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Best Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake

Honey Cake is the sweet treat many Jews eat on Rosh Hashanah, AKA Jewish New Year, as a symbol of hope for a sweet year to come. This honey cake recipe is deliciously moist with an alluringly crisp edge.

Low angle shot of a sliced loaf of honey cake.

One day when my niece was about three years old, she declared, “I’m going to make a honey cake!”

I don’t think she had ever heard of honey cakes. But she does love honey. And I love her! So I started searching for honey cake recipes the minute I got home.

Why Do We Eat Honey CAkes during Rosh Hashanah?

The holiday celebrates the dawn of the new year according to the Hebrew calendar. It is one of the two High Holy days in Judaism (Yom Kippur is the other) and therefore one of the most important holidays.

Honey cakes are traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah because honey symbolizes our hopes for sweetness in the year to come. It is also customary to eat apple slices dipped in honey on the holiday.

What does Shana Tova mean?

During Rosh Hashanah, you’ll often hear the greeting “Shana Tova umetukah!” Or simply “Shana Tova!”

It’s the Jewish version of “happy new year,” translating more specifically to mean “have a good, sweet year!”

What makes this the best honey cake recipe?

The biggest complaint people have about most Jewish honey cakes is that they are dry and lack flavor. I wanted something super moist and rich.

I searched for recipes for honey cakes that are nice and moist and found one on Smitten Kitchen. It was a recipe by Marcy Goldman’s from her cookbook A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking.

If anyone knows her way around a Jewish dessert, it is Marcy Goldman. Smitten Kitchen calls Marcy’s honey cake “Crazy moist and soft and plush with a little crisp edge about the corners.”

This Honeycake recipe tastes wonderfully moist with a lovely crunchy edge. Plus it will fill your home with a delightfully sweet fragrance.

collage of photos of Rosh Hashanah dishes. The text says 55+ Best Recipes for Rosh Hashanah.

This cake is perfect for Rosh Hashana

The first thing you want in a Rosh Hashana honey cake is for it to be sweet. After all, that’s the whole point, right? A sweet cake to usher in a sweet new year. This cake is sweet, and it is also:

  • Moist
  • Tender
  • Not too dense
  • Full of the flavor of honey
  • Crisp around the edges

Honey, of course, gives the cake its signature honey flavor and makes it plenty sweet. But this cake has other flavorful ingredients, too. Coffee and orange juice give it bitterness and tang to counter the sweetness of the honey. It really is the perfect honey cake recipe.

What ingredients do you need?

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Cooking oil (or soft butter)
  • Honey (you can use any honey you like. I love a good wildflower honey or orange blossom honey!)
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Large eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Brewed coffee or black tea
  • Orange juice (for extra orange flavor, you can add orange zest, too!)
low angle shot of a whole loaf of honey cake.

Marcy’s version (and Deb’s) includes cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. But I’m not crazy about a spice cake. I just want a cake that tastes like honey.

It may sound crazy, but I left all of those spices out. The result was perfect.

How do you make this easy honey cake?

You only need one bowl and a wooden spoon to mix this cake. You could, however, use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer if you prefer. Just be careful not to overbeat it after adding the flour, as this can make a cake rubbery.

  1. Preheat the oven and spray the baking pan(s).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add the the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients—the oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, and orange juice—and mix thoroughly. You can also mix everything in the bowl of an electric mixer and use the whisk attachment on medium-high speed.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and bake in the preheated oven. You know it is done when the cake is golden brown, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

A little trick that makes this cake even better

Remember those crisp edges I mentioned earlier? Before baking, I drizzle a bit of honey over the batter. It caramelizes in the oven, giving the bottom and edges of the cake extra crispiness.

The honey glaze also adds the deep, rounded flavor of caramelized honey. If you’re lucky you’ll even get a few bits of burnt honey, which is extra delicious.

Honey cake batter in pans drizzled with honey

My niece was delighted and proud of herself for coming up with the idea. My mother, who doesn’t even like honey cake, took home an extra-large hunk. [Breaking news: Mom called as I was writing this post, and said, “I just ate a third of the cake you sent me home with, and it is the most delicious honey cake I’ve ever had. I can’t stop eating it.”

