Darkly appealing but soft, moist and spiced inside this cake smells wonderful baking and tastes even better with a cup of tea or coffee. Ashkenazi Jews bake Lekach or honey cake during Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah which falls from the 29th of September to the 1st of October this year. The sweetness from the honey is said to symbolise having a sweet year ahead. It is also best baked 3 or so days ahead of time. I called her Esther.
The biblical name for Rosh Hashanah is Yom Teruah, literally "day of shouting or blasting" and signifies the beginning of the year and the start of the Days of Awe, or 10 days of introspection that culminates in Yom Kippur or the day of Atonement, the most important day in the Jewish calendar.
As symbolic as this cake is, it's also absolutely delicious. You can use a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove or ginger or your favourite spices. Usually you would receive some lekach from a parent or mentor the day before Yom Kippur. There are many, many recipes with variations of the spices, a range of nuts, lemons or apples.
I omitted the nuts because I was baking this in a fancy bundt and I wanted a uniform outer crust but I had one rather lonely looking apple that needed using and I'm sure it added to the cake's moistness. Honey dipped apples are a common treat during Rosh Hashanah. Other foods eaten during this time are brisket, pomegranates, roast carrots and sweet challah bread.
Growing up I ate a lot of Jewish food as my two good friends in high school happened to be Jewish (Russian Jewish specifically). I loved going to their houses for their food. I do remember that both their parents used to shout rather loudly in Russian. Not being able to understand Russian I thought that they were always getting told off but that was just the volume at which they spoke. Parents huh!
As new dog parents, I've mentioned before our challenge at the moment is that Mr Teddy Elliott wants to bite everything including our hands, his crate or anything he can get his paws on. This is normal teething behaviour and usually stops once they lose their baby teeth. However time is getting on and he may need to get them extracted because his adult teeth are growing in.
I jokingly suggested to Mr NQN to do what my parents did to me with my baby teeth. I'm the eldest and as the eldest in any family you really bear the burden of parents feeling their way. My parents did a lot of testing out on me because there was no internet and they are the product of their own strange post-war childhoods.
Whenever I had a loose baby tooth that started wiggling they'd tie some string around that tooth and then tie the other end of the string around a door knob. They'd slam the door shut and the tooth would come flying out of my mouth. I hated this so much and they'd often do it when my tooth wasn't loose enough so I'd be scared of the metallic gush of blood in my mouth. "You'll swallow your tooth!" they'd reason.
As they took them out so early, all of my teeth grew back crookedly. By the time my sister came around to losing her baby teeth they realised that it wasn't such a great idea to do it and didn't do it with her (and not surprisingly, her teeth grew in fine and she didn't need braces whereas I did). Back then all I wished was that I had different parents whenever my baby teeth came loose although now I have to be prepared for when Mr Teddy Elliott gets his teeth taken out and is upset at us too! I'm sure he'll be wishing his parents hadn't done that to him...
So tell me Dear Reader, did you ever get your teeth removed like this? What number are you in the birth order of your family? Did the eldest break your parents in?
Lekach Jewish Honey Cake
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 70 minutes
Degree of difficulty: easy
Serves: 12 (halve the quantity to fill a loaf tin)
- 30g/1oz. semi-melted butter and 1 tablespoon flour to grease bundt tin
- 3 cups cake flour*
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1.5 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1.5 cups oil
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 375g/13ozs. honey
- 1 cup coffee/tea
- 1 apple, grated
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
To make 1 cup of cake flour, replace 2 tablespoons of plain all purpose flour with cornflour/fine cornstarch
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F and brush the bundt tin very carefully with butter (it helps to use slightly melted butter and not completely melted so that it really clings to the mold). Sift a light layer of flour over the butter. Set aside.
Step 2 - Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg together. In a jug measure the oil and whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Make a well into the flour mixture and pour in the liquid in 3 lots mixing to remove any lumps. Then add the honey, coffee or tea, apple and lemon zest. Scoop into prepared tin and bake for 60-65 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes. Trim the base and then place a serving plate underneath and upend carefully. Serve with honey butter.