September 23, 2019

Let them dat (honey) cake

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is considered a High Holy Day, but it’s also a happy holiday, full of hope and optimism.

I am always impressed by the fact that food plays such an important part during one of the most sacred of Jewish holidays. The traditional foods — apples, pomegranates, honey, grapes — all have a special meaning, and they symbolize a New Year that will be sweet and prosperous for everyone. 

Our family loves the food traditions that are emphasized during Rosh Hashanah, and through the years I have collected an assortment of recipes for many delicious dishes. 

The pomegranate in ancient lore is known as “a first fruit” to be enjoyed during the holiday. Serve a refreshing Pomegranate Ice that can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer. If you don’t have an electric or hand-cranked ice cream maker, just use your refrigerator ice cube tray. The texture may be a little different, but the flavor is no less delicious. For a special treat, garnish with frosted grapes. 

Lekakh, or “honey cake,” is the traditional European cake served on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Perfumed with honey and citrus, this dense spiced cake is one of the significant foods often served at the meal’s end.

I love making a variety of honey cakes during the holiday. On the list this year is an Apple-Walnut Honey Cake and a Honey-Coffee Sponge Cake with a light, appealing texture that comes from the beaten egg whites. Be sure to use strong fresh coffee and a generous measure of spices. I am also sharing a wonderful new recipe, a Honey-Applesauce Cake made without eggs, for those on special diets. 

Finally, I have a recipe for a Macaroon Apple Cake that tastes like an exotic Scandinavian pastry, made with apples and strawberry preserves and topped with a crunchy crust made with crushed macaroons and almonds. It has a subtle almond flavor that resembles almond paste. It can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator. 

What better way to start the New Year?


1 3/4 cups Sugar Syrup (recipe follows)

Frosted Grapes (recipe follows)

2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon fruit liqueur of choice, optional

Prepare the Sugar Syrup; set aside or refrigerate if made in advance.

Prepare the Frosted Grapes; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Combine pomegranate juice, lemon juice, Sugar Syrup and fruit liqueur in a large bowl; blend well. Freeze in an ice cream machine or maker according to directions or, to make without one, pour mixture into ice cube trays or glass bowl. Place in freezer, stirring every hour with fork, scraping sides into center. Continue stirring and freezing until mixture is set. At serving time, scoop Pomegranate Ice into individual bowls; garnish with clusters of Frosted Grapes.

Makes about 1 quart.


2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Place sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to slow, rolling boil; simmer 5 minutes. Pour into glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. May be stored in the refrigerator, covered, up to 1 month.

Makes about 2 cups.


1 egg white

1/2 cup sugar

1 pound seedless grapes, cut in small clusters

In a small bowl, beat the egg white until frothy. Place sugar in a shallow dish. Holding a cluster of grapes by the stem, dip into the egg white. Shake off excess egg white and roll grapes in sugar mixture until evenly coated. Refrigerate on a rack until the coating is set, several hours or overnight.

Makes 1 pound.


1/4 cup oil

1 pound honey

1 cup sugar

1 cup strong brewed coffee

4 eggs, separated

3 1/2 cups flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup sliced almonds

Powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend oil, honey, sugar and coffee. Add egg yolks; blend thoroughly. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and ground ginger; stir into oil mixture, blending well. Set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Fold into flour mixture along with sliced almonds. 

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake 1 hour, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out dry. Invert immediately on a wire rack and let stand, upside down, until cool. Loosen sides of cake with a sharp knife and remove to a cake platter. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Makes 10 to 12 servings. 


1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup ground walnuts

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons vanilla

4 cups peeled, cored and thinly sliced apples

2 cups chopped walnuts

Powdered sugar for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch Bundt or tube pan with 2 tablespoons oil, then dust pan with ground walnuts. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a smaller bowl, blend together eggs, remaining 1/4 cup oil, honey and vanilla. Add egg mixture to the flour mixture, blending for 1 minute. Stir in apples and chopped walnuts.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 1/4 hours or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Loosen cake around the edges. Remove to a wire rack and let stand until cool. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Makes 12 servings.


1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil

1/4 cup ground walnuts

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1 cup applesauce

1 3/4 cup flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, almonds or pecans

 Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with 2 tablespoons oil, then dust with ground walnuts. 

Blend remaining 1/2 cup oil, honey, brown sugar and applesauce in a large bowl. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, then add to the applesauce mixture, blending thoroughly. Fold in chopped walnuts. 

Pour into prepared baking pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack until cake reaches room temperature. 

Using a metal spatula, loosen cake from sides and bottom of pan. Invert onto a rack, cover with a cake platter, and invert the cake right-side up. Before serving, cut cake into 2-inch squares. 

Makes 16 servings.


1 pound almond macaroons, toasted and finely ground

1 cup toasted ground almonds

1/2 cup melted, unsalted margarine

8 tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup raisins, plumped in apple juice to cover

2 (12-ounce) jars cherry, raspberry or strawberry preserves

2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds

Fresh berries (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine ground macaroons, ground almonds and margarine; mix well. Remove 2 cups of mixture and press onto bottom of generously greased 8-inch springform pan. Set aside.

Place apples in saucepan with sugar and lemon juice; mix well. Cook over low heat until juices appear and apples soften, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly; discard liquid. Transfer apples to food processor; process until finely chopped, but do not puree.

Drain raisins, squeeze dry, and add to apple mixture. 

Spoon preserves into a bowl; stir well. 

Spoon layers on top of the macaroon crust in the following order: half of apple mixture, one-third of preserves, remaining apple mixture, another one-third of preserves and remaining macaroon mixture.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes. Cool on rack, remove sides of springform pan, then cover and refrigerate cake at least 6 hours or overnight. Just before serving, place cake on platter, and garnish with sliced almonds and remaining one-third of preserves or fresh berries. 

Makes 8 servings.