Parve, moist, and full of flavor Jewish honey cake recipe. An easy-to-whip-up cake that pairs perfectly with coffee, tea, and makes for a delightful holiday dessert. Welcome the Jewish New Year and Fall season with a sweet delicious cake.
Why honey cake for rosh hashanah?
Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is one of the most important events in the Jewish religion. It is one of the high holidays that takes place during September - October every year. To mark this holiday, I am sharing my family's recipe for a traditional honey cake. Unfamiliar with Jewish honey cake? It's a classic New Year's symbol, commonly baked for Rosh Hashanah. It symbolizes the will for us to have a sweet New Year. It's a popular custom to gift honey cake to loved ones, motivating you to bake the best and easiest version.
Honey is one of the symbols (simanim) that represent this holiday, along with apples, beets, gourd (pumpkin), pomegranate, dates, leeks, black-eyed peas and fish head. Most, if not all, of the food in this festive holiday meal will be on the sweet side and we also dip the challah in sugar and not in salt like in every Friday meal or holiday.
What is Jewish Honey Cake?
Amid various honey cake recipes globally, the Jewish version stands out with its simplicity, commonly baked as a loaf or bundt. Layerless, frosting-free, and minimally decorated, this rustic cake boasts an incredibly delightful taste. The cake is non-dairy dessert (parve) that fits the rich heavy holiday eve meal that contains meat. This cake reminds me of home while I celebrate the holidays with my family. We like to have it before and after Yom Kippur fast and during Sukkot too. Delicious year-round, yet commonly baked for the Jewish high holidays at the year's start.
Honey - that's the main flavor of the cake and it adds sweetness and the unique flavor of honey. The best honey to use is one that is of good quality and that you love too, remember it’s the main flavor of the cake!
Baking soda - the leavening agent of this cake. In order to make the cake airy, we use baking soda.
Sugar- yes, the cake contains honey that is sweet but sugar is needed too to create the cake texture and to add a bit more sweetness for a sweet new year.
Coffee - the coffee for the cake can be brewed coffee or simply instant coffee with hot water. If you prefer, you can use black tea instead of coffee. The flavor will change accordingly. In addition to flavor, the coffee adds color to the cake. The coffee’s bitter flavor balances the sweetness of the honey and sugar and it makes the outcome cake taste just perfect. If you don't like coffee or don't want to use tea, you can also substitute it with orange juice or non-dairy milk, but I find it changes the cake flavor completely so it's up to you.
Cinnamon - add more flavor and sweet aroma to the cake with cinnamon. You can also add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract if you want even more flavor, or check out the tips section for other spices recommendations.
How to make honey cake for Rosh Hashanah
The process of making this honey cake simply starts by making a cup of coffee and letting it cool down. Next, you mix the honey with the baking soda in a bowl until you get a light brown, sort of creamy texture. According to my mom (who gave me this recipe), this helps with the rising of the cake. Then you continue with separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites with sugar in a stand mixer to get an airy texture that will help make the cake airy, fluffy and soft. You then add the rest of the ingredients to the egg white foam and mix to get a unified batter. Don't overmix the batter as it will cause the gluten in the flour to develop which will cause dense rubbery cake instead of moist and fluffy. Pour the batter in 4 loaf tins and bake.
The recipe of this yummy cake is one I consider to be an easy recipe. The only annoying part is separating the eggs which I personally don't like doing, but it's essential for the cake to have the best texture. While this cake doesn’t look fancy – it’s super delicious! The combination of coffee, honey, and cinnamon will give you a warm homey feel.
Tips and variations
- Keep the cake in the fridge covered in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- The cake lasts 3-5 days easily.
- The cake freezes well and you can bake it in advance, freeze and then thaw for the holiday. Make sure to cool the cake completely before wrapping in nylon and freezing it.
- If you want to garnish the cake, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar on it or drizzle it with a bit more honey.
