Every year for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), my mom makes an amazing honey cake. It’s bursting with warm spices mixed with honey and dark coffee and whiskey flavors. We eat as much as we can after the big holiday meal (which is never so much) and then save the rest for breakfasts and desserts the following week. We eat it slowly so it will last and we enjoy every bite.
This year while rationing/eating my take-home honey cake care package, I thought about how this lekach (Yiddish for sweet cake) deserves a place in your fall (and winter) baking rotation.
When I asked my mom for the recipe she sent me a document and I could hear her voice in what she had written. I can hear her dislike for the raisins that she shares instructions for. They’re complete with “optional” and “I don’t usually use them”. She also shares her favorite instruction which is “prepare cake a day or two before eating”. This is the best instruction because it’s true. The cake is good when it first comes out of the oven, but it’s best 24-48 hours after baking.
I thought for sure this recipe was something handed down through generations of women, brought from the old country and surviving in the new. In truth, this recipe has only been in play less than a decade (it’s not even the original honey cake of my youth!). Many honey cakes share the same bones and I’m not sure what drew my mom to it in the first place, (mental note made to ask her) but I’m glad she picked it and made it her own. It’s awesome.
I will say the second most important step is in greasing your pan. I’ve looked at a dozen recipes for honey cakes that cook in bundt pans and the directions ranges from “generously grease” to “lightly grease” to “use greased parchment paper”. I greased something between generous and light and still had my cake break on me…mountains of sadness. Next time I’ll be inserting a piece of greased parchment paper on the bottom.
Oh, kitchen mistakes.
Thankfully the rest pulled out pretty easily and I was able to have an almost level cake (at least for photos!) but many delicious crumbs to munch on.
Also, because it was in pieces I couldn’t pour the coffee glaze over the cake on top of a wire rack (which is what I would normally do to keep it neat), so instead there are glaze puddles. Definitely, not the worst thing.
Here’s to sweet beginnings!
This is a very slight variation on my mother’s recipe which is a variation on Marcy Goldman’s Epicurious Recipe
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¾ cup canola oil (or any neutral oil)
- ¾ cup honey
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar (dark or light is fine, I used a dark)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup warm, strong brewed coffee
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ tsp grated orange zest
- ¼ cup whiskey (I used a bourbon)**
- ¼ cup slivered and toasted almonds (optional)
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 2 Tbsp brewed coffee
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Grease your pan of choosing. I used a 10-inch tube pan, but you can use a bundt pan or loaf pans. Line the bottom with greased parchment paper.
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Once combined, make a well in the dry ingredients add in all the wet ingredients. Using a strong whisk or an electric or stand mixer, bring the ingredients together into a thick batter. Make sure there aren't lumps of flour or dry ingredients stuck to the bottom.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pans.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes for a 10-inch tube pan and maybe 10-15 minutes less for loaf pans. You can test for doneness with a toothpick.
- Let the cake sit in its pan for 15 minutes after it comes out. After 15 minutes, invert it on a wire rack to cool completely. When it's almost fully cooled, make the glaze if you plan to serve it right away. Otherwise, wait to make the glaze until the cake is ready to be eaten. (Mom says: 24-48 hours after it's first baked is when it's best!)
- Combine the confectioners sugar and 1.5 Tbsp of coffee in a small bowl. Mix well. If you need to, add a little more coffee to thin the glaze.
- Place a wire rack on top of a sheet pan. Put the cake on the wire rack. Pour the glaze over the cake, letting any excess drip on the sheet pan.
- Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve!