As I mentioned last Wednesday, a week ago was Rosh Hashana – the Hebrew new year. While I am generally not that religious, I really enjoy the culture that goes along with all the Jewish holidays. Of course, that means mainly the gatherings, songs, and the food.
There are a few food traditions for the new year, some of which I love, and some that just do not appeal to me. For example, it is a common practice to serve a fish head at the Rosh Hashanah meal, since it’s the ‘head’ of the year. I’ve definitely never done that one, and never really care to. Fish heads are not my thing.
The most common tradition, is to greet the new year with apples dipped in honey, as a sign of our wishes for a sweet new year. I think even the least religious Jews I know always take part in this one. It’s delicious, fun, and a great way to start thinking about a new year.
There are other traditions as well, but I’ll spare you the culture lesson for now. [[click here if you want to read more!]] The one I chose to tackle was the traditional dessert – honey cake. It is a sweet, moist loaf cake that has a distinct honey flavor, but is not overly sweet. If done right, it is so simple and delicious. My family does not have a honey cake recipe that has been passed down through the generations, so I though I would try to make my own. I did a little research and recipe formulating. I decided to go the authentic route, and make a simple, traditional honey cake – with my favorite whole food ingredients of course.
Traditional Honey Cake
This thick, moist loaf cake has the rich taste of honey without being overly sweet. It tastes fantastic on its own, with a cup of tea, or as a part of a tasty sweet breakfast. [[makes one 9×5 loaf]] prep time: 10-15 mins, cook time: 40-50 mins
- 200g (about 2c) whole grain spelt flour
- 1/4 c sucanat
- 2-3 tsp spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6T melted coconut oil
- 3/4 c honey
- 1/3 c apple juice
- 3 large eggs at room temp, beaten
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C), and grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan.
- Combine all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until well combined, making sure there are no clumps in the flour.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add all the wet ingredients. Mix by hand, with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the batter is smooth and clump-free. The batter will be thin and liquid-y.
- Pour into the greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes – turning the cake halfway through to make sure of even baking (if you have a not-so-great oven, like mine)
- When the cake is done, it will be caramel / golden brown in color, and a toothpick stuck in the center should come out clean. Be careful not to over bake. It is better to be slightly moist and under-done than dried out.
- Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack, then promptly wrap in aluminum foil. Let the cake ‘mature’ wrapped in foil for at least a day – that way the honey really soaks in and all the flavors combine.
[[substitution notes: feel free to use any flour mix for cake, such as whole wheat pastry, etc. I like the light texture and nutty flavor of spelt. You can use brown or turbinado sugar if you do not have sucanat. Feel free to use any neutral vegetable oil as well, but I’m a big fan of coconut oil. For the spices, choose any mixture you like – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice. I love adding freshly ground nutmeg, it adds a subtle richness to the cake.]]
Pumpkin butter is definitely not a Rosh Hashana tradition, but I was in the mood for a sweet autumn flavor to go with my honey cake.
I made Angela’s Pumpkin Butter, but halved the recipe. It filled one standard ball jar. I’m still enjoying this with some of my breakfasts, coffee, and snacks.
I’m curious – anyone ever tried honey cake?
What are some of your favorite holiday foodie traditions?