Honey cake baked in a mini bundt pan on little plates with coffee

Tips for success

  • This recipe makes a lot (us Jewish ladies worry that someone will go hungry, so we always make extra, especially for special occasions like the high holidays). You can use three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans or one 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or three 9-inch round pan, or make 36 standard cupcakes.
  • Alternatively, you can use a mini Bundt pan with 6 cups as well as a few different sizes of small loaf pans.
  • Whatever size baking pans you use, be careful not to overfill them. Each pan should only be filled about halfway.
  • If you are using several small pans, you can place them all on a baking sheet to make them easy to get in and out of the oven.
  • Smaller portions will bake faster so be sure to adjust the baking time and check early and often.
  • You can also bake the cake in a convection oven, but you’ll want to reduce the cooking time by about 25 percent.
  • If you just want less cake, you can reduce the full recipe by 1/3 or even 2/3. See my recipe notes for details on how to cut down the quantity.
  • The recipe uses cooking oil for its fat, which makes it kosher parve (no meat or dairy). You can substitute unsalted butter if you like.
  • The recipe calls for strong brewed coffee or tea. The bitterness of coffee or tea balances the sweetness of the honey. But you can substitute milk or water in the same quantity. Note that if you use milk, the recipe will not be parve.
  • Feel free to add a diced apple or two, sliced almonds sprinkled over the top, a tablespoon of orange zest, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1/4 cup of whiskey to the batter or substitute almond extract for the vanilla extract.
  • The texture of this cake improves when it sits for a bit. I think it is best the day after it is made. Make it ahead and let the finished cake sit, uncovered, at room temperature.
Honey cake baked in a loaf pan sliced

This morning I learned inadvertently that this cake, paired with a cup of coffee, makes a great breakfast. If you’re a sweets-for-breakfast person, you might want to try this Japanese Souffle Pancakes recipe, too!

If you’re looking for more cake ideas, try this Orange Sponge Cake, which is perfect for Passover, or this indulgent Chocolate Cake. Or try these amazing Instant Pot Brownies!

Round out your rosh hashanah menu

If you’re looking for more holiday recipes, I like to serve my famous Brisket with Dried Fruit and Spices for just about every Jewish holiday, including Rosh Hashanah. Roasted Beet Salad with Harrisa Dressing is a great side.

Apple Galette is another great dessert to feature on Rosh Hashanah. Honey Cookies, Chocolate BabkaHamentashen, and Lemon Coconut Macaroons are also perfect finishes for Jewish holiday meals.

More Jewish holiday recipes you’ll love

If you love this honey cake recipe, check out these other Jewish holiday recipes!

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low angle shot of a sliced loaf of honey cake.

Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake

Robin Donovan
No spices, no distraction, just a simple, moist, delicious honey cake for Rosh Hashanah, or any time of year. Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. This recipe makes a lot of cake. You can use either three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, one 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or any equivalent-sized pans.
4.55 from 458 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Dessert Recipes
Cuisine Jewish
Calories 265 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • cups 420 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup 237 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 cup 237 ml honey, divided
  • cups 300 grams sugar
  • ½ cup 110 grams brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup 237 ml brewed coffee or strong tea
  • ½ cup 119 ml orange juice

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously grease the baking pan(s) with nonstick cooking spray, baking spray, or butter. (Use either three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans, one 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or any equivalent-sized pans.)
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add the oil, 3/4 cup of the honey, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, and orange juice. Mix thoroughly, until all ingredients are combined and no lumps remain.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s), filling each about halfway.
  • Drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of honey over the batter.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the cake is set all the way through and feels springy to the touch (30 to 60 minutes, depending on the size of your baking dishes). A tester inserted into the center should come out clean.
  • Let cool 15 minutes before removing from the baking dish. Slide a knife around the edges to help loosen the cake, if necessary.

Video

Notes

1. This recipe makes three 9-by-5-inch loaf pans or one 9-by-13-inch baking pan, or 36 standard cupcakes.
2. Be careful not to overfill the pans—each pan should only be filled about halfway.
3. Smaller portions will bake faster so be sure to adjust the cooking times and check early and often.
4. You can cut this recipe down. To make one 9-by-5-inch loaf or 12 cupcakes, use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1/3 cup honey (save about 1 1/2 tablespoons for drizzling over the batter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 large egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/3 cup coffee or tea, and 2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice.
5. To make 2 9-by-5-inch loaves or 24 cupcakes, use 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 2/3 cup honey (save about 3 tablespoons for drizzling over the batter, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2/3 cup coffee or tea, and 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon orange juice.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Calories: 265kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 3gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 169mgFiber: 1gSugar: 28g
Keyword honey cake rosh hashanah
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Honey cake for rosh hashana pinterest image
Last Updated: December 30, 2020

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By on December 2nd, 2020

ABOUT ROBIN DONOVAN

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

110 thoughts on “Best Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake”

  1. I would like to try the honey but cannot find the measurements of flour honey etc

    I would like to try the receipe for the honey cake but cannot find the actual amt of each ingredient please rush reply thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Jeanette, You just need to scroll down until you see the recipe card. All of the ingredients are there with measurements as well as the instructions. Thanks!

