The Jewish New Year is coming up in a few days and it's traditional to eat things round and sweet, like challah with raisins, apples and honey cake. And while I've always been a big fan of the first two, I'd be less than honest if I said that honey cake was a sweet treat that I hankered for. Until now, that is. Because this honey of a cake is everything you want it to be--moist, dark, spiced and a snap to whip up. Whether you're celebrating the New Year or not, this homey cake is a classic you're going to want to have in your repertoire!
I think my prior "meh-ness" about honey cake is that just about all the versions I've tried have been dried-out rather dense, tasteless slabs of cardboard!! Not exactly appetizing! Or celebratory! But this cake, oh, this cake--it's filled with all sorts of goodies like cinnamon, coffee, brown sugar, orange juice and of course, honey, that give it that wonderful flavor and consistency that explain the fuss and excitement that have surrounded this simple confection for centuries!!
And just like in the good old days, the making of this cake is extremely unfussy. No busy housewife preparing for the holidays had extra time to hunt for ingredients not in her pantry hence, the versatility of this cake. Don't have coffee? Sub in tea instead. Like whiskey? Add a splash or use an equal amount of orange juice. And when it comes to mixing, simply use a big wooden spoon or spatula (or a hand mixer if that floats your boat). Makes for quite a stress-free experience which is not only a nice way to bake, but to usher in a new year!! So have a happy, happy new year and a happy happy honey cake too!!
Happy Happy Honey Cake
Makes a dozen generous servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake Time: 60-75 minutes
- 3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves (I didn't use, but definitely do so if you like this spice)
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice (I didn't use, but again do so if you like these spices)
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup lukewarm coffee or strong tea (I used coffee)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup rye or whiskey (you can sub in an equal amount of orange juice if you don't want to use liquor)
- 1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)
1. You can make this in a variety of pans--I used a large, 12 cup bundt pan and simply sprayed it with non-stick cooking spray. You can also bake this in 3 loaf pans, two 9-inch round or square pans or a 9x13-inch brownie pan. You could also use a tube pan and if you do that, cut a piece of lightly greased parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Whatever pan you use, spray them with the cooking spray to ensure they come out easily.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
3. Place the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice into a very large bowl and whisk together well. Make a big well in the center and pour in the oil, honey, both sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, oj and whiskey or rye if using. Use a very strong whisk or and electric mixer on low speed to beat all the ingredients together very well. Make sure you use a spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl down, so that you don't miss any clumps of flour or other ingredients. When batter is thick, pour into whatever pan or pans you're using and smooth the top. Sprinkle with the nuts if using.
4. If baking in a bundt like I did, bake for anywhere from 1 hour to and hour and 15. The cake is ready when the top springs back lightly when you gently push it down with your finger and when a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If you use loaf pans, it'll be closer to 45-50 minutes and for round cake pans or a sheet pan, about 40 minutes.
5. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes and then turn out onto the rack to finish cooling completely. Cake will last for several days well wrapped at room temperature and actually improves on flavor so feel free to bake this a day or two before you are planning to serve it.
Note: Recipe adapted from Epicurious via Marcy Goldman. I also looked at Smitten Kitchen's version of this and all of her readers' comments and reduced the baking powder from 1 tablespoon to 1 teaspoon based on everyone's results--it worked well, no sinking problems and that's really the only thing I changed from the original recipe.