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Whisky-Infused Cocoa ‘Honey’ Cake

Image by Rachel Grossman

For once I have not stopped to ponder all the ups and downs of the last year, which is something I tend to do monthly, if not weekly. So the fact that I’ve forgotten to do this in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah is a minor victory for the semi-neurotic.

Frankly speaking, the last year was a long one that rode in on an even worse one. So when I began to bake and write about my baking through a life-affirming lens, I forced myself to focus on the very positive, and the very now. It occurred to me that with all that’s wrong here and all over the world, looking straight ahead was hard enough – forget looking forward and forget looking backward.

In my quest to write and to live purposefully and mindfully over the last year, my time split between crying into batters and actually baking, I was drawn to M.F.K. Fisher. “In spite of all the talk and study about our next years,” she wrote, “all the silent ponderings about what lies within them…it seems plain to us that many things are wrong in the present ones that can be, must be, changed. Our texture of belief has great holes in it. Our pattern lacks pieces.” Fisher was a master of food literature and a firm believer that eating well is just another one of the arts in life.

It’s been a long year, so I’m not exactly ready to prepare for the new one. Even after a year of solid work, struggling through each moment, happiness coming and going, I am only coming upon a contentment that comes from purposeful work. Collapsing at home after another hard day to plot my Rosh Hashanah honey cake seemed like chore enough last week. Let alone the year.

The bottom line is that this year has been riddled with errors: a lot of failed cakes, muffins, pies, and even more failed dinner dishes; and perhaps harder to take, my year has been lined with a couple failed friendships and one giant heartbreak, regrets clawing inward. So if anyone else out there is dreading the New Year like I am, feel better. We don’t have to digest it all just yet. In fact, I had an idea. It’s kind of simple, really: put some booze in your honey cake. Best part: It actually tastes good. All the traditional ingredients, with a couple of twists, I figured, and maybe I’ll be ready to think about tomorrow, tomorrow.

• 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
• 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
• 2 cups ground/blended cauliflower, not cooked
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 2 tablespoons cocoa
• ½ teaspoon ground cloves
• ½ teaspoon ground allspice
• 1 cup vegetable oil
• ¾ cup agave syrup
• ¼ cup maple syrup
• ¾ cup coconut sugar
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
• 1 tablespoon white vinegar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ warm strong tea (I used Earl Gray)
• ¼ cup whiskey

Baking Guidelines
This is a surprisingly easy cake to make. It’s dense, yet moist. Crisp around the edges, soft the whole way through. This is a boozy (and vegan) take on the traditional Rosh Hashanah honey cake. You only need one bowl. And it’s easy to pull together.

Directions are fairly straightforward, but as always there’s plenty of room for play. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, ground cauliflower, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Meanwhile brew the tea.

Make a well in the center, and add oil, agave and maple syrup, coconut sugar, applesauce, white vinegar, vanilla extract, tea, and whiskey.

Using a wire whisk or a fork and a good, strong arm, stir the ingredients together to make a well-blended batter, making sure that all the flour is scooped up from the bottom (the batter won’t be very thick, and that’s okay).

Spoon batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake until cake tests done – it springs back when you gently touch the cake center, and if you insert a toothpick it should come out with a couple of crumbs (if the toothpick is clean, that means the cake was baked too long).

Test the cake at 60 minutes.

Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.

Pick it up and rotate it on its side like you’re turning the hands of time; the cake’ll loosen and pop neatly out of the pan.

Plop it down onto a baking rack and welcome another new year.

Rachel Grossman graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Language and Literature before spending three years in the former Soviet Union. She now lives and works in Washington D.C. in International Development. She’s always on some sort of a journey, spiritual or physical, loves inventive cooking, photography, and rainbow knee high socks. An aspiring vegan, and full-time vegetarian, she is otherwise known as the Heebavore.

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