- You can make the cake a bit more interesting by adding raisins to the batter. Or even an orange / lemon zest. You can also sprinkle all kinds of nuts like almonds, pistachios, pecans, etc. on top of the batter before baking.
- If you like spicy cakes add ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground ginger and ½ teaspoon ground cloves. You can also use just a teaspoon of pumpkin spice mix but omit the cinnamon in the recipe. It will blend with the cake flavor and you will have a delicious fall spicy honey cake.
- The cake is naturally non-dairy since the recipe calls for oil. You can use any vegetable oil you prefer, even olive oil will work, just choose one that doesn't have a strong flavor so it doesn’t overpower the honey flavor of the cake.
- The recipe yields 4 loaves or more if you bake in small loaf tins. You can bake it as muffins too but bake it for less time. I would try baking for 15-20 minutes and check if it's ready. If you don't need a lot of cakes you can half the recipe easily- use 3 eggs, ½ cup honey, ½ cup sugar, 2 cups flour, ¼ cup oil, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ½ cup coffee. Pay attention, the only ingredient I would halve is the baking soda.
- This cake will work with gluten free all purpose flour, one that you can substitute in equal amounts with regular all-purpose flour. If you want a bit more healthier gluten free version made with almond flour, check out my gluten free honey cake recipe.
Jewish Honey Cake is a traditional dessert commonly enjoyed during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Its distinctive flavor comes from the generous use of honey, symbolizing a sweet year ahead. The combination of whipped egg whites and baking soda gives the cake a light and fluffy texture, setting it apart from other traditional cakes.
Yes, you can use various types of honey for the recipe, depending on your preference. While most recipes call for regular honey, you can experiment with different varieties like clover honey, wildflower honey, or even buckwheat honey for unique flavor profiles.
Absolutely! Jewish Honey Cake often tastes even better when made in advance. You can bake the cake a day or two before serving, as the flavors tend to meld and intensify over time. Store it in an airtight container at room temperature.
For a healthier twist, you can try replacing some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour or using a healthier oil option like coconut oil. You can also reduce the sugar amount slightly or use natural sweeteners like maple syrup or agave nectar, though it may alter the taste and texture slightly.
To keep your Jewish Honey Cake fresh, store it in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3-4 days. If you plan to keep it longer, consider refrigerating it to extend its shelf life.
Yes, you can freeze Jewish Honey Cake for later enjoyment. Wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe container. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Thaw the cake at room temperature before serving.
Though it is a traditional treat for Rosh Hashanah, Jewish Honey Cake is delicious and enjoyed throughout the year. Its rich history and delightful flavors make it a favorite for any special occasion or as a sweet indulgence anytime.
Other Rosh Hashanah recipes on my blog:
For all my Rosh Hashanah recipes check my Rosh Hashanah recipe index.
Bake this Honey Cake today!
Indulge in the sweet and flavorful tradition of Jewish Honey Cake with this delightful recipe. Whipped egg whites create a light, airy texture, while the perfect balance of honey, sugar, and cinnamon adds a heavenly taste. Drizzled with more honey or a dusting of powdered sugar, these moist and aromatic loaves promise to transport you to a realm of pure bliss. Prepare for a sweet New Year and let the baking begin!
Enjoy baking and savoring this delectable Jewish Honey Cake! Wishing you a happy and sweet New Year!
Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake
- 6 eggs separated to yolks and whites
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup coffee - cooled (water mixed with instant coffee powder or brewed coffee)
- Make 1 cup of coffee and let it cool completely.
- Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F degrees with the fan on.
- In a bowl, mix the honey and baking soda together until it becomes a light brown color.
- In the mixer bowl with a whipping hook, whip the egg whites and sugar to a light foam.
- Add all of the other ingredients (including the 6 egg yolks) to the mixing bowl and continue whipping until all the batter is unified.
- Pour into 4 loaf cake molds.
- Bake for about 45 minutes.
- Cool at room temperature.
- Garnish with more honey or powdered sugar.
- Have a happy and sweet New Year!