Amina Harris: A New Take on Honey Cake!

September 1, 2010 at 5:59 pm 8 comments

Delicious honeycake…are you ready for the New Year?

Okay. Here we are and it’s almost Rosh Hashanah. I cringe when I think of the honey cakes I have been served over the years all in the name of Rosh Hashanah and honey. These cakes – should one call them ‘cake?’- are dark, greasy, hint of coffee, and very sweet. They are loaf-shaped so they should be used, much like our gentile counterparts do with December fruitcakes, as doorstops. The rich, elegant flavor of a light, sweet honey is absent in these cakes; they are an insult to honey and an insult to the Jewish New Year.

I wonder how many people are shaking their heads saying, “I LOVE that honey cake!” Simply – I don’t!

I am in the food business. I sell honey and a few other wonderful delights, but primarily honey.  So I know my honey. I also love to bake and about 8 or 9 years ago I went on a quest to find a honey cake recipe that would taste like a wonderful cake sweetened with honey rather than an overweight bran muffin. I wanted a cake you could look forward to eating.

The first edition of The Settlement Cookbook was published on April 30, 1901. By 2004, cookbook had gone through 40 editions and sold over 1.5 million copies.”

I’m no longer sure where I found the simple white cake, made with sugar, that I decided to use as my starting point. It might have been from Joy of Cooking or from the old Settlement Cook Book. I thought, “What could be easier?” All I had to do was come up with the right variety of honey in the right amount, and I would end up with something very delectable! It was!

What makes honey the RIGHT honey? For a light cake like this one, I focused on using a light colored and light flavored honey. I prefer honey that has not been overheated or filtered (this eliminates most supermarket varieties!). As suggested in the recipe below, I successfully tried selections that included Sweet Clover, Star Thistle, Fireweed or Orange Blossom. What makes each of these honeys unique is the topic for another post!

Some suggestions for your honey cake…

Try to find a honey produced and processed by a local beekeeper. Look at it and taste it. If the color is dark – and the flavor is heavy – don’t use it! Having trouble finding a great honey? Check out my company’s website: Our honey (and all our products) is certified kosher.*Curator’s notes!

Once the cake was finished, it needed an equally delectable topping. Honey cake is baked for Rosh Hashanah so I decided a sliced and spiced apple topping would be the perfect complement. Use a tart, firm apple in the recipe below (skip golden and red delicious!).

I live in Davis, California and belong to a havurah – a group of about 12 families formed from within our local synagogue. At a Shabbaton in the foothills of the Sierra this past summer, one of our members suggested that our havurah make the honey cakes for this Year’s Rosh Hashanah Oneg.  We started talking about the oily cakes we all had known, agreeing that such cakes were memorable only because we HAD to eat them once a year. I chimed in (how could I not?) to say that I would be thrilled to make the cake for the synagogue. I offered my recipe and the honey needed to make it. This year Bet Haverim will have a real Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake made with love and joy by the members of my havurah. What a treat!

The whole honey family!

I mentioned I am in the food business. My family owns a company called Z Specialty Food. Our Gourmet Honey Collection,™ with ten natural varieties, is Moon Shine Trading Company’s hallmark. This fall, just before Rosh Hashanah, our son Josh will be returning home to begin to learn all about our company with the hopes of making it his own one day. It will be the beginning of a wonderful New Year. Please send me your thoughts about honey cake, recipes and ideas. I’d love to hear from you!

Shana tova!

Yummy Honey Cake

This is NOT your traditional Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake.

It is light. It is delicious.

It is cake in the truest sense of the word!

1/2c. Moon Shine Honey (Sweet Clover, Orange Blossom, Star Thistle or Fireweed are all terrific in this recipe)

1/3c. melted butter or margarine

2 eggs

1/4c. sour cream or plain yogurt

1 t. vanilla

Mix honey and melted butter together.  Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla and sour cream or yogurt.

1-1/2c. all-purpose unbleached flour

1 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

Sift all dry ingredients together.  Add the flour mixture to the honey mixture in about three parts.  Stir the batter after each addition until silky smooth.

Like nuts?

1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Fold nuts into batter and pour into a 9″ greased cake pan.

Bake for about 1/2 hour at 350° or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve with this terrific topping:

2 c. sliced apples

1 T. lemon juice

2 T. butter or margarine     cinnamon

1 T. Moon Shine Honey

Sauté the apples in the butter or margarine. Add lemon juice and cinnamon to taste. Cook until the apples are soft. Remove from heat and add the honey. Stir well.

Spoon over slices of Yummy Honey Cake.

*To check out some local Maryland honey, try the Honey Directory or the National Honey Board’s Honey Locater! And here’s an interesting group for making your own!

*Interested in reading more about honey and kashrut? Check out this Star-K Online article and this Ohr Somayach column for more information and discussion!


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Some delicious links! Rosh Hashana at the Okin House!

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sheila  |  September 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve had Moonshine Trading honey from Z Specialty Food before, and it truly is special. The right honey really makes all the difference!!

  • 2. Jacki  |  September 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I’m a big fan of Z Specialty Foods! My fav is the honey and cherry spread. Being vegan, honey is not usually a part of our regular diet. BUT… we make this allowance on Rosh Hashanna.

    Yes, as I’ve said, I’m vegan, so I’ll be giving this recipe a try substituting the eggs with NRG Egg Replacer and using plain soy yogurt in place of the dairy yogurt. I expect that the end result will be a bit denser, but the flavors should be right on!

    Thanks Amina, for revamping the old standard using love and respect.

  • 3. Jacki  |  September 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    OOps! Rosh Hashanah! Not Rosh Hashanna!!!!!

  • 4. Cucee Sprouts  |  September 8, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Shana Tova to you! Great post – thank you. I am making Vareniki for Rosh Hashana this year – a festive addition to the holiday meal!

  • 5. Sarah K  |  September 19, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Great recipe if you don’t keep kosher. But most honey cakes are parve so you can have meat for dinner.

    • 6. Amina  |  September 24, 2010 at 5:41 am

      Hi Sarah:
      I guess it depends what you are having for dinner! Fish, vegetarian and all is well.
      We always eat this well after dinner and usually after services. We’re too full right after the meal.
      But you have a point — will try to figure out some non-dairy replacement for the yogurt or sour cream.

  • 7. Stef  |  September 26, 2010 at 3:34 am

    I made this cake into cupcakes with a Greek yogurt frosting. I admit to being a fan of those heavy honey cakes that you don’t like, but this was a fun twist on the honey cake. Thanks for the recipe.

  • […] got the honey cake recipe from Amina Harris as part of Chosen Foods.  Amina says the recipe tastes better with light-colored and light-flavored honey.  I put this to […]


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