewish holiday in my memory. My daughters felt that their grandfather’s background must count for something (we’ll leave that argument to Jewish scholars), and given that we had the entire day off from school with nothing to do, we should celebrate the New Year.
What better place to start than to make a traditional Rosh Hashanah food? I knew that the holiday is typically celebrated with apples and honey (symbolizing a sweet New Year) but beyond that wasn’t really sure what fit the bill.
After perusing the internet, I came upon honey cake which sounded appealing to all of us. I chose Marcy Goldman’s Majestic and Moist Honey Cake recipe.
Having never heard of honey cake, it wasn’t until I started searching for recipes that I discovered there are a lot of honey cake haters out there. Apparently grandma didn’t do the cake justice: too dry, too sweet, too heavy. Even The New York Times food critic Melissa Clark jumped onto the honey cake haters bandwagon. She posted a video on YouTube where she demonstrated her honey cake recipe with substitutions such as red wine, olive oil and additional spices.
The end result was a cake that rose so high it almost touched the upper rack when it was baking on the middle rack of my oven. The sweetness from the copious amount of honey and sugar was held in check by the flavor of the whisky.
My husband and I were reminded of the West Indian rum cake which his family makes. Essentially a moist, dense coffee cake that is both sweet and spicy. I say ignore all of those nay-sayers and give this recipe a try.
This cake merits a place in anyone’s celebration, Jewish or not, and certainly yields enough cake for a crowd.
Majestic and Moist New Year’s Honey Cake
3 1/2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
4 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves
1/2 t allspice
1 C vegetable oil
1 C honey
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 C warm coffee or tea*
1/2 C orange juice
1/4 C rye or whisky*
1/2 C sliced or slivered almonds
(optional)* I used warm coffee and Maker’s Mark whisky. I skipped the almonds because my husband has a nut allergy, but otherwise I think nuts would be a nice addition.
Generously grease and flour one 9 inch angel food pan or a 10 inch tube or bundt cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add the rest of the ingredients. Using a whisk or an electric mixer (I found the mixer to do the trick), combine the ingredients well to make a thick batter. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to be sure no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl. Pour the batter into prepared pan. If using almonds, sprinkle evenly on top of cake.
Place the pan on two stacked baking sheets and bake until the cake is cooked through. Bake 60-70 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cake stand for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Invert and cool on wire rack.