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What Jew Wanna Eat’s Amy Kritzer Becker: “Sweet Noshings,” Fun with Food and Drunken Honey Pomegranate Cake

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 45
[additional-authors]
February 28, 2024
Photo by Tim Kyle

Amy Kritzer Becker believes cooking should be fun!

“People take it so seriously,” Becker, founder of What Jew Wanna Eat and Modern Tribe and author of “Sweet Noshings: New Twists on Traditional Jewish Desserts,” told the Journal. “It’s just food.”

Especially when hosting holidays, people tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves, they get nervous about how the meal will turn out

“[Guests] are there for you and for the whole experience,” she said, “Not just for your matzo ball soup.”

If you are hosting and people offer to bring dishes, Becker says to let them! Make a few things and let your guests fill in the rest. Or choose recipes that you can make with your family or friends.

“[Do] not worry about making [recipes] with 20 parts,” she said. Start with something simple, like latkes.

“Those are one of my favorites,” Becker said. “I’m always torn between wanting to eat them all year and wanting to save them for Hanukkah to make them special.”

Becker grew up baking with her mom and bubbe. They would make Jewish favorites, like rugelach and mandel bread, along with cookies and brownies.

When she launched her What Jew Wanna Eat blog in 2010, Becker asked her bubbe for some of her recipes to get started.

“She’s the kind of person, no matter what my interests are, she goes into it 100%,” Becker said.

“She had my mom scan all of her index cards [and] email them to me.”

“I took a look at those [little lined note cards], and I was like, ‘What is this?’ Measurements weren’t exact … [directions were like] bake it till it’s done. I quickly got on the phone with her and talked through some recipes.”

Becker started blogging one new recipe a week and soon got emails from readers, who were making her recipes and sending pictures.

“People [were] saying how they really felt connected to their Judaism through food,” Becker said. “And I was like, I think I’m onto something. I think this is even bigger than just food. It’s really part of our identity.”

All of Becker’s recipes are twists on traditional Jewish recipes. She likes to put her own spin on things, while offering extra guidance.

For instance, Becker’s drunken honey pomegranate cake is a twist on traditional Rosh Hashanah honey cake that is perfect year round.. Recipe is below.

“It’s a one-bowl kind of cake, so if you’re just starting to learn how to cook, this is a good one for you to try,” she said.

Whereas honey cake has a “reputation” for being dry, this one – a twist on Becker’s bubbe’s recipe – is the opposite.

“It uses pomegranate juice, honey, and there’s some whiskey in it, which you can leave out,” she said.

Just substitute with more pomegranate juice.

“This is a great cake, too, because, if you make it today, it’s even better tomorrow, and it’s even a little better the next day,” she said. “It’s more moist.”

Becker loves to add color to her food, too.

“A lot of Jewish food, especially Ashkenazi food, is brown, and I think some of the best food is brown: brisket, chopped liver,” she said. “This cake is brown, but it has a pomegranate frosting on it, so it’s bright pink [with] pomegranate arrows on top.”

When adding color, why stop at cake?

“Brown food is some of my favorite food, but I think you eat with your eyes,” she said.

Becker likes to garnish with fresh herbs. For instance, she puts chives on her chopped liver and serves it with a ton of different colorful vegetables for a vibrant presentation.

“My ancestors are from Poland and Austria, so I [feel] like, if they had access to avocados, of course they would have used avocados to maybe garnish a latka,” Becker said. “Why not just incorporate fresh [ingredients] and colorful food into your Jewish recipes too.”

Follow Amy Kritzer Becker on Instagram @WhatJewWannaEat and learn more at WhatJewWannaEat.com and ModernTribe.com.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:

Drunken Honey Pomegranate Cake

From “Sweet Noshings” by Amy Kritzer

Sort of like the Jewish fruitcake, dry, sweet honey cake is usually not welcome at Rosh Hashanah, but it’s always there. This version, however, is super-moist with coffee, pomegranate juice, and whiskey, and it’s one you’ll want seconds of.

Photo by Amy Kritzer Becker

Ingredients:

For Cake:

Butter, oil, or cooking spray for greasing pan

3 cups (426 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring the pan

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

½ cup (115 g) light or dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup (235 ml) canola oil (or vegetable or grape seed oil)

1 cup (235 ml) honey (trick: measure oil before honey and it will slide right out of the measuring cup)

3 eggs

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup (120 ml) strong brewed coffee, at room temperature (can be decaf)

½ cup (120 ml) pomegranate juice

¼ cup (60 ml) whiskey (or more pomegranate juice; I’ve also used amaretto)

Zest from 1 lemon

For Glaze:

1 cup (113 g) powdered sugar

½ –1 tablespoon pomegranate juice

Pomegranate arils (seeds) for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºF. Grease 12-cup (2.8L) Bundt pan and flour lightly.
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg until combined. Set aside.
  1. In a separate large mixing bowl add oil, honey, eggs, vanilla, coffee, pomegranate juice, whiskey and lemon zest and beat with a hand or stand mixer with a whisk attachment until incorporated. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and beat just until combined. You do not want to over-mix and make the cake tough. The batter should be thick but runny enough to stick to the whisk attachment.
  1. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it should fill two-thirds of the pan) and bake for 50–60 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out mostly clean.
  1. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then turn the cake out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
  2. To make glaze, whisk together powdered sugar and enough pomegranate juice to make a glaze thick enough to cover the back of a spoon. Drizzle over cake. Garnish with pomegranate arils and serve.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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