Quick Honey Cake

Tina Wasserman
Recipe by
Tina Wasserman

This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's book, Entrée to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding. In addition to Rosh HaShanah, this recipe is also great for the holiday of Shavuot, observed as the birthday of the Torah. The beauty of the Torah has been compared with the nourishment and sweetness of milk and honey.

When the Israelites followed Moses to the promised “land of milk and honey,” the honey referred to was not from bees but from fruit. Date honey was the most common honey in biblical times. Honey has long been eaten in many dishes for Rosh HaShanah by Jews around the world. Honey-soaked balls of baked dough (teiglach, Eastern Europe), semolina cake soaked in honey syrup (tishpishti, Turkey), and the famous European honey cake (lekach, Germany) are all desserts served as a wish for a sweet New Year. Lekach is by far the most popular cake served in North America for Rosh HaShanah.

One summer I needed a honey cake for a recipe I was creating and did not want to make one from scratch just to tear it apart .I went to the store and no honey cakes could be found (though there would soon be many come Rosh HaShanah time). What to do? I combined a standard gingerbread cake mix with some main ingredients in honey cake - coffee and honey - and an easy, quick honey cake was born!

¾ cup warm coffee (or ¾ cup water with 1 teaspoon instant espresso)
¼ cup honey
14.5-ounce box gingerbread mix
Eggs, as needed in mix
Oil or margarine as needed in mix
  1. Preheat the oven according to package directions.
  2. Microwave the coffee with the honey for 30 seconds on high. Stir to combine.
  3. Prepare the cake following the package directions except substitute the warm coffee and honey for all of the liquid in the recipe. Use the appropriate amount of oil and eggs called for on the package.
  4. Grease a 9 x 4-inch loaf pan. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake according to the time on the package mix.Cool completely and then serve or use in Apples and Honey Cake Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce (Entrée to Judaism, page 444).

Kitchen Conversations

  • Different flowers create different tasting honeys. Alfalfa honey is totally different from wildflower honey, and that is different from thyme honey. The flavor of the honey depends on where the bees are getting their pollen. What kind do you like?
  • Did you know that honey is sold like olive oil? Both can be sold either as a blend from many different regions or as one flavor coming from only one type of plant.
  • Is there a store in your neighborhood that lets you sample different honeys before you buy one? Go and have a tasting “bee.”
Additional Notes
  • Using boxed mixes is a good way to let young chefs begin to learn how to cook on their own. Misreading instructions once will leave an indelible impression that will make them more cautious the next time they cook. Believe me, I still remember the error I made when I was ten and used ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon instead of ¼ cup minus 1 tablespoon in a frosting recipe!
  • In general, it is not a good idea to use mixes, as they contain way too many additives and sugar. However, if the cake or cookie is being used to create a specialty dessert, then opt for less prep time to accomplish your goals.
  • Decaffeinated coffee may be substituted for the instant espresso.