The main course is certainly important, but dessert is arguably the central part of the Rosh Hashanah meal. This is a time to break out the sugar—sweet foods are a must because they symbolize a sweet year to come. Apple slices and honey are the most classic symbols of prosperity, but I figure adding an extra dessert or two to the mix must mean extra good luck. From classic honey cake and rugelach to apple pie and saffron ice cream, we've got all the recipes you need to finish off your Rosh Hashanah dinner right.
Easy, Light, and Tender Honey-Vanilla Almond Cake
Sweet doesn't have to mean unhealthy. This gluten-free almond cake feels indulgent but not gut-busting—we give it a light, airy texture with whipped egg whites stabilized with a little lemon juice. The recipe calls for greasing the pan with butter, but you can use oil instead to keep the cake parve.
Apple Cinnamon Quick Bread
Like honey, apples are an iconic Rosh Hashanah food. Here we pair them with warming cinnamon and just a bit of ginger to make an easy quick bread. Again, if you use oil instead of butter to grease the pan then the recipe is parve. This bread isn't super sweet, but that's nothing a drizzle of honey can't fix.
Our basic challah is already just about rich enough to serve for dessert, but adding fruit to the bread makes it an even better end to a Rosh Hashanah dinner. Here we give challah a fall twist by adding tart cranberries to the dough.
Honey cake is a Rosh Hashanah staple that can be a little, well, boring. Our version gives the classic new life with apple, cinnamon, clove, and whiskey. We also spike the batter with coffee, which gives the cake extra depth. It's already sweet, but we glaze it with warm honey for good measure.
The World's Second-Easiest Fig Dessert
When I have access to fantastic fresh figs I make the easiest fig dessert, which involves nothing more than serving the fruit raw. But with slightly lackluster figs I go for a preparation that is only slightly more involved—cutting them in half, sprinkling with vanilla seeds, drizzling with honey, and broiling until they start to brown.
Gluten-Free Cornmeal Cake
We return to whipped egg whites to give this dairy- and gluten-free cornmeal cake its light texture. Using a very finely ground cornmeal (or even corn flour) also helps make the cake incredibly delicate. Try adding about a lemon's worth of zest to the batter to give the cake a citrusy kick.
Gooey Apple Pie
While it isn't the most traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert, we think apple pie is totally appropriate for the holiday. The best apple pie is a matter of personal preference—this one is for those who like their apple pie on the gooey side. Rather than thickening the filling with tons of cornstarch, we just cook the apples more to reduce their juices.
The Best Apple Crisp
With all of the other preparations you have to do for dinner, I don't fault you for not having time to make a pie. You probably do have time for apple crisp, though, which is just as delicious as pie but much easier to make. The filling is a simple mix of apples, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and whiskey, which we blanket with a nutty, buttery topping.
Made-From-Scratch Caramel Apples
You probably shouldn't skip the apples dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah, but why not eat some apples dipped in caramel, too? The key to making caramel apples at home is to use small, easy-to-bite apples and a caramel that's thick enough to coat the fruit but not so thick that you break your teeth trying to bite through it.
Apple and Pear Tarte Tatin
This elegant tarte tatin marries apples with another of our favorite fall fruits: pears. Cooking the fruit in caramelized sugar emphasizes its natural sweetness. You can make your own puff pastry if you want, but to be honest I tend to just go with store-bought dough (make sure to use an all-butter variety).
Cherry-Honey Blondies With Marcona Almonds
Not all honey is created equal—we love experimenting with different varieties. These fluffy blondies are best when sweetened with a strongly-flavored honey like tupelo or orange blossom. We mix sweet-tart dried cherries into the batter and sprinkle crunchy Marcona almonds on top.
Easy Chocolate Rugelach
Rugelach is a staple of Jewish bakeries, and a lot of it can be pretty terrible—if you've had rugelach more than a few times I'm sure you've encountered one that was as dry as sawdust. Ours are made with a cream cheese dough and turn out crispy on the outside but tender on the inside.
Cranberry Orange Rugelach
Our last rugelach recipe is flavored with chocolate—that's always a popular choice, but it's not your only option. This autumnal recipe goes in a fruitier direction, packing the cookies with dried cranberries, apricot preserves, and orange zest. We also add chopped walnuts for crunch.
Classic Challah Bread Pudding
The best bread pudding is made with chewy loaves, and eggy challah fits the bill perfectly. Since you need stale challah to make bread pudding you're going to want to make a loaf a few days early, which gives you a chance to practice your braiding technique.
Flourless Orange-Saffron Cake
When people say a dish is made with oranges they usually mean orange juice or zest, or possibly the flesh of the fruit. This cake, on the other hand, is made with whole oranges that are softened in the microwave and blended into a paste. The paste makes the saffron-tinged cake extremely tender and adds just a slight bitterness to stand up to the sweet honey glaze.
Saffron, Honey, and Orange Ice Cream
This ice cream incorporates the same flavors as the cake above, but in a cooler package. While our blondies called for an assertive honey, here you're better off with a lighter variety, like acacia or orange blossom, to highlight the floral character of the saffron threads.
Pine Nut Honey Anise Pie
Delicate acacia honey is also a good choice in this pine nut pie, though a floral clover variety would also be lovely. Whatever you use, make sure it's high quality because the honey is a dominant flavor in the dessert. The honey gives the pie enough sweetness to be appropriate for the holiday, but we balance it out with ground anise.
Cinnamon Apple Sour Cream Cake With Spelt
This Bundt cake gets its only fat from sour cream, which keeps it on the healthy side and gives it a tartness that complements sweet apples. We use a fairly standard batter but add a pinch of cayenne—the cake doesn't taste spicy, but the pepper does give it a subtle depth.