      Reply
  2. I chose the right recipe for my first ever honey cake – absolutely delicious and a keeper! I had to give it away as I couldn’t stop eating it! I substituted grapefruit bier for OJ as that was the only citrusy liquid in my fridge and the taste was very subtle.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you liked it, Grace! And that’s great that the substitution worked. I feel like it is a pretty forgiving recipe. I always have to give most of it away because otherwise I will just eat myself silly.

      Reply
  3. I just took my first honey cake out of the oven, Will have to wait till tomorrow night to taste it. We live in Israel and we will be on lockdown for the holiday so I made the one loaf pan as it will only be the two of us. I was planning to make an apple cake for the holiday but my husband wanted a honey cake, so there you are. It looks and smells great! Wishing you a happy and healthy new year. Shana Tovah!

    Reply
  4. Hi! Do you think a regular size bundt would work? If so, should I cut the recipe? I read the above comment about using a larger bundt but definitely don’t want it to be gummy. Would a few mini bundts be better?

    Reply
    • You can absolutely use a regular bundt pan, but if you are making the full recipe, you’ll want to probably use 2 bundts or maybe 1 bundt and a couple of loaf pans. The recipe makes enough batter for 3 full-sized loaf pans, so if you are going to use different pans, you’ll need to make sure that you are substituting pans with the same combined volume. You’ll also want to cook less time the smaller the cake is–so mini-bundts will be done much faster than a full-sized bundt. i personally prefer the smaller cakes, but using 3 loaf pans or the equivalent works out well, too.

      Reply
  5. Thank you for the recipe, DELICIOUS!! I made 12 muffins and followed your instructions. I used milk instead of coffee and baked it for about 18 min, was perfect. Everyone loved it

    Reply
  6. I made this this year, with a couple modifications, and it was incredible. I’d like to share those modifications, in case anyone else wants to try them.

    Instead of vegetable oil, which we didn’t have, I used half coconut oil and half Smart Balance (which is pareve), both melted because they’re solid at room temperature. I used rosewater instead of vanilla, because, well, I’ve been on a rosewater kick recently, and thought it might be good (it was). I also was lucky in that I had some really good local honey with interesting flavors to use, and I didn’t have orange juice but did have some Cara Cara oranges which I squeezed.

    Used a standing mixer because I’m lazy, and poured it in a bundt pan and cooked it for what turned out to be a little under an hour. It’s two days since Rosh Hashana, and it was a big cake, and there’s just the two of us this year, and it’s way closer to gone than is probably congruent with a healthy diet…

    Reply
    • This is fantastic, Ian! I’m so glad you liked it and your variations sound amazing. Especially the rose water. I am intrigued. I went through a rosewater phase last year and still have a bottle in my pantry. I may have to experiment! Thank you for posting!

      Reply
  7. If I were to use tea since im not a coffee fan what type of tea should I use? I’ve looked everywhere but i can’t find an answer :0 Also i were to use coffee is it a prominent taste? or is it all blended in?

    Reply
    • Hi Genevieve, The coffee is not a prominent flavor. I think the bitterness of the coffee may subtly offset the sweetness of the honey, but the cake would be just as good (and not taste much different if at all) without it. If I were to use tea, I would use a basic black tea–something like Irish breakfast or English breakfast would be fine, or just something like PG Tips. Another reader recently mentioned that she substituted milk for the coffee and it worked out well. The main thing is just to make sure that you use an equal quantity of another liquid.

      Reply
  8. I’ve been making honey cake for 40 years (and eating it for longer), and this is far and away the BEST honey cake I’ve ever had. It really showcases HONEY as the main flavor/ingredient, and it is SO moist. My high holidays have never been so sweet!

    Reply
  9. My Family Loved it. I am definitely sharing Guys, Thanks For sharing this Great Recipe. this recipe and this website with my friend. Hope they also love it. Thank you again for sharing such a great recipe.

    Reply
    • Yes! Will be good for at least a few days. Once it’s cut, cover it with plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

      Reply
  10. Loved the cake but couldn’t get it out of the loaf pans – not sure why. I sprayed the pans first. Should you just mix batter with a spoon not an electric mixer? Also can you make the cake ahead and freeze it?

    Reply
    • Hmm could be your pans? I haven’t had trouble removing it, but perhaps try nonstick pans if you aren’t using them already? And yes, you can freeze it! Wrap tightly in double layer of plastic wrap.

      Reply
  11. Scrumptiously moist cake! Love the pop of citrus! The coffee was unexpected but really helped to temper the sweetness. Perfect balance of flavors.

    Reply

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