Missing Honey Cake
Fall has descended quickly onto the Chicagoland area and with it came cool breezes and a warm autumn sun. We knew it was coming. Unlike other parts of the country, where seasons change gently and the shift from one to the other is gradual, Chicago weather is like a giant slap in the face. One day it’s 88 degrees with 98% humidity and the next you’re searching for your fleece on a cool, gray, rainy morning hoping it doesn’t snow. Ok, that was a slight exaggeration, but only slight.
However, those fleeting moments when Chicago’s fall season does exist, it is quite lovely. The leaves change colors and the air is brisk but the sun is warm, a time which is inextricably linked in my mind to the Jewish high holidays and walking to synagogue with my grandparents. If you know nothing else about the Jewish religion, you should know that the high holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are important. The beginning of a new year and the repenting of last year’s sins are weighty stuff, but for me – and I expect many other people too – it’s about family.
For as long as I can remember, every Rosh Hashanah my Bubbe (grandma, in Yiddish) would send over honey cakes to help celebrate a “sweet” new year. If you’ve never had a honey cake, allow me to explain how delicious they are. Traditionally, honey cake is a moist, dense, dark cake with honey (of course), dark brown sugar and aromatic spices like cinnamon and ginger. It simply cannot be Rosh Hashanah without honey cake. Even when I went away for college, every year I got a care package filled with honey cake and dried apples from my Bubbe.
In October, it will have been a year since my Bubbe passed away and this will be our first high holidays without her. And though I miss her throughout the year, it alarmingly dawned on me earlier this week: how am I going to get my honey cake without Bubbe??? I realize this is completely illogical as I could simply find a Jewish bakery and pick one up, but it was a poignant reminder of the year that has been, and hopefully of the sweet new year to come.
So in honor of my Bubbe, I wanted to share this recipe for Apple and Honey Cake and wish you all L’Shana Tovah (Happy New Year in Hebrew).
2 C. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. apple pie spice
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 C. margarine or butter
1 C. honey
1 C. orange juice
2 1/2 C. snipped dried apples
3 Tbs. honey
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 2 quart baking dish; set aside. Stir together flour, baking powder, apple pie spice, baking soda, and cardamom. Set aside. In a mixing bowl beat margarine with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the 1 C. honey and eggs; beat until smooth. Add flour mixture and orange juice alternately to the beaten mixture, beating on low speed until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pour boiling water over apples to cover; let stand 15 minutes; drain well. Sprinkle cake with apples. Bake 15-20 minutes more or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. In a small saucepan, heat the 3 Tbs. honey just until warm; drizzle over cake. Cool completely.
Yield: 16 servings