I'm sure I must've eaten honey cake before. One doesn't attend Jewish schools for four years, make yarmulkes for the boys every Friday, sing songs about apples dipped in honey, dress up as Queen Esther (a character from another buba meis) without, at least once, eating honey cake. But I don't remember so, although I thought this sweet, moist, spiced confection was something worth eating and making again, I had nothing to compare it to. Y., on the other hand, has eaten his fair share of honey cake, so I couldn't help but take his request for a second piece as a compliment.
And it is a good cake. It's moist without being oily; sweet without being saccharine; substantial without being dense; spiced without being cloying. The crushed toasted, sliced almonds give it a nice bit of texture and a good excuse to decorate it with more of the same.
adapted from Carole Walter's Great Cakes
- 1 Tbs. instant coffee
- 2/3 cup boiling water
- 3/4 cup honey
- 2 Tbs. Grand Marnier or the like
- 1 Tbs. dark molasses
- 2 cups sifted pastry flour
- 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
- zest of one orange
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds, plus a few more for decorating.
- Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter an 8-inch ring pan or Bundt pan or a couple of loaf pans or cake tins, dust with flour and set aside.
- Dissolve coffee in the boiling water and set aside. In another bowl combine honey, Grand Marnier, and molasses. Add coffee to mixture, stir well, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and spices. Give mixture a whisk or two to get everything evenly distributed. Make a well in the center and add the yolks, oil, zest, and honey mixture. Whisk until very smooth.
- By any means that work for you (e.g. in a stand mixer or in a bowl with a whisk or egg beater or electric beater), beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until whites hold firm, moist peaks. Gently and briefly fold 1/4 of the whites into the batter. Sprinkle toasted, sliced almonds over the batter, crushing them with your hands as you do so. Add remaining egg whites and fold into batter (Carole suggests about 40 turns).
- Pour batter, which will be very runny and cause you to wonder if you read the quantities right and make you fret that it will never form something even vaguely resembling a cake, into prepared pan(s). Bake 45-55 minutes, or until cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Turn cake out onto a rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle with extra toasted, sliced almonds. Best if made the day before you plan to serve it.
Delicious with good, strong coffee.
I was surprised by how runny the batter was. I thought maybe I'd misread the recipe or done an exceptionally lousy job measuring out the flour and had little confidence that 50 minutes in the oven could possibly turn it into cake. But it did, and a tasty one at that, so let my panic be your panic and save yourself to fret about something else. Like whether or not the cake is going to stick in the ridges of your Bundt pan.
Oh, and happy new year.