September 14th is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. It is tradition to dip apples in honey to bring in a sweet new year. There also seems to be a tradition of serving honey cake at holiday dinner. However, every honey cake I ever tasted was terrible and I could not understand why my grandmother insisted we have one every year. No one ate it. It just sat there while everyone picked from anything and everything else on the table. But she insisted it was not the holiday without it.
I apparently was not alone in my hatred of honey cake. All over the internet I found Jewish women complaining it was dry, tasteless and simply not worth the calories. But this year I got to thinking. If honey cake tastes so bad, how did it become so popular? Surely, somewhere along the way, honey cake had to be good. I mean it sounds good. Honey cake. The name alone sounds delicious. So where did this go wrong?
It occurred to me that all the honey cakes we ever had came from the supermarket. And let’s face it, supermarket cake is never as good as homemade. So this year I made a honey cake, that is actually worthy of the name. I added apples to keep with the apples and honey tradition and add some much needed moisture. This year when the honey cake hits the table I’m betting my family kvells.
30 minPrep Time
90 minCook Time
2 hrTotal Time
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 to 2 teaspoons orange zest (1/2 to 1 orange)
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coffee extract or ridiculously strong coffee*
1 cup honey (one 12-ounce jar)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 granny smith apples, peeled and cubed
*I mixed 1 tablespoon of boiling water with 1/2 tablespoon of instant coffee.
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon honey
- Position the rack in the lower third of the oven and on it, place two baking sheets, stacked together. Tip from Smitten Kitchen: This will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil and flour (with brown or white rice flour) one 12-cup Bundt pan.
- Whisk together the first eight ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs a few seconds on medium speed. Then add both sugars and whip until light and very thick (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the bowl.
- Add the vanilla extract and coffee extract to the eggs and beat until the mixture forms a wide ribbon when the beater is lifted out. Scrape down the bowl.
- Add the oil and honey and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl. Tip from Smitten Kitchen: If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.
- Turn the mixer down to low and add the flour mixture in three parts. Beat each of the three additions until thoroughly combined. Note: You have to be careful not to "over" mix when using wheat flour. If you activate too much gluten, your cake will be tough. However, over mixing is not an issue when you use gluten-free flours. There is no gluten to over activate!
- Pour half of the batter into the pan and sprinkle the chopped apples over it. Try to keep them in the center, away from the edges. Fill the pan with the remaining batter. Bang down the pan a few times to level the batter and burst any air bubbles. Note: This is not shown in the photos but I realized folding in the apples just doesn't work. The apples all rise to the top which becomes the bottom of the cake since bundt's are cooked upside down.
- Bake for 85 to 90 minutes until it is well risen and the cake has come away from the sides of the pan. If you press the cake lightly with your finger, it should spring back. Tip: If you are not sure if the cake is done, leave it a little longer. It is better to "over" bake a bit than "under" bake.
- About 5 minutes before your cake is done, boil a cup or so of water. Place a kitchen towel in the sink. Pour the boiling water over the towel until it is completely soaked. Remove the cake from the oven and place it on top of the wet towel. Let it sit for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.
- Sift the confectioner’s sugar into a medium mixing bowl.
- Add the milk. Mix with a spatula until thoroughly combined. Tip: If it is not thin enough, add another tablespoon of milk.
- Add the vanilla extract and honey. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Pour or spoon over a completely cooled cake. Or spoon into a ziploc bag and cut the corner. Allow the icing to set for at least 20 minutes before cutting. Tips: 1. Use the icing immediately before it starts to harden. 2. Set the cake on a cooling rack placed over a cookie sheet. The cookie sheet catches all the drippings!
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