Symbolizing hope for the sweet year ahead, this Honey Cake is a traditional treat for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, but can definitely be enjoyed by anyone at anytime! It’s a simple dairy-free loaf cake where honey really shines, with a super moist crumb and crisp caramelized edges. Absolutely delicious.
Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)
Honey is a staple ingredient for most Jews celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, symbolizing a sweet and fruitful year to come. Apples dipped in honey and honey cake are often part of the holiday festivities.
No worries if you’re not Jewish or don’t observe Rosh Hashanah – honey cake is enjoyed by many cultures. In my humble opinion, it is unjustly underrated. But I think that’s because so many recipes are incredibly dry or lack flavor. Not this one!
This recipe has a springy and moist crumb with a slightly crisp exterior that sort of tastes like caramel, while bitter coffee and tart orange juice balance sweetness from the honey and brown sugar. It’s so simple to make and rich in warm flavor. I usually make two loaves, one to be enjoyed in the morning with coffee or tea, and the other for dessert after our holiday meal. Whenever I serve it, it disappears fast!
This Jewish honey cake recipe is made with just a handful of pantry items.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- All purpose flour – Use the spoon and level technique for accurate measuring.
- Baking powder & baking soda – Both work together to help the cake rise.
- Salt – For flavor.
- Sugar – Both granulated sugar and brown sugar are used in this cake. The molasses in the brown sugar pairs nicely with the honey.
- Egg – Provides necessary structure to the cake.
- Vanilla – For flavor.
- Brewed coffee – It should be at room temperature when you add it to the bowl. You can also use black tea, if you don’t drink coffee.
- Orange juice – The tart orange juice helps to balance out the sweetness of the cake.
- Vegetable oil – This cake uses oil for its fat, which helps make the cake nice and moist, and also keeps it kosher pareve (neither meat nor dairy.)
- Honey – Our star ingredient! The quality of the honey does matter so grab the best one that you can find.
- Add in some warm spices. I intentionally omit spices from this cake, since I want the honey to be the predominant flavor and not have each bite taste like a spice cake. But you can certainly add some in! I recommend 1 teaspoon cinnamon and a 1/4 teaspoon each allspice, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg.
- Add in some diced apple. Stir in a cup of finely diced, peeled apple to the batter.
- Non coffee drinkers. The bitterness of coffee provides a nice balance of the sweet honey, but you can substitute an equal amount with tea, milk, or even water, if preferred (all of which will alter the taste, obviously, and you might need to adjust the cooking time.) Note that if you use milk, the recipe will not be kosher pareve (neither meat nor dairy).
How is this Cake Dairy Free if it Has Eggs?
There seems to be some confusion about eggs being dairy – perhaps because grocery stores stock the eggs with the dairy. But eggs are actually not a dairy product. They are indeed produced by animals and therefore an animal by-product, but a dairy product refers to a product made from the mammary gland of mammals (like cows and goats) and the foods made from their milk such as cream, butter, and cheese.
How to Make Honey Cake
This is one of the easiest Rosh Hashanah recipes out there, with just 5 to 10 minutes of hands-on time. All you need is one bowl and a whisk!
(Scroll down to the printable recipe card for details and measurements, and don’t miss the video below.)
- Prepare the batter. Whisk together the dry ingredients until combined, then add in the egg, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, oil, and honey. Whisk until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth.
- Bake. Pour the batter into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the a little honey over the top. Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Cool and enjoy. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack. Slice at room temperature and enjoy.
Tips for Success
- Use good quality honey. Honey is our star ingredient in this cake and the strongest flavor, so use a really high-quality honey that you love.
- Don’t over-mix. Over-mixing the batter can result in a dense, tough, or chewy cake. Stop mixing when the ingredients are just combined.
- Grease or line your loaf pan. Line your loaf pan on all sides with parchment paper or generously spray with nonstick cooking spray, or grease with butter and flour, to ensure it releases from the pan easily after baking.
- Don’t over-bake. The cake is ready when it’s set and springs back to the touch. I also recommend inserting a tester or toothpick in the center, to ensure it comes out clean. In my oven, 35 minutes is the perfect amount of time. In your oven, it may take an additional 5 minutes or so but I recommend to start checking at 35 minutes and go from there.
Video: Honey Cake Recipe
With flavors of honey and orange, this honey cake is perfect for Rosh Hashanah or any occasion, especially during the fall and winter months. It’s best enjoyed at room temperature or even slightly warm and makes a lovely light dessert, afternoon snack cake, or in the morning with a cup of coffee or tea.
If you’re looking for more Jewish recipes for Rosh Hashanah to round out your meal, you can’t go wrong with my Brisket and Charoset, which are wonderful for just about every Jewish holiday. Matzo Ball Soup is a fantastic side. Poppy Seed Cake and Coconut Macaroons are also perfect ways to end a lot of Jewish holiday meals.
How to Store
- Storing leftovers. You can store leftover honey cake in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge. It will last for up to 3 days on the counter or up to 5 days in the fridge.
- Can you freeze honey cake? Yes, this honey cake freezes well. Allow it to cool completely then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and also foil, then transfer to a freezer-safe ziploc bag. Freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw on the counter.
More Jewish Recipes:
- 1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour , spooned and leveled
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup brewed coffee (room temperature)
- 2 & 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup honey (plus 1 tablespoon for drizzling over the batter)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang on the two longer sides.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until combined. Then add in the egg, vanilla, coffee, orange juice, vegetable oil, and 1/3 cup honey; whisk until just incorporated and smooth.
- Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon honey.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the cake is set and springs back to the touch, and a tester in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
- Let cool 10 to 15 minutes in the pan, then lift out and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Slice and serve. Enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea!