Rosh Hashana 5771: And Cake Makes the New Year Sweet

It was 12 years ago that my husband and I were at a party and we spied a friend’s incredibly cute curly-mopped 3-year-old hogging the buffet table and stuffing his fat cheeks with honey cake.

“I want one of those!” I declared to the hubby fresh off the chuppah.

“What, a baby?” he asked, brows raised.

“No, a chubby-cheeked cherub stuffing his face with cake.”

That wish was granted only after our second son was born, as his older brother will pick raw fish over the sugary any day.

Meanwhile, in this day and age when ‘cake’ has almost become a bad word, having my kids and hubby keen on the stuff has been deeply gratifying for me as a keen baker.

And last night, as all nights erev (Hebrew for eve) the erev of Rosh Hashana should be, the kids and I went through the motions of baking our favorite coffee-gingery bung-all-in-bowl honey cake. Basically you pour everything into a giant bowl, mix, and bake.

The process was a bit trickier than usual, given that I have no countertops in my new and almost ready kitchen (on the upside, I can easily see and pick whatever cooking utensils I need), and, more disconcertingly, no plumbing.

But, thanks to a handy elementary school science project mounted on a board, a makeshift countertop was devised, and holiday baking commenced.

My husband, who had complained last year when I nicked some of his finest peaty single-malt scotch for the very important honey cake, happily offered some of his precious poison this year (and I didn’t have to beg).

I am a bit late baking the lekach (Hebrew for honey cake) – it’s best to start 4 days before the first day of the new year, which allows all the flavors to meld and take hold, and makes for a moister, deeply flavorful cake.

Before I leave you with the recipe, here are some facts about Rosh Hashana:

  • It’s celebrated over two days, beginning sundown today (Wed)
  • Work isn’t permitted on Rosh Hashana
  • The holiday marks the start of a period of introspection which culminates in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and a full day of fasting for most adult Jews
  • Apples, or pieces of challah, are dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet new year ahead
  • A total of 100 blasts from the ram’s horn, the shofar, are sounded from the synagogue on each day of Rosh Hashanah
  • Challah, which is often braided, is baked round for Rosh Hashana to symbolize the cyclical nature of the year
  • Pomegranates are traditionally eaten on the second night, as they are a new fruit, and supposedly contain 613 seeds, the same as the number of commandments in the Torah

What to bung in a big bowl:

* plain flour, 4 cups
* eggs, 4, extremely fresh
* brown sugar, 1 cup
* white sugar, 1 cup
* baking powder, 1 tsp
* baking soda, 1 tbsp
* salt, 1/2 tsp
* honey, 1 cup
* maple syrup, 1/4 cup
* coffee, strong and cold, 1 cup
* ginger, 4 tsp
* cinnamon and allspice, 4 tbsp and 2 tbsp, respectively
* cloves and nutmeg, 1/2 tsp each, ground
* grapeseed oil, 1 cup
* fresh orange juice, 1/2 cup
* husband’s best single-malt scotch whisky, 1/4 cup

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Mix all ingredients together till the batter lightens and fluffs up, scraping down the sides as needed
3. Pour into pre-oiled baking tin and bake for about an hour or till a skewer poked in the center comes out clean

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September 8, 2010. Tags: , , , . Baked Goods, Cultural Feasts, Festive, Jewish, Kids, Rosh Hashana, Stories.

4 Comments

  1. Janet replied:

    Looks yummy. Can I make this one even if it isn’t Rosh Hashanah?What about the almonds? Inside, or on top? (Or both, for that matter).

  2. Deb replied:

    Looks fab!!!! (Will we get to taste it on Thursday?) 🙂

  3. divaindoors replied:

    Yes, Jen, and yes, Deb! Enjoy

  4. Honey Cake with Ginger « Diva Indoors: Food, with love replied:

    […] Well, the honey cake, or lekach, is normally ready well before Rosh Hashana, which was a week ago. But it’s not possible to be Wonder Woman every minute of every day (getting into this costume alone is hard work). Luckily, it’s never too late for cake. […]

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