Miriam and I used to live across the street from each other in Bergenfield, before she made aliyah with her family about four years ago. Before she moved, we had a great talks about food, recipes and specifically honey cake. We discussed how our family’s best recipes formed our opinions of this unique treat, the sweetest cake of the year. We never could decide whose was best, and we present them for you here. You decide!
Miriam’s Orange-Scented Honey Cake
I got this from my Bubby (my mother’s mother), a”h, who used to shop on the Lower East Side. She used to patronize an appetizing store called Saperstein’s and my mom recalls that it was Mrs. Saperstein who gave her this recipe.
2 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
½ c. oil
½ c. sugar
16 oz. honey (about 1 1/3 cups)
Grated rind from one orange
1 c. coffee (prepared and cooled)
1 tsp brandy
Preheat oven to 350⁰.
Grease a 9 x 13 cake pan or line with parchment paper.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.
Separately, mix eggs, oil and sugar.
Then pour the honey and orange rind into the liquid mixture and mix again.
Add the brandy to the cup of coffee.
(Now you have a bowl with the flour mixture, a bowl with liquid ingredients, and a cup with coffee plus brandy.)
Add the flour mixture and the coffee mixture to the liquid mixture in alternating batches (first some flour and mix, then some coffee and mix, then flour/mix, then coffee/mix).
Bake for 50 min to 1 hr (until tester/toothpick comes out clean from the center).
Elizabeth’s Deep Dark “Perfect” Honey Cake
This is my mom Ruth Book’s easy recipe, altered extensively from The Taste of Shabbos, originally published by Feldheim in 1987. Among other tweaks, what my mom stressed in changing the recipe is to add the ingredients in the correct order, and above all, don’t overmix the batter. Just combine the ingredients until there are no lumps of flour; otherwise you run the risk of the cake becoming tough. There are two leavening agents already in this recipe (baking powder and baking soda), so there is no need to develop the gluten in the flour.
1 cup sugar
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup honey
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup strong brewed decaf or regular coffee
Sift dry ingredients and set aside. Beat eggs in mixing bowl. Combine slowly with sugar, oil and then honey. Add coffee alternating with your dry ingredients, taking care to mix only until the dry ingredients are combined.
The mixture can be poured into one greased or paper-lined 9 x 12 cake pan, or two loaf pans, or in mini-loaf or cupcake pans. Fill the greased pans halfway or a little more. Bake at 375 degrees. The baking time can be anywhere from 15 to 35 or 40 minutes, depending on the depth of your pan. Test for doneness by piercing with a toothpick; if the toothpick comes away clean, the cake is done. If you don’t have a toothpick, just wait until the middle of the cake doesn’t jiggle when you move the oven rack. The recipe doubles well and freezes well.
By Elizabeth Kratz and Miriam Hirschman