Honey cake has been on my mind because it is traditionally made during Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, which occurred last week. The cake is sweetened with granulated sugar and brown sugar, but most significantly, with honey, which symbolizes wishes for a sweet new year.
Honey cakes are moist and compact in crumb, fragrant with spices like cinnamon, allspice, and cloves. A rich mahogany color, its scent is warm and inviting; it's easy to see why it belongs on the holiday table. In addition to spices and honey, this cake includes coffee, apple cider, orange zest, and whiskey. While the coffee doesn't assert itself, it does add depth and richness to the cake. Apple cider and whiskey round out the flavors of this heady, spicy cake.
Although there is plenty of honey in the cake, I've added a shellack to the exterior for good measure. Even if Rosh Hashanah is over, honey cake is a perfect recipe for the fall and winter months that will be here before we know it.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup hot, freshly brewed strong coffee
- 2 tablespoons good brandy
- 1 3/4 cups sifted bleached all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (or hazelnuts or almonds)
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 ̊F.
Oil a 3 1/2 by 5 1/2-inch loaf pan, then line it on the bottom and sides with either parchment paper, aluminum foil, or a paper loaf-pan liner.
In a small bowl, add the oil and honey (see headnote). Pour in the hot coffee and stir until the honey becomes more fluid, then stir in the brandy.
In another small bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in the nuts.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the eggs until well blended. Add the sugar and beat until light in color, fluffy, and thick. Beat in the honey mixture.
With a spoon or spatula, stir in the dry ingredients by hand. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55 minutes in the upper third of the oven. Do not open the oven door.
Cool 15 minutes in the pan. Using the parchment-paper lining to lift it, remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely. Peel off the paper before serving.