This is my chocolate honey cake for the upcoming Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah. In Judaism, Rosh Hashanah literally means “head [of] the year“, is the first of the Jewish High Holy Days, also known as the “Days of Awe“. According to the teachings of Judaism, Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the civil year, and is the traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar, attending synagogue services (which this year means virtually attending), reciting special prayer as well as enjoying a festive meal.
Eating symbolic foods is also an important part of the Rosh Hashanah tradition, and that’s why this holiday has always been a favorite of mine. Honey cake is considered a Rosh Hashanah go-to, but bland is what comes to mind with most I’ve had. Special foods often consumed on this Jewish holiday are sweet foods or savory foods involving carrots or honey, to help evoke a “sweet” new year ahead. Honey cakes themselves have had a long and diverse evolution. Love them or hate them, this Rosh Hashanah classic has demonstrated serious staying power over the years. And its evolution exemplifies an impressive culinary journey. In fact, many believe this simple cake actually connects Jews to the Torah, holidays, and to the sweetness of life itself.
Truthfully, I’ve never loved any of the honey cakes I’ve had over the years. So this year I decided to develop my own. My chocolate-cinnamon honey cake, altered my feelings on honey cake forever. With its subtle sweetness and hints of cinnamon and chocolate, I think it’s totally addictive. Elegant enough for a new year’s celebration, but simple enough to accompany your Monday morning coffee. (And yes, I’ve tested this). Three basic ingredients make this honey cake exceptional; coffee (decaf is perfectly acceptable), almond flour, and really good quality local honey. The result; a moist cake, that’s not sticky-sweet, with just the right amount of richness.
But besides blandness, I’m curious, why are the honey cake haters so disproving of such a well-known favorite? Some believe that the honey cake’s place at the table is a matter of tradition or nostalgia, rather than an actual appreciation for the cake itself. One NPR article I read connects the traditional obligation honey cake to its cousin, Christmas fruit cake, both coming with a long list of grievances, such as; too dense, dry, too sticky or overly sweet. All of things I’ve totally experienced with cakes I’ve had in the past, but I think my chocolate-cinnamon honey cake may just address all of those grievances, while still honoring the tradition itself.
A modernized version of a classic is what I’m calling this honey cake. The base was strong to begin with, to me it just needed more character. Perhaps this recipe will be more appealing to the younger generation of Jews and they will embrace my changes and learn to honor (even like) honey cake like their ancestors. But what’s really important to remember, is that traditions can be just as meaningful, even if some minor adaptations are required along the way, honey cakes included.
Chocolate-Cinnamon Honey Cake
- 4 ounces vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 4 ounces good quality honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
- dash of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 ounces room temperature coffee (reg or decaf)
- 1 tablespoon Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease the bottom of a 6 cup bundt or angle food tube pan. If using a tube pan, line with parchment paper and lightly grease. Set aside.
- Step 2 In a medium size mixing bowl add the oil, sugar, brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract and whisk to blend. Add the eggs and mix well to incorporate.
- Step 3 In a smaller bowl add the cocoa powder, all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, mix to blend.
- Step 4 Add the flour-mixture into the wet ingredients and using a rubber spatula, mix well to incorporate. Stir in the coffee and mix until smooth.
- Step 5 Spoon the batter in the prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to release any trapped air bubbles. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully rotate the cake, reduce the oven to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes, until the cake is springs back when touched or a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Step 6 Allow the cake to cook before removing from the pan. Right before serving, lightly dust the cake with Confectioners’ sugar.
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