Parve, moist, and full of flavor honey cake recipe. It’s also easy to whip up and perfect with a cup of coffee or tea; and obviously, is perfect as your holiday dessert. Welcome the Jewish New Year and Fall season with a sweet delicious cake.
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. If you’re not familiar with Jewish honey cake, it’s a classic recipe that perfectly symbolizes the New Year which is why it is usually made for the Jewish New Year. It symbolizes the will for us to have a sweet New Year. It's a popular custom to give a honey cake as a gift to your friends and family and this is why you want to whip up the best and easiest cake possible.
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?
There are many types of honey cake recipes around the world, but the Jewish honey cake is a rather simple one that is baked as a loaf in most cases or round in a bundt pan. This cake doesn't have any layers, frosting or many decorations, it has a rustic simple look but the taste is so good. 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. Obviously it's delicious all year round but usually most people will bake it for the high holidays in the beginning of the Jewish year.
There are only seven ingredients for the cake. Honey, eggs, sugar, all-purpose flour, vegetable oil, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1 cup of coffee.
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.
Other Rosh Hashanah recipes on my blog:
Gluten Free Honey Cake
Nondairy Apple Tart
Parve Apple and Honey Cake
Apple and Honey Cookies
Lentil Carrot Soup
Ricotta and Honey Tart
Silan Date Syrup Cake
Apple Oat Cake
Apple Cinnamon Rosh Hashanah Challah
Vegan Carrot Muffins
Cooked Carrot Salad
Apple Honey Cake (Gluten Free & Dairy Free)
Here is the recipe for this delicious and sweet Jewish honey cake:
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 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!