Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the new Jewish year. We make honey cake not only because it is delicious but also because it bodes well for a “sweet year” and what better way to dish up those blessings on to those we love than a rich, honey filled cake. This recipe is taken from Judy Bart Kancigor’s “Cooking Jewish,” a book my father kindly sent to me when I was finishing my conversion to Judaism. It is a wonderful resource of family recipes and I use it as my go-to for major holidays. By adding Catskill Provisions’ Fall honey to the cake it adds the perfect sweetness and also holds up to the coffee, fruit zests and other Fall flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg. This cake is extremely aromatic and is best dished up with a hot cup of tea or coffee.
Another fun part of Rosh Hashanah, is casting off your sins. If you see groups of Jewish people along the water this September, you’ll now know what they are doing. For Rosh Hashanah, Tashlich is a tradition where you throw bread into the water to symbolize you casting off the sins of the year. I always love to take a couple slices to the Hudson and slowly absolve my sins by feeding any seagulls or ducks I can find. Almost like a scapegoat, these ducks eat my sins and swim away, making it a very cathartic experience.
So, Rosh Hashanah is really a beautiful holiday where you take stock of the year and get ready to start anew. My family eats this cake the morning of Rosh Hashanah for a sweet start to the day. I hope you’ll enjoy it as well!
Source: “Cooking Jewish” by Judy Bart Kancigor (Workman)
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil plus extra for greasing the pan
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
2 large eggs, separated
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature (the coffee really influences the taste so use one you love)
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
Powdered sugar for dusting once cake is cooled, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Grease a 9×5″ loaf pan (I doubled the recipe to fit into a massive cake pan but the resulting cake was immense – true family style), dust with flour and tap out the excess.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt together and then set aside.
3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, blend the oil, sugar, honey, egg yolks and zests on medium speed until thick and well blended (about 3 minutes).
4. Reduce the blender speed to low and add one third of the flour mixture. Next add half the coffee. Alternate between the remaining thirds of flour and the last half of coffee, ending with the flour.
5. Stir the toasted walnuts into the batter.
6. Using a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (1- 1 1/2 minutes). Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Then add the remaining whites in three additions folding them in until incorporated.
7. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake in the center of the oven until the cake springs back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (about 1 hour and 10 minutes). Set on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.
8. Run a knife around the edges and turn the loaf out. Return it to the rack to cool completely.
9. Cut the cake into slices and serve with coffee or tea. This cake also goes extraordinarily well with poached pears and cream as a topping for a more decadent dessert.