Honey Cake

It's traditional around the Jewish New Year to eat honey cake, (as a reminder of the sweetness of life) but it's a tradition that no one in my family ever really followed--we had sweetness of course, but most of it came from chocolate, our sweetness of choice! The only honey cakes I've ever tasted have been unpleasant and overly spiced and I've pretty much steered clear of them...until now.  This little gem is moist, without being gushy and it's full of chunky walnuts and an interesting meld of flavors!

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My impetus for making this came from a subscriber who asked if I had a recipe for honey cake. I responded "no" but thought to myself, "I really should!" If you read my recent entry for Maida Heatter's Popovers, you would know that she is a baking guru I almost always turn to first for baking advice and recipes. Sure enough, she came through again with this little loaf!

The cake combines not only honey and brown sugar but the addition of brewed coffee and these delicious flour-coated walnuts, which add a really nice crunch.

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The whole thing comes together quite easily. The only real changes I made to the original recipe were to swap out the grated orange peel for lemon zest and to omit using candied orange peel. I just never care for orange flavor in baked goods, but if you lean toward the unrhyming fruit, by all means use it (sorry, but I am a lyricist by trade). Also, I just used regular old honey, though Maida suggests you use a really special brand because of how it affects the flavor. No one in my house seemed to mind.

Here's the batter with the lemon zest instead of the orange.

Here's the batter with the lemon zest instead of the orange.

Once you've mixed all the ingredients together, you pour it into a loaf pan and bake it in a 350ºF oven. According to Maida, it should take 1 hour and 20 minutes but mine was done in about an hour and I even covered the top with a piece of foil at about the 45 minute mark because the top seemed to be getting too dark. In any case, all ovens cook differently, so check early and often so it doesn't burn.

When it's done, you get this cure little loaf, airy, but also somehow dense and satisfying.

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It was delicious on its own, but some people thought it would be even better with a little cream cheese.

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Any way you slice it, this is one honey of a cake! 


Honey Cake

Makes one 9 inch loaf
Prep Time:  20 minutes (not including chilling the coffee); Bake Time: 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes;  Total Time:  1 1/2 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • i cup (3 1/2 oz. walnuts), coarsely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup cold very strong coffee (can be brewed or 2 tablespoons instant coffee dissolved in 3/4 cup water)
  • zest of 1 lemon

The Recipe

1.. Preheat oven to 350ºF. and adjust rack one third up from bottom of oven. Butter and flour a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan or spray it with Pam for baking.

2.  Into medium sized bowl, whisk together flour baking powder and soda, salt and cinnamon. In a small bowl toss walnuts with a spoonful of the flour mixture to coat them. Set aside.

3.  Using electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar slightly, only to mix. Add the butter and honey and beat only to mix. On the lowest speed, add half the flour mixture, then gradually add all of the coffee and then finally the rest of the flour, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula and beating only until smooth after each addition. Remove from the mixer and fold in the walnuts.

4.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top springs back firmly when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. This can take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and twenty minutes.  Check early and make sure top of cake isn't getting too dark.  If it is, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.

5. Let cake cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes before removing. Finish cooling cake on rack right side up. When completely cool, cut into thin slices and serve.

6. Cake keeps wrapped in plastic wrap one week.

Enjoy!

Note: Recipe adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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