Autumn’s well on its way and the glorious seasonal foods gently nudge the corners of the mind. Heeding the cue, grandmothers everywhere have begun to sort through recipes, old and new, in search of the perfect holiday foods for their families to enjoy.
Jewish grandmothers are no exception, pulling out their favorite traditional recipes for the fall and winter holiday months. Rosh Hashanah, or the High Holidays, which was celebrated in September, is a joyful occasion for celebration, often marked by having dinner with friends and family and passing on the traditional flavors to the next generation.
OY! So many decisions. Brisket or chicken – or both? Noodle kugel or potato kugel – or both? Matzo ball soup? Definitely. Apples and honey for a sweet year? Of course. And no traditional meal was ever complete without the sweet treat of Bubbie’s Old Country Honey Cake.
Bubbie, (my grandmother of blessed memory) like many of our mothers and grandmothers, never wrote down her recipes. She used a bisseleh (a little) of this, a handful of that, and a glazel (glass) of whatever. Her liquid measuring cup was often a jelly jar glass or a glass left over from a Yahrzeit (memorial) candle. One thing’s for sure – this lovable, robust woman who always smelled of vanilla (a dab behind each ear made her irresistible to Zeidi (my grandfather of blessed memory) didn’t use standardized measurements. She baked instinctively, using her taste buds, experience, and love.
In honor of Jewish mothers and grandmothers everywhere, here is THE recipe – painstakingly remeasured for standardization -- copied down, step by step while she was still alive -- for Bubbie’s honey cake. Unlike the store-bought variety, which often tastes like fruitcake gone bad, this one’s moist, delicious, and easy to bake. It’s best the next day.
Bubbie’s Old Country Honey Cake
1 Cup sugar
½ Cup oil
½ Cup honey
½ Cup nuts (optional)
1 Cup golden raisins
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp allspice (optional)
½ tsp cloves (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Cups flour
1 Cup strong coffee (fresh brewed or 1 C luke warm water + 1 Tbs. instant coffee)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line large loaf pan with waxed paper.
3. Using electric mixer on high, beat eggs and sugar until they’re frothy.
4. Add oil and beat.
5. Add honey and beat.
6. Add baking soda, baking powder, spices, and vanilla.
7. Add flour, alternating with coffee and beat well on low speed.
8. Fold in nuts and raisins (optional) and mix well.
9. Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees or till top splits slightly.
10. Remove cake from oven and cool on rack.
11. Wrap tightly in foil until serving. Honey cake will stay moist for several days.