Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Midweek Roundup: "Sweet and Moist...Bon Appetit!"

Photo by Hanaâ
Hanaâ's Kitchen

Another winner from the Rosewood Kitchen.  The big question seemed to be "Is it too sweet?"  And the answer was, pretty overwhelmingly, "Are you kidding?  It's delicious."

Hanaa made this cake a year ago, when the recipe was published by NPR, and just posted it now.  Her husband loved it, although he noted that it was "a bit on the sweet side."  (See, there's the mini-controversy).  Hanaa liked it too, with its "complex flavor profile."  She made a half-recipe of this big cake, and still had a good-sized cake, just the right amount to fill the small tube pan she picked up in Morocco.

Faithy also made this cake last year.  Like Hanaa, she feared the sweetness, and reduced the sugar a bit.  Although the cake was still a little sweet for her taste, she recognized that it was supposed to be sweet, a harbinger of the sweet year to come, much like the obligatory sweet candied fruits for a Chinese New Year's celebration.  Faithy herself can't quite remember why, but she used four Nespresso pods instead of one, so her "honey cake" tasted like "coffee cake."  Anyway, "it's meant to be sweet, so no one should complain how sweet it is."  

A number of people referenced the NPR story on honey cake that called it the "Jewish Fruitcake," and described it as traditionally "sweet and stodgy."  That's pretty much what Orin used to think of honey cake.  "Quite heavy, dry, and overly sweet."  But Rose's recipe, based on Marcy Goldman's, had some "genius idea[s]," especially the full cup of strong coffee, which made a "moist cake," and the combination of honey and sugar "created an interesting depth of flavor, very caramel-like."  All told, a cake that Orin "will be proud to serve to friends and family for years to come."

Jen  served her honey cake to friends and family this year, and they were very appreciative.  In a short, but to-the-point post, her review boiled down to three great things about this cake:  1)  "mixing the cake took seconds," 2) "the orange-whiskey-coffee-vanilla aromas made us dream of delicious cocktails," and 3) "we love this cake."

Milagritos's summary was even more pithy:  "What a great cake!"  And hers was even the "streamlined" version.  What is the streamlined version of a Rose recipe, you ask?  Especially one that's not too difficult to begin with?  Well, you don't bother to bring out your mixer--you just stir it up.  And you cut the recipe in half, so you don't have to mess with a tube pan--and besides, using a loaf pan can "fool [yourself] into thinking this cake is suitable for breakfast."  Then you make a few changes based on what you have in the house, because it's not very streamlined to make a run to the grocery store.  Then, because you've saved all that time, you add an almond-caramel glaze, which looks scrumptious!

Catherine is back after being down for the count for a few weeks, but apparently still feeling a bit giddy, as she entitled her post "Honey, honey, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, sugar, sugar...."  She described the cake as being "moist and soft, sweet, aromatic and spicy," and said it was a "wild success at work."  She got so much praise that she felt "somewhat of a fraud since [she] was just following someone else's ... recipe.  So Rose, please take a bow."

You might think it odd that someone who dislikes honey would bake a honey cake, but you'd be forgetting what a trouper Vicki is.  And her reward for trying it was that she discovered that the cake "has so many flavors that honey is but a faint note in the background."  Her conclusion:  "I like this cake.  It seems old fashioned and homey, just the sort of cake for a special family holiday."  So maybe in addition to being a Rosh Hashanah cake, this will become a Thanksgiving dessert, or a Father's dessert, or ...?

Mendy advises you to "imagine all of the sweetness, good and blessing you want in for the upcoming year.  OK, now put it in the bowl."  A great idea.  He also explained that "the custom is to ask for a piece of honey cake at the end of the pre-fast meal as a sign that this should be the only time you have to beg this year."  That is an excellent idea.  Mendy used apple cider instead of orange juice, because he couldn't quite see anything as astringent as orange juice in this sweet cake.  And that is an intriguing idea.  Mendy is just full of ideas.

Rachel loved the "complexity" that the mix of spices brought to the cake.  She's had other honey cakes in the past that were more like a one-note spice cake.  And "just enough cocoa" to "darken the cake and add a deep flavor note without any detectable chocolate flavor."  Not that chocolate flavor is a bad thing, but this is more of a spice cake than a chocolate cake.  And she embellished it with whipped cream rather than the suggested creme fraiche because that's what her family is "partial to."  Me too, Rachel, for the same reason.

I think that I've mentioned before how much I like Aimee's short summaries at the beginning of her post:  they always manage to get right to the heart of the matter.  This week, she says, "a unique combination of flavors ensures that butter isn't missed.  Moist and better the next day when the flavors meld."  She also made adorable little bundt cakes (and a loaf cake too--lots of batter!) She likes to give away individual cakes instead of slices so they don't look so much like leftovers.  (Don't worry--she knows she's an "odd person.")

Cookie maven Kim went for this cake in a big way.  Or maybe I should say in a small way, because she decided--too late--that her bundt pan was too small for all that batter.  But it turned out all right, because even though the batter rose above the top of the pan and dripped down the tube while it was baking, it settled down and baked through in the appointed time.  Kim admits to making a few mistakes because she "threw the cake together," but maybe her mistakes (Grand Marnier instead of orange juice, for example) were really marks of genius.  And the cake forgave her errors and distractions; she "really liked it--all of it."

Remember how Kristina helped raise money for Movember for auctioning off a whole year of monthly baked treats?  And her friend Gilad was the highest bidder?  Gilad has already received great value for his bid, and Kristina thought the honey cake might be a good selection for this month.  Gilad was all for it.  He was even more for it after he tasted it:  "OMG!  Best honey cake ever."  The only disadvantage of giving something away is that you only get what tastes you can sneak from the crumbs or from the parts you might shave off.  So Kristina is going to have to make this one again.  All for herself.

Next on the agenda:  Mud Turtle Pie.  Rich and chocolatey.  And I keep forgetting to tell you, but now I am:  don't forget to save and freeze your pie crust scraps.  We'll eventually make cookies from all the scraps.  (Of course, if you forget, you can always make a new batch of pie crust, but I like an occasional nod to frugality).


  1. Congrat's Hanaa! Very nice picture on a pretty plate. This definitely is a keeper of a cake for all sorts of occasions.

  2. Great looking cake Hanaa. And great round up Marie. This was another great cake.