Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (which begins this year at sundown on Wednesday, September 4), is a time to reflect on the past and to look toward the future, and honey has long played a significant role in the holiday, symbolizing the hope for a sweet year ahead. While challah and apples are dipped in the sweet nectar, honey is also often baked into a rich, delicious cake. For this year's celebration, we've updated the classic cake, giving it a modern spin.
It's a perfect ending for a Rosh Hashanah dinner or any special occasion. "This is a cake worth making no matter what religion or belief system you follow," insists Kemp Minifie, resident recipe guru at Gourmet Live and former executive food editor of Gourmet magazine. For Minifie's contemporary take on classic Honey Cake, see the recipe included here. And for more advice from Minifie, see her shopping and prep tips below.
Find Your Honey: "There's so much choice out there in terms of honey," says Minifie. She found several honey cake recipes calling for buckwheat honey, "which is dark, very strongly flavored, and not to everyone's taste." Minifie opted for a mild local option from the farmers' market but says it really is a matter of personal preference. Sample what's available and bake with a honey you really enjoy.
Measure Wisely: Minifie, who spent decades in the kitchens of Gourmet, says that the honey and the oil should be measured in a liquid measuring cup-the kind with a spout for pouring. Minifie recommends measuring the oil first, followed immediately by the honey. The residual oil helps the honey slide right out of the measuring cup; if there's anything left in the cup, use a rubber spatula to scoop it out.
Bake Now, Enjoy Later: "Honey cake," explains Minifie, "gets better and better as it sits." For Rosh Hashanah, or any special occasion, she advises baking one day in advance and storing the cake in a cake carrier at room temperature. The cake will be moist and full of flavor on feast day but leftovers will keep for several days after that. The glaze can also be made ahead and kept, in an airtight container, at room temperature. Use a spoon to test the consistency-you want the glaze to drip slowly down the cake. If necessary, warm the glaze in the microwave or on the stovetop until it liquefies just a bit, letting it cool and thicken slightly if necessary. Glaze the cake about an hour or two before serving; the chocolate will firm up but will still retain its lovely soft texture.
See more: Challah Recipes and Tips
Makes 1 (10-inch) Bundt cake
active time: 40 min
total time: 4 hr
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup pure honey
3/4 cup lukewarm coffee (brewed, or instant dissolved in water)
1 1/2 teaspoons packed grated orange zest
For chocolate glaze:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (not light)
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
4 ounces bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate, finely chopped
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (optional)
a 10-inch Bundt pan; nonstick baking spray (shake well first); cake tester or wooden skewer for testing cake doneness
See more: Brisket Just Like Grandma Used to Make
For cake: Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Generously spray pan, including center tube, with baking spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk eggs well in another large bowl and whisk in sugar, oil, honey, coffee, and zest until well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the honey mixture, then stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour batter into pan (it's liquid enough to level itself in the pan), and bake in oven until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Loosen cake from the pan with a thin rubber spatula, then invert cake onto the rack (see Cooks' Notes) and cool completely.
For glaze: Bring coconut milk and corn syrup to a simmer in a small heavy pan, stirring until combined. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate. Let chocolate stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is melted and glaze is smooth. Let glaze stand, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, but still pourable. Transfer cake to a cake plate and slowly pour the chocolate glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. If desired, let the cake stand at room temperature until glaze is set. Just before serving, sprinkle glaze lightly with flaky sea salt, if using.
See more from Epicurious:
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Honey
Your New Favorite Chicken Recipe
A Visual Guide to Apples for a Sweet New Year
Israeli-Inspired Rosh Hashanah Dinner