This time of year always reminds me of beginnings. Yes, I know it’s not even close to New Year’s, but for me September is filled with new pencils, shiny lunch boxes, and packages of college-ruled lined notebook paper. It doesn’t matter how old my girls get…if it’s their first day of school, they know I will want their picture. Case in point: my younger daughter is starting her first week of graduate school in Savannah this week, so I had her text me her first day picture…she looks cute, young, yet grown up at the same time. I also love Autumn recipes that feature the warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves (a divine trinity if ever I heard one, typically found in bourbon), and you know it’s Fall when you start seeing the words “Pumpkin Spice” applied to almost any foods imaginable. In the Jewish tradition, this week we also celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It’s 5778 for those that are counting. Food is an obvious way to celebrate a holiday (Christmas dinner, anyone?), and we Jews have a slew of traditional foods to serve at our Rosh Hashanah gatherings (don’t ask me how many a “slew” is…). Customarily, dishes that are sweet (both entrées and desserts) are served at Rosh Hashanah, symbolizing culinarily the wish for a sweet New Year. Roast chicken with apples and almonds is one example of a sweet, savory entrée, while the ubiquitous brisket usually makes an appearance at the holiday table. But this blog is about baking, so it’s the desserts on which I want to focus, specifically homemade Honey Cake.
Apples and honey are the traditional symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah, so desserts that feature one or both of those ingredients are usually on the dessert tray. My go-to Honey Cake recipe (one I’ve been making since 1993) is sweet without being cloying, studded with pecans, and definitely not the dry, tasteless versions to which I’ve sometimes been subjected. This year I decided to dress it up with a special ingredient that I found at Trader Joes…Apple Cider Jam. Apples…check! Honey…check! On to the recipe!
Homemade Honey Cake
from the Los Angeles Times Food section, 9/9/1993
- 1-1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
- 6 Tbsp hot water
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tso baking soda
- 1/2 ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger (I also add 1/4 tsp nutmeg…it just belongs)
- Dash ground cloves
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (I also used 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans for the topping
- 1/2 cup Apple Cider Jam (or enough to cover the top cake when warmed)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a 8-x4-inch loaf pan and line with greased parchment paper. (Note, I use a baker’s spray and a non-stick loaf pan, no parchment paper needed)
- Dissolve instant coffee in cup with hot water. Let cool.
- Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, (nutmeg, if you follow my lead), and cloves
- Beat eggs lightly. Add Sugar and honey and beat until mixture is very smooth and lightened in color. Gradually add oil and beat until blended.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture alternately with coffee mixture, each in 2 batches. (Note: I just did this mixing in my stand mixture on low speed. Why not?). Stir in coarsely chopped pecans.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack and carefully peel off paper (if using). Cool cake completely.
Here’s where I deviated from the recipe: warm the jam on in a small saucepan on low heat until loose and runny. Drizzle the jam onto the cooled cake, allowing it to drip off the sides (I placed a paper towel under my cooling rack to catch the drips). Sprinkle on the finely chopped pecans.
This cake tastes even better when it’s made one or two days ahead, but I served it the same day I baked it. The combination of the honey cake with the chunky cinnamon apples and finely chopped pecans was a wonderful finish to our holiday meal. You can serve it with freshly made whipped cream (please, not the stuff in tubs or in a can!), or on its own. Either way, it’s a delight to serve.
Do you have Autumn baking recipes that you make year after year? Please, share them with the group. And to all, whether you celebrate Rosh Hashanah or not, I wish you a healthy, happy, prosperous, and sweet next 12 months.
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!