Although I’m Jewish by blood, I was never brought up in a religious environment of any sort. My dad would read from the Torah and light the menorah displayed on the mantle above the Christmas stockings during Hanukkah, and my brother, sister and I would drink cocoa from our personalized Santa Claus mugs while my mom made latkes, kugel, and crepe suzettes for Christmas brunch. It was always a mixed bag of traditions without much meaning beyond family time and general festivity. Now, into adulthood, I still don’t feel any deep spiritual connection to religious holidays. Instead, I’ve grown to appreciate them as a time to gather around loved ones, rest from the year’s work, and, as always, make and eat really good food.
A couple weeks ago I was hanging out with my friend Hilda when her roommate Dina got home from work. Turns out, Dina is quite the foodie herself, so naturally our conversation unfurled quickly into one of food, favorite chefs and cookbooks, and drinks. We discussed my entrepreneurial endeavors as a baker, and how I like to work with vegan recipes even though I’m no longer vegan myself. At this point she confessed her worry about her obligation to make a dairy-free honey cake for her family’s celebration, when she had no experience in honey cake baking. Dina invited me to bake with her, hoping that my history with vegan baking would prove beneficial in this process. Despite the fact that I’d never made– or even tasted–a honey cake before, I happily agreed. So, with only a week before the holiday, I took on this task as the Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake Challenge of Twenty-Fourteen. I was determined to come up with a delicious, moist, and most importantly, unique, honey cake recipe for Dina to share with her friends and family that would blow them out of the water.
After doing some research, I got to work. I decided I wanted to make a spiced cake to add some oomph to the traditional, sometimes overplayed, treat. And I knew I wanted to top it with some sort of glaze, because duh. I experimented substituting eggs with ground chia seeds, and this awesome ginger syrup I found in place of some of the honey. I added some cardamom and cloves, a healthy dash of cinnamon, and strong chai tea instead of the coffee called for in many recipes. With all that and a bottle of honey whiskey, how could this cake go wrong? I played a little guess and check with a couple batches through the week, until I finally #nailedit.
In fact, I nailed it so hard that not only did my employer, after tasting one of the sample cupcakes I brought to share, request I bake this cake for her own family’s Rosh Hashanah celebration; her father-in-law also requested that I bake the cake for his birthday! Go ahead and tell me you have a problem with this cake because it’s vegan. Seriously, I dare you.
Spiced Honey Cake
- Cooking Spray
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons finely ground chia seeds
- 9 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup strong chai tea (I used 4 teabags)
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup honey whiskey (I used Wild Turkey)
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste for the sake of aesthetics)
- 1/4 cup ginger syrup
-Place an oven shelf in an upper position in the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 10-inch Bundt pan with cooking spray and dust with flour. Boil water, and let the tea steep until very strong. In a small bowl, mix the ground chia and 9 tablespoons of water until pasty, and set aside.
-In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom until thoroughly combined.
-In a separate large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, white and brown sugar, chia mixture, vanilla extract, tea, orange extract, 1/2 cup of water, and whiskey. With an electric mixer, beat the flour mixture into the honey mixture just until the batter is thoroughly incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
-Bake on upper shelf in the preheated oven until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs, about 1 hour. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan before turning the cake out onto a serving platter.
-While the cake is baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients in a small bowl until smooth and creamy. Drizzle the glaze generously over the cake.