Heavenly Honey Cake Recipe and Tips

With a decadent chocolate glaze and sprinkle of flaky sea salt, this Rosh Hashanah classic gets a fresh new take from Gourmet Live's Kemp Minifie
by Lauren Salkeld, Epicurious
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, 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.

To reinvent this traditional Jewish treat, we turned to Kemp Minifie, resident recipe guru at Gourmet Live and former executive food editor of Gourmet magazine. Minifie baked the honey cake in a Bundt pan-honey cakes are often presented as simple loaves, but a Bundt pan makes the cake more festive and more symbolic. Similar to shaping challah into a circle at Rosh Hashanah, baking a round honey cake signifies the continuation of life, which is particularly appropriate for the New Year holiday.

Minifie's next priority was to create a cake that's moist and full of flavor, which she achieved by increasing the oil and upping the spices to include not just cinnamon and cloves but ginger as well. Next, to really transform the honey cake and give it wider appeal, Minifie added a luscious chocolate glaze and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

"My motto for many years was that just about everything is better with chocolate," says Minifie. Rosh Hashanah honey cakes, "are basically spice cakes, and chocolate works particularly well with spices," reasons Minifie. The glaze, which is similar to ganache but made with coconut milk and corn syrup, also lends "an extra-special finish" to what's considered a celebration cake. The sea salt garnish is optional but looks really beautiful atop the shiny dark chocolate. Plus, "chocolate responds well to a little salt," says Minifie. "It's the secret to chocolate-chip cookies-the salt balances the sweetness and really makes the cookies work."

Minifie's reinvented honey cake makes 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," she insists. 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.

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recipe tips:
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.

HONEY CAKE RECIPE
by Kemp Minifie, Gourmet Live

YEILD: Makes 1 (10-inch) Bundt cake
ACTIVE TIME: 40 min
TOTAL TIME: 4 hr
With its velvety chocolate glaze and snowy flakes of sea salt, this dressed-up honey cake is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. It's equally ideal for any other occasion or celebration, whether it's a dinner party, an impromptu gathering of friends, or a school bake sale. It's that simple-and that good. Don't be surprised if people start pestering you for the recipe after their first bite.

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INGREDIENTS
For cake:
- 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

For garnish:
- Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (optional)

EQUIPMENT
- a 10-inch Bundt pan; nonstick baking spray (shake well first; see Cooks' Notes); cake tester or wooden skewer for testing cake doneness

PREPARATION
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.

cooks' notes:
- Nonstick baking spray: Normally, I'm not inclined to use nonstick baking sprays, preferring to line the bottoms of greased cake pans with parchment paper, then greasing the paper and flouring the pans to ensure that the cake releases easily from the pans, but the design of a Bundt pan makes that method impossible. While developing this recipe, I had a disaster when the top half of one cake remained in the Bundt pan when I tried to turn the cake out (and I thought I had really played it safe by using a well-oiled nonstick pan, albeit an old one). On my next attempt, I turned to the nonstick baking spray, and since then, it has worked like a charm.
- Measuring oil and honey: Both should be measured in a liquid measuring cup. The oil is listed first, because if you measure the honey in it afterward, without washing the cup, the honey will slide out easily, with barely any help needed from a rubber spatula.
- Inverting the cake onto a rack: The best way to do this is to place a rack over the top of the pan, then, holding the rack and pan together, flip the cake pan and rack over so that the cake can slide safely out of the pan onto the rack.
-
Chopping chocolate: The easiest way to chop chocolate is with a long serrated bread knife. Or you can break the chocolate into squares (if you are using a bar) and pulse it in a food processor.

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