I know Rosh Hashanah is still 2 plus months away but does eating an irresistible cake ever require a festival? In my books the answer is no so I made this simple honey cake which is characteristic of Rosh Hashanah much like fruitcake is to new year. I know what you are thinking who like fruitcake, emblematically given to not so good friends or passed from one person to another. But funny thing is I love fruitcake which are properly made. Same goes for this honey cake, which usually will be overly sweet and is better forgotten!
Honey cakes when made properly is quintessentially a loaf cake made with honey which one will gladly eat with evening tea or morning coffee. Traditionally it has orange juice, whiskey, rye, cinnamon but seeing the orange I just couldn’t resist and add clove and star anise which I think are a match made in heaven and helps elevate orange flavor. I used clover honey but you can use any honey except chestnut. Instead of rye/whiskey i used orange liquor to deepen orange taste.
Coming to Rosh Hashanah, it’s simply Jewish New Year, and translates to Feast of Trumpets or Head of the Year. Interestingly it is said to be the anniversary of creation of Adam and Eve. So it is celebration of creation of humanity. To celebrate this new year apple dipped in honey is eaten for a sweet year ahead. This honey cake is almost always present on dinner table durin Rosh Hashanah. A two-day event is celebrated with prayers and some good food including leeks, dates, spinach and black-eyed peas.
Keeping the festivities aside for a while I would like to mention that using butter is not kosher so if you are making it for a Jewish friends than use vegetable oil. Butter versus vegetable oil in cake is an age-old battle. Oil makes the cake moist and lighter like those boxed mixed or a grocery store cakes but lacks in flavor and sometimes can have an oily mouthfeel, stripping away delicate flavor. Butter on the other hand makes a better tasting cake which is denser.
Adapted from Modern Jewish Cooking
- 180 grams/ 1 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
- 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel, optional
- 226 grams/ 1 cup/ 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature or 120 grams/1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 200 grams/ 1 cup sugar
- 85 grams/1/4 cup honey
- 4 eggs, large, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of an orange
- 2 tablespoons orange juice, freshly squeezed
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur or replace with orange juice
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and prepare a 8.5 inch x 4.5 inch pan by spraying a baking spray or grease and flour it.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and spices, set aside.
- Add butter to the stand mixer using a paddle attachment and beat for a minute. Add sugar and honey, beat on medium for about 4 minutes. If using oil combine oil, sugar and honey and beat until combined, about 1 minute.
- Add eggs one at a time and beat on low. Add vanilla, zest, orange juice and liqueur and mix on low, until just combined. Add half the flour mixture and beat on low-speed until just combined. Add remaining flour and repeat.
- Pour the batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 15 minutes. Turn out the cake on cooling rack to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.