Monday, September 23, 2013

Honey Orange Spice Cake

Honey cake is a traditional treat for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Only, you have to wonder whether the definition of "treat" was somewhat different in the Old Country. Honestly, most of the authentic honey cake recipes I've come across are just awful. They all seem to contain honey and coffee and cinnamon and orange juice. As if being persecuted wasn't bad enough, they had to eat this for dessert!

Enough already! Let's make a honey cake that's actually good. Keep it pareve (non-dairy) by baking it in a bundt pan and glazing it. Or frost it in layers for dairy. It's a wonderful New Year in our New World - do what works for you.

This recipe is kind of modular. You can frost it, glaze it, both, or neither. Top with honey, orange zest, pistachios, whatever. But if you use flat-bottomed cake pans, this part is non-negotiable: you must line your pans with wax paper or parchment. Honey is sticky, and honey cake batter is ... sticky. Grease and line the pans, or you'll be breaking your New Year's resolution to cut out the profanity big time.

Honey Orange Spice Cake
4 tablespoons honey
1 3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
zest of one orange

Using the whisk attachment, beat together honey, eggs and oil until they are light and bubbly. Add everything but the orange zest, and beat on medium high for three or four minutes, stopping a couple of times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If you add the zest in with the rest of the ingredients, much of it will get pulled out by the beater, so stir it in by hand at the very end.

Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt or two or three 9" round cake pans. Line the flat pans with parchment or wax paper. Fill the pans, and bake at 350 (325 convection). A bundt should take about seventy minutes; layers should take about half that. (Yes, honey cake takes forever.) The tops will be golden brown, and the cake should pull away from the sides of the pan. Rest on the counter for ten minutes before inverting onto racks to cool.

There are three ways to assemble this recipe. You can glaze it as a bundt cake; You can put honey cream cheese frosting on it with layers; Or you can brush the glaze on the layers and then frost them. All are good.

Honey Orange Glaze
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons sugar
juice of one medium orange

Simmer everything together in a small saucepan until the liquid is reduced by about a third and is quite syrupy. Brush all over the large cake, or just on tops of the layers.

Honey-Cream Cheese Frosting
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Make sure the butter and cream cheese are very soft, then beat them together with the honey on medium-high for three minutes to combine. Add in the vanilla and one cup of the sugar. Beat in just enough of the remainder of the sugar to get to a soft, spreadable consistency. This quantity will cover the horizontal surfaces of a three-layer cake, or all sides of a two-layer cake.

Garnish with a tablespoon of chopped pistachios or almonds, orange zest, even a drizzle of honey just before serving. And Happy New Year!

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