Something happens to me around festivals and holidays. I become fixated on (a) seasonal baked good(s) and transform my kitchen into a gift making factory. Often I am not even sure who will be the lucky recipients, yet I churn out batches of sweet treats to give away in a frenzied, almost possessed state.
Perhaps the most commonly requested recipe at this time of year is for honey cake. Traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), which falls next week, honey is present in many of the festival dishes to symbolise a sweet new year. After trying numerous honey cake recipes with varying degrees of success, I stumbled across Marcy Goldman's and never looked back. Her cake is wonderfully spiced, sweet and extremely moist, and will convert any person who has vowed never ever to eat another piece of dry, tasteless honey cake again.
Marcy Goldman is the queen of festive treats, famous not only for her Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, but also for her Caramel Mazo Crunch and Lawsuit Buttermilk Muffins. And I made her honey cake recipe, verbatim, for years. Until my neighbour brought me her mother's honey cake. And it was not only moist, it was dark and sticky and unlike any other honey cake I had ever tasted. I shamelessly begged for the recipe, which said mother was not too keen to share (under the auspices of being a "family secret").
But I eventually wore her down, and when she finally handed over her carefully transcribed sheet of paper (now firmly glued into a notebook), the secret was revealed. It was not in fact a honey cake at all. It was a golden syrup cake. And a complete game changer. I began to tinker. I felt like a bit of a fraud making a honey cake without any actually in the batter, but replacing half the honey in Marcy's version with golden syrup made an already perfect cake even better.
So, for all of you who have asked, don your aprons. You have one week to get baking and serve this cake at your Rosh Hashanah feast, or just enjoy with a cup of coffee.
Please share your traditional honey cake recipes I would love to try them!
As gifts, I make these as loaf cakes, but when I serve it as one of my desserts or for tea over the holiday I make it in a 25cm (9 1/2-10 inch) bundt tin, tube pan or angel food pan. This recipe makes either three 20x11cm (8x4 1/2 inch) loaves or one large cake.
To decorate I either sprinkle the top with sliced almonds (although I often curse loudly about 10 minutes after they go in the oven when I realise the almonds are still on the counter and not in fact on top of the cakes), or I make a simple honey glaze (recipe below). This version of Marcy's recipe uses a chocolate glaze which also works surprisingly brilliantly.
Adapted from Marcy Goldman's Majestic and Moist New Year's Honey Cake in A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (or anywhere on the internet!)
440g (3 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
250 ml ( 1 cup) vegetable oil
175g (1/2 cup) honey
175g (1/2 cup) golden syrup
300g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
100g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
180ml (3/4 cup) orange juice
250ml (1 cup) freshly brewed coffee (or strong tea)
either a handful of slivered almonds
60g (1/2 cup) icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp honey
1-3 tsp hot water
Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
Grease and line loaf tins or angel food pan with baking parchment. If using a bundt or tube pan make sure it is very well greased and dusted with flour.
In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
In another bowl mix together remaining ingredients, adding coffee last
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients, mixing with a strong whisk or wooden spoon and combine until all ingredients are fully incorporated. (You can try to mix it in an electric mixer, but it is a very wet batter and mine goes everywhere!)
Pour into the prepared pans and sprinkle the top with almonds if using
Put cake(s) on a baking sheet in the oven and bake loaf tins for 40-45 minutes, or bundt/angel cakes for 55-65 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed. As the batter is liquidy it may take extra time, depending on your oven.
Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
While the cake is cooling, if you want to glaze the cake, mix together the icing sugar, honey and 1-3 tsp hot water, depending on how thin you want it.
When the cake is still warm, trickle, spoon or brush the glaze over the cake.