We interrupt this regularly scheduled Italian Desserts blog post to wish you a Belated Shana Tova! If you celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days, I hope your Jewish New Year is off to an excellent start. I was planning to post a spiffy honey cake for you before the holiday, but it didn’t quite work out as expected. Sometimes it’s great to take a risk and try something new, but sometimes it’s best to stick with what you know. I recently bought the Gefilte Manifesto cookbook, which I was sooo excited about. It’s a tome of classic, yet updated, Jewish cooking, which I often struggle to find. I’ve tried a few recipes, including a couple of side dishes for Rosh Hashanah this year, but sadly most were lackluster. (This may, however, be more a commentary on the merits of Eastern European Jewish cuisine than the book, but that’s another conversation altogether.) I was particularly intrigued by their Orange-Spiked Rye Honey Cake and was stoked to try it for the holiday. Sadly, it was a greasy mess, the top stuck to the Bundt pan and ripped off, and the cake tasted so strongly of honey that I didn’t care for it. (And yes– I am fully aware that a honey cake is meant to taste like honey. But sometimes you can have too much of something, you know?)
I was going to serve the cake anyway, but then Smitten Kitchen‘s honey cake wafted into my Facebook feed the day before Rosh Hashanah. And out the window went the idea of doing a little less work on the day I was preparing dinner! Her cake looked golden and sexy and like I wanted to eat it right now. And it called for “rye or whiskey” as an ingredient, which gave me an idea… The first cake contain rye flour, one of my favorite new-ish ingredients to play with. I decided to swap out some of the all-purpose flour with rye flour (paired with rye whiskey, please and thank you) and then it occurred to me, “Hey, this is Rosh Hashanah, let’s throw some apples up in this bitch.” (There’s still cussing on Rosh Hashanah, I can’t help it.) I also decided that an orange-whiskey glaze would be a really nice touch on top. Despite a number of ingredients to gather, the cake came together fairly easily. It is laced with coffee and orange juice and whiskey and warm spices; it was the perfect combination that gave the cake a light honey flavor with a lot of other complex layers.
Unfortunately… the top ripped off of this cake as well, but this time it was my fault– in my rush to finish the Rosh Hashanah meal before my guests came over, I flipped the cake too early and the top was still very much attached to the pan. (What I’ve learned this year from making two honey cakes in a Bundt pan is that honey cakes stick like crazy; you need to grease the hell out of your pan.) Fortunately I was able to piece it together and it was still decent enough to serve because I hang out with people who like cake and don’t judge. Construction issues aside, the cake was freaking delicious. The apple chunks gave it even more moistness and a bit of chunky texture, and the rye flour + rye whiskey combo gives it a lovely depth that really surprised me– everything just went together so well. I wasn’t going to post the cake because it wasn’t visually up to par, but guys– it was so good. So I did what any cake-obsessed baker would do: I made yet another one. You know, just to take pictures of. (Other people do that too, right?….. *cue crickets*) And I’m glad I did, because this time I let it cool for an hour in the pan, and hey!, only the very top layer ripped off. Honey cake is just really f*cking sticky, and that’s what glazes are for!
Basically I owe the success of my Jewish holidays to Smitten Kitchen. Without her Uncluttered Chicken Stock, Matzo Balls, Dark Chocolate Macaroons, and Latke Waffles, my holiday food would be so sad. And I look forward to telling her so in November when I *finally* meet her on her book tour! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my Apple Orange Rye Honey Cake, made with love (and lots of PAM spray) during this season of the Jewish High Holy Days.
Apple Orange Rye Honey Cake
Yields about 16 servings
Smitten Kitchen says this batter fits in 3 loaf pans, two 9″ square or round cake pans, one 9″ or 10″ Bundt/tube pan, or one 9×13″ inch sheet cake. I made mine in a Bundt pan, so the baking time below is adjusted for this cake shape/pan. P.S. I spaced when I was dicing my apples and forgot to peel the first one, so the first handful of chunks had the green peel on. It wasn’t a big deal, but yes, it’s best to peel them.
For the honey cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):
- 2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons (140g) dark rye flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1½ small tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into small dice (I used Granny Smith)
- 1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 cup (340 grams) honey
- 1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (107 grams) light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (235 ml) warm black coffee (not piping hot)
- ½ cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¼ cup (60 ml) rye whiskey or regular whiskey
For the orange-whiskey glaze:
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus more if needed for thickening
- 3 tablespoons half-and-half or whipping cream, plus more if needed for thinning
- 2 tablespoons rye whiskey or regular whiskey
- Zest of 1 medium orange
To make the cake:
Preheat an oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center. Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan very generously with non-stick cooking spray. (I like to spray the hell out of it, then turn it upside-down over paper towels, which allows the spray to drip down the full surface of the pan, rather than pooling in the bottom. I then spray it again immediately before pouring in the batter, since some of the oil will have dripped onto the paper towels.)
In a very large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose and rye flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice; whisk all the ingredients together. Remove 1 tablespoon and place it in a bowl with the diced apples; toss together to coat the apples.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, white and brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, and whiskey. (Measure the oil first, then use the same measuring cup for the honey, as the honey will slide out of the oil-slicked cup easier.)
Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients. Using a hand mixer on the lowest speed or a strong wire whisk, stir together all the ingredients just until you have a medium-thick, well-blended batter (no lumps). Fold in the flour-coated apple chunks with a rubber spatula, and make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any flour stuck to the bowl.
Pour the batter carefully into the Bundt pan. Bake the cake for about 60-75 minutes (mine took 64), or until a cake tester inserted into various spots of the cake comes out clean. The top should have formed a crisp crust and will spring back when you gently press it. (If using loaf pans, the baking time will be around 45-55 minutes.)
Let the cake stand for 1 hour on a wire cooling rack before carefully inverting it onto a piece of parchment paper directly on the rack. The cake is very sticky; if it doesn’t release easily, slide a small offset spatula between the cake and the pan to loosen it. Let the cake cool completely.
To make the glaze:
Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, half-and-half, and whiskey until smooth. Whisk in the orange zest, then adjust the thickness as needed– add more sugar by the tablespoon if the glaze is thin; more half-and-half if it’s too thick.
Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let it set for 15 minutes before cutting. The cake can be stored in a cake keeper for up to 4 days.
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2017.