An autumn staple at GAIL’s and a beloved Rosh Hashanah treat. Rich, decadent and once a precious entity, during Rosh Hashana honey is symbolic of hope for a sweet new year. We make our honey cake dense, sticky and dark, topped with dried blue cornflower petals. These aren’t necessary, of course – just an extra flourish to add a burst of colour to the table.
It’s probably no surprise that this honey cake is, well, brimming with honey. So use a variety you love the flavour of, and whose quality you trust.
We recommend eating this rich, unctuous cake with a cup of strong coffee. Preferably when you have little else to do but read the paper, linger by a sunny window or catch up with an old friend.
Makes two small loaf cakes. 500g each, or one large loaf cake, approx 1kg.
250g butter at room temperature, plus more for buttering the loaf tins
125g caster sugar
3 medium eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
275g plain flour
1 tsp baking flour
0.5 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp fine sea salt
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
100g sour cream
125g good runny honey
Note: Be sure all your ingredients are at room temperature.
40 ml water
Honey cinnamon icing:
80g Icing sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g runny honey
A pinch of fine sea salt
4-6 tsp water
Dried edible petals for decoration (optional)
- Using a stand mixer and using the beater (leaf) attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, fluffy and pale. If you don’t have a mixer, a bowl with a wooden spoon works well too.
- Add the eggs one by one, and mix well, then the vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, briefly whisk the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder by hand.
- Now add half the flour mix to the butter and eggs and mix.
- Add the sour cream, then the rest of the flour. Mix well.
- Finally, mix in the honey.
- Preheat your oven to 170C.
- Butter your loaf tin/s and line its bottom and sides with parchment paper.
- Gently pour the cake mixture into the tins.
- If you’re making small loaves, bake them for 35-40 minutes. For a large loaf, bake for 40-45 minutes.
- While the cakes are baking, gently heat the honey and water in a small saucepan to make the honey syrup. Keep the heat low and do not boil it, though.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and, while hot, pierce them with a sharp paring knife 8-10 times. This helps them absorb more syrup for that delicious stickiness.
- Gradually spoon the syrup over the hot cakes. Enjoy the process slowly, and keep going until the cake soaks up each spoonful before adding the next. All the syrup should be used, so it may take a couple of minutes.
- Let the cakes cool completely in their tins, and then remove.
- Now it’s time to make your icing. Whisk icing sugar, salt, cinnamon, honey and a couple of teaspoons of water. You are aiming for a honey consistency. The icing should drip over the sides of the loaves, but be thick enough so it clings well. If it’s looking a little runny, add a teaspoon of icing sugar. And if it’s too thick, add a teaspoon or so of water.
- Use a pastry brush to ice the cake/s evenly.
- If you’re using them, sprinkle on the dried petals. Now let the icing set for half an hour.
These cakes are best enjoyed fresh on the day they are baked. But they will keep well for two or three days in an airtight container. Try them later on, toasted with a little salted butter.