Thursday, September 25, 2008

the lighter & heavier side of the honey cake

in most jewish homes, especially ashkenazi, come rosh hashanah, tradition is to serve slices of honey cake to welcome the new year. this means there are a million and one recipes for this particular cake, with every family usually having that one special recipe that is baked year after year, a recipe which has been passed down over the generations. often however, people also try out a new recipe every year — in addition to what they traditionally make.

honey cake can be one of those things that people either love or hate, usually for one or two reasons. it's no secret that some can be as heavy as lead and dried out, usually the sign of a bad recipe or something having gone wrong along the way. i mean, really, who would want to eat that every year?!

honey cakes are traditionally a denser type of cake; in other words, they typically have some heft to them. this is mostly due to the ratio of ingredients and the method of baking. of course, there are different variations of the same theme which give rise to honey cakes of the lighter side. these are usually achieved by beating the eggs whites and incorporating them into the cake to make an airier texture.

another issue comes down to spices. not everyone is a spice lover, especially in cakes. children sometimes avoid eating honey cake, lamenting that "it's too spicy!". as a child, i have to admit, i didn't much like it either! invariably there is often an adult guest at rosh hashana who won't touch it either for that same reason.

so, to that end, i bring you the best of both worlds....

the first recipe in this post is for a honey cake which is amazingly good — in fact, excellent — one which involves zero spices, is incredibly light in texture and deep in flavour. the best part is that it honestly improves over the days you keep it. the top of the cake, once baked, is somewhat sticky and caramel-y tasting. the best thing though is how easily & fast it can be thrown together: it's called chiffon style for good reason. no beating of the egg whites with the benefit of a really light texture. the only caveat to the recipe is that you need a large loaf pan,
9 x 5 x 3 inches (don't use the smaller one or you'll have the cake overflow in the oven). since it needs to slowly bake and rise, the cake pan is not greased. you will therefore need to cut out a rectangle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. not following this step will result in you never being able to get the cake out of the pan. after all this said, it's really worth a try! believe it or not, without a single spice in it, it still tastes like a honey cake ;)

the second version — the antithesis of the first — is for that heftier type of cake. this one is equally as good but has spices and requires the egg whites to be beaten and incorporated. the pan, in this case, is greased. you can use a tube pan or a large bundt type one. the recipe makes a very large cake (for a crowd!) but it freezes well for the month of the upcoming holidays.

for several more honey cakes i've posted, look here. check this, too.

have a sweet new year!

chiffon style honey cake

makes 1 loaf (10 - 12 slices) - double the ingredients for a large cake but use a tube pan with removable insert or angelfood cake pan.

use: 23 x 13 x 8 cm [1.9 liters] - 9 x 5 x 3 inches loaf pan UNGREASED.


2 eggs
1/2 c brown sugar (packed) or reg white sugar
1/2 c oil
3/4 c honey
1/2 c strong coffee (or tea)

1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt


if using a loaf pan (you need the standard large one), cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. DO NOT grease the pan -- very important.

if you're doubling the recipe, use an angelfood cake pan with a removable insert, you don't need the parchment paper AND don't grease the pan either).
do NOT use a bundt pan as it will not release from it.

preheat the over to 350 F.

mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

beat eggs with sugar -- add the rest of the wet ingredients.

add the flour in 3 parts to the wet ingredients.

pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350F for 15 minutes. lower the oven to 300F and bake for about 1 more hour. test the cake with a toothpick -- it may need longer or you can raise the temp to 325F. to finish it. don't open the oven before 1 hour or it can fall.

* * * * * * *

rosh hashanah spiced honey cake

makes a LARGE cake (18 to 20 slices) - recipe can be halved


3 tbsp shortening*
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 egg yolks, 4 egg whites
1 c brown sugar, packed
2 c honey
3 tbsp whiskey or brandy**
zest of 1 orange & its juice
3/4 c warm very strong coffee (or strong tea)
3 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each: cloves, allspice, cinnamon & ginger***

*can use (parve) margarine also
**you can omit this and replace with more coffee or o.j.
***or you can use 1 tsp cinnamon alone


1. large bundt pan or angel food cake pan -->well greased and floured - preheat oven to 325 F.

2. mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl; do NOT include the brown sugar in it.

3. beat the egg whites until stiff.

4. blend all the wet ingredients together with the brown sugar in another bowl or mixer until well combined.

5. mix the wet mixture into the dry one until well blended.

6. carefully add the egg whites in several additions to the mixed batter to keep the volume.

7. put the cake batter in the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour or longer -- maybe ~ 1 hr 15 min. test it with a toothpick to make sure the center is cooked. don't open the oven before 50 minutes or so or it will fall.

8. remove from the oven and let cool for approximately 15 minutes. if you are using the angel food cake pan, do not turn the cake over to cool because it will fall out!

9. after initial cooling, remove and let cool completely.



sara said...

i love honey cake!!! guess there's no single crumble left and still the holiday hasn't started ;)
your recipes are always soooo good...

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Both versions look delicious! Yes, heavy and dry honey cakes are terrible! It is generally a sign that something went wrong down the line...

Happy Rosh Hashana!



burekaboy — said...

sari - yo lo se bien a donde fue estos honey cakes! hehe. debo hacer otro de nuevo manana. OY!

rosa - thanks for the wishes :) btw, i think i like the first one the best. try it one of these days...