Recipe: Honey Cake for a Sweet New Year

Photograph by Ben Fink

My fellow writer, talented friend and poet from Montreal, Marcy Goldman, is the authority on Jewish baking in Canada. She has developed the first honey cake I have ever loved, in good part because it is moist, flavorful and not too sweet.

Special Equipment: Two stacked baking sheets and one 9- to 10-inch (12 to 16 cups) one-piece metal tube pan, preferably nonstick, encircled from the bottom with 2 cake strips, bottom coated with shortening and topped with a parchment ring, then lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Baking time: 70 to 80 minutes
Serves: 12–16

4 large eggs, at room temperature (3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons/187 ml; 7 oz./200g)
1 cup canola or safflower oil, at room temperature (237 ml; 7.6 oz./215 g)
1 cup strong black coffee, at room temperature (237 ml; 8.4 oz./237 g)
½ cup orange juice, freshly squeezed and strained (about 2 large oranges) (118 ml; 4.3 oz/121 g)
¼ cup whiskey or rye* (59 ml; 1.9 oz./55 g)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (20 ml)
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar (8.8 oz./250 g
½ cup light brown Muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar, firmly packed (3.8 oz./108 g)
3½ cups all-purpose flour, preferably bleached, sifted into the cup and leveled off (14.1 oz./400 g)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder (0.6 oz. 18 g)
¾ teaspoon baking soda (4.1 g)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt (3 g)
1 tablespoon unsweetened (alkalized) cocoa powder (5 g)
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon (8.8 g)
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup honey (237 ml; 11.8 oz./336 g

1) Preheat the oven 20 minutes or longer before baking; set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F.

2) In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, coffee, orange juice, whiskey and vanilla until lightly combined. Add the superfine sugar and brown sugar, and whisk until dissolved into the liquid mixture.

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, ginger and cloves on low speed for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl and whisk beater. Add the liquid ingredients and sugars, and stir with the whisk beater until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the honey. Place the bowl back on the stand and reattach the whisk beater. Start on low speed, then gradually raise the speed to medium and beat for about 1½ minutes. The batter will have the consistency of a thick soup. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and set it on the stacked baking sheets.

4) Bake for 45 minutes. For even baking, rotate the pan halfway around. Lower the temperature to 325 F and bake for an additional 25 to 35 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted between the tube and the sides comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. The cake should start to shrink from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven. During baking, if using the 12-cup pan, the center will rise to a little above the top of the pan, but on cooling it will be almost level with it.

5) Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. To loosen the sides of the cake from the pan, use a rigid sharp knife or stiff metal spatula, preferably with a squared-off end, scraping firmly against the pan’s sides and slowly and carefully circling the pan. (If using a nonstick pan, use a plastic knife or spatula.) In order to ensure that you are scraping against the sides of the pan and removing the crust from the sides, leaving it on the cake, begin by angling the knife or spatula about 20 degrees away from the cake and toward the pan, pushing the cake inward a bit. It is best to use a knife blade that is at least 4 inches long and no wider than 1 inch.

6) Dislodge the cake from the center tube with a wire tester or wooden skewer. Invert the cake onto a wire rack that has been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Remove the bottom and center tube, and peel off the parchment. Re-invert the cake onto a serving plate or cake carrier.

7) Let the cake cool for 2 to 3 hours, or until cool. (The cake can be served warm, but the pieces will be fragile. Slice with a sharp serrated knife, and lean the cut-side piece against a pancake turner to move it for plating.)

Store airtight: room temperature, 3 days; refrigerated, 7 days; frozen, 2 months.

Notes: If using a two-piece tube pan, encircle from the bottom with 2 cake strips; coat the bottom of the pan with shortening, and cut a 10-inch parchment round. Cut a circle from the center of the round to fit over the center tube. Slide the parchment ring down the center tube and press it onto the bottom. Press the outer part of the parchment against the sides of the pan, pleating as necessary to create a seal where the bottom part of the pan meets on the pan’s sides. Lightly coat the inside of the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of the stacked baking sheets to catch any leaking batter.

*Orange juice, coffee or water can be substituted for the whiskey or rye.

Reprinted with permission from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Photography by Ben Fink. Copyright 2014.

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