Friday, September 19, 2008

Honey cake for a sweet new year.

Fall is definitely coming. On Sunday, Toronto had its last heat wave of the season. This week you can smell the change of the season in the air. It's easier to breathe now. The sweaters are coming out.

With fall comes Rosh Hashanah, otherwise known as the Jewish New Year. My very first Jewish holiday celebration was a Rosh Hashanah dinner at R's brother's house. I brought a homemade apple pie from my mom's recipe, since I was told that apples and honey were symbols of the holiday. I'll post a recipe for that soon, since I think that it is a fitting dessert for the Rosh Hashanah table.

One of the first Jewish religious practices that I participated in was the dipping of apples in honey, which is a symbol of a wish for a sweet new year. Since honey is a symbol of Rosh Hashanah, this week's recipe should come as no surprise.

Last night, I attempted to make honey cake for the first time. It's always scary for me to make something from a recipe that hasn't been tested, especially since this time I was going on a recipe that had been printed out in R's chicken scratch, translated from his baba's recipe that she gave to him over the phone many years ago.

I love Baba Luba's recipes. They never involve real measurements or directions. There are no standards. It's always, "You take some sugar, and you mix it with an egg and some oil. You add the coffee and you mix. Add the flour and baking powder and mix more. Put in some honey. Put it in the oven and cook it until it's done."

From that, R got this:

Which I had to translate to this:

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup oil
1 cup strong coffee or espresso (cold)
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup honey


1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the sugar and oil, and mix until smooth.
2. Slowly add the coffee/espresso, mixing as you go.
3. Add 1 cup of flour, the baking soda and the baking powder. Mix, then slowly add the remaining 2 cups of flour.
4. Add 1 cup of honey. (At this point, if you were using a hand mixer, I recommend putting it down because the batter is going to get really thick and sticky.)
5. Mix in the honey by hand.
6. Pour batter into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper (or a greased non-stick pan).
7. Bake at 350F for 1 hour, or until a toothpick poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Before baking this cake, I had only tasted honey cake once in my life. Last time I had it it was store bought. This time it tasted so much better, and I don't think that it was just my sense of accomplishment that made it taste so sweet. This is definitely a good cake to have with coffee after dinner, or as a rather unhealthy companion to your morning latte. When I make this again to bring for Rosh Hashanah dinner, I'm going to attempt to make some sort of honey glaze, and I might try decorating the top of the cake with sliced apples. Wouldn't that be cute?

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