Sunday, September 27, 2009

Majestic and Moist Honey Cake

As you may suspect from the name, this cake has a lot going on. It's boozy, spicy, and very moist. This isn't a simple confection to cap off a meal -- it's more like a light meal in itself. Especially with a cup of tea or coffee.

In Jewish homes, honey cakes are usually eaten on Rosh Hashanah, when the honey symbolizes the sweetness to come in the new year. They're also used to break the fast on Yom Kippur, when tea and sweets can ease you back into a break-fast meal.

But even if you're not Jewish, or it's not the time of year for holidays, you should still make this cake. The honey and liquor and spices come together to give it a great depth of flavor and a tender texture. This cake improves as it ages, and is even better by the second day -- the spices soften, and the honey's ability to attract moisture from the air (it's hygroscopic!) means that the cake gets softer instead of staler as it sits. The crumb becomes even more luscious, and the honey-dark edges turn into an almost syrupy glaze.

I talked earlier about the beauty of the bundt pan, and how it allows cakes that have too much fat and sugar to support their own weight to rise to new heights (and hides it when they don't). This honey cake is one that definitely needs a bundt pan, as well as a bit of special handling to ensure it rises properly. The dry ingredients need to be sifted, a move that doesn't just break up clumps, but also adds air (and, consequently, lightness). Eggs should be at room temperature to give maximum loft, and the final mix should be done with a light hand. Once the cake goes in the oven, try not to disturb it too much until it sets. Although this list sounds a bit fussy, it's really just a few tiny steps to yield a light and moist cake. And even if it does fall, it'll still be delicious.

Honey Cake

adapted from the wonderful Majestic and Moist Honey Cake recipe from Marcy Goldman's Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rum, scotch or whiskey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt or tube pan.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice, and booze until well-blended. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir or whisk until just combined -- do not over-mix. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake until a tester comes out clean, and cake springs back when touched (about 60-75 minutes). Let cake cool in pan at least 15 minutes, and turn out onto a serving plate.


  1. This one is now on my to-do list... I'm actually just finishing your chocolate zucchini bundt, and it was terrific! I love cakes that keep well, and that one does- looks like the honey cake would too!

  2. I'm glad you liked the chocolate zucchini cake! The honeycake definitely improves with age -- if you can keep it around long enough...

  3. It just came out of the oven... One day without cake is long enough for me! I gave away 2/3 of the zucchini cake, and the remainder lasted me 6 days, and was still delicious! I actually halfed this honey cake and baked it into mini bundts. I'm sure I'll post it later today. Thanks for another keeper!

  4. I'm impressed that you kept 1/3 of a bundt cake around for six days. Or maybe I should be horrified at how quickly we scarfed down ours? Hope you enjoy the honeycake (and keep in mind that it will be even better tomorrow)!

  5. I was just thinking about making a cake like this--I was looking for a recipe for my new bundt pan. Thanks!