Grandma Rose's Honey Cake

Honey Cake

I must admit, I’m a wee loathe to give this one up.  But it’s sooo good, I think the world should enjoy the yumminess that is my Grandma’s Honey Cake.

Growing up my mom would make a Honey Cake yearly for Rosh Hashanah, aka the Jewish New Year.  The point, the tradition is that eating something sweet would ensure a sweet, good year. 

Why honey so much in Jewish traditions?  Yeah, I dunno.  Oh, well, uh, ok, if you’re interested in a religious explanation, and neither Mike nor I are religious so this was a heavy read, here’s a slightly more thorough answer.  Regardless, honey is tasty and despite my lack of religiosity, I like the traditions and sentiments.

honey cake ingredients
No those are not real bees. They’re from Jupiter Ascending.
This is the sole recipe I make where coffee is called for and I use it. I suppose, not being a coffee drinker, that was the reason I hadn’t baked it for ehh uh years (fingers had been crossed for each of those thank you): no coffee at hand.  Thank goodness I married a coffee drinker.  Thanks, babe!

honey and coffee in measuring cup
The honey and the coffee. Really can’t taste the coffee at all here. Or I don’t anyway.
So now, heh, now for some unknown reason I’ve gotten weirdly superstitious about baking this annually.  Yes I managed to survive those skimpy on sweet and good years somehow (sarcasm font) so zero clue where this random superstitiousness is coming from.   I’m not a superstitious person.

Anywhoo….Honey Cake.  Yum.  Truthfully, I pine for this moment of the year just so I can eat this cake.  I never want summer to end but this cake to me, yeah, it is the sole reason for allowing fall.

Though in reading up on it, it appears Honey Cake is a much unloved concoction, beaten up by a vast array of opinions, mainly it being dry, dense, and/or much too sweet.  In perusing a few recipes, I can kinda see why.  Tossing sugar or wacky ingredients at it won’t fix it either.

If you over-bake it, yeah, it’s dry.  And yeah its density is in a banana bread realm sort of way but Grandma’s is never ever leaden nor hulking.  Too sweet?  Nope, not here.  Greasy?  Nuh uh.  Dull?  Nope.   It’s perfect.

mixing sugar and oil
Beat the sugar with the oil for about two minutes and you get an icy-like slushy.
Hers has a soft, pillowy, delicate crumb, is perfectly comforting with seasonal spices, and is nicely moist thanks to the rich honey.   Ideally, bake this a day or two ahead as it gets better with time. 

Or maybe tastes have changed over the course of this recipe’s very long life.  Thanks to the library online, I’ve been reading American Cake* by Anne Bryn, aka, where I derived that proposition.   Supremely fascinating book, FYI.

Sometimes I wonder if criticism over a recipe comes from it just not being the correct version for that person’s tastes or inaccurately written, not a fault of the baked good itself.  With bazillions of variations out there on the interwebs for any given recipe, it’s bound to happen. 

Here’s hoping this recipe is as much of a winner for you as it is for me. 

And though this is considered a holiday treat, no need to box in the thinking; it’s good any time.  Guess I should apply my own advice to myself here, ahem.

Right, so, this came from my mom, given to her by my Grandma who found it in a plastic-spiraled booklet entitled “Our Recipes ‘n’ Tips” from the Suburban Hills Chapter of the Womens’ (sic) American ORT. 

honey cake batter in loaf pan
Everything mixed and ready to go, I’m drooling already.
Grandma died when I was twelve which sucked in many ways.   I didn’t get to know her nor learn from her and her baking ways.  Thankfully she shared her baking gene and I’m happy and lucky to carry it and utilize it constantly. 

In asking my mom about the recipe, she said Grandma would make multiples, as evidenced by the original given to me; it’s written as a double loaf’er.  She’d bake, the family would come together, merriment ensued. 

When my mom sent a photo of the booklet cover, I couldn’t decipher the last word. I’d kinda sorta heard of ORT but before I could reply and say um who are they, she wrote, “World ORT is a non-profit global Jewish organization that promotes education and training in communities worldwide.”  Quoting Wikipedia, I see she did.

But then my mom elaborated further about my Grandma, how she was amazingly generous with her time, giving and volunteering.  Well. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know.  Hence part of the suckage of losing her at twelve.

Grandma, Rose, belonged to the aforementioned organization but she also spent years with the PTA.  She’d haul a heavy steamer from home to the high school and back, on foot and it was not close, cooking hot dogs for the kids. 

“She belonged to many Jewish organizations for women,” my mom went on.  One that she traveled from Detroit to Denver for annually was CARIH, Children’s Asthma Research Institute and Hospital, even proudly becoming her chapter’s president despite no one in the family having asthma.  With a cousin, she ran weekly bingo nights to raise funds for the institute, my grandfather doing their accounting. 

In thinking back, I do remember lots of bingo stuff around but never knew why.  Huh.  Well.

So my Grandma was an impressive and gracious woman, always caring for others and clearly busy.  I got that busy gene from her too then, who knew.   But that’s a lot to live up to!

To make this recipe myself, to share not only the baked cake but to share the recipe with you carries on her bountifully big heart. 

It’s quite simple to make, less than ten minutes to pull together, and before long your home is filled with the wafting scent of happy fall memories, a cake perfect for breakfast, a snack, dessert, tea time, or a get-together.

baked Honey Cake
And not gonna lie, I was suddenly intrigued to tinker with this recipe, albeit already ideal in my mind.   Maybe add some apple and walnuts, what would butter do instead of oil (ah, void the Kosher), try some of the variations of ingredients proffered in the booklet.   Ugh, who’s gonna eat all these experiments?!

Guess it’s me as I did tinker and made mini muffins* because as we know, I’m on a hellbent use-that-damn-mini-muffin-tin quest. And wow, holy tender fluffy-puffs, they are a rockin' huge success.  Man am I gonna have one heck of a sweet, good year, whooie!

Here, check out this slideshow on the muffins version:

So much so a success, I tinkered with the loaf baking time.  Always always I followed the direction for an hour but the soft minis got my brain gerbils running as on occasion, yes on occasion, the loaf at an hour can be drier, the honey well toasted. So I tested the bake time.

And after baking a total of four recipe’s worth in two days, I’m still a bit perplexed.  Three of the four were one brand of honey, the fourth a different and my bake time tester cake.  Cake three was definitely done at forty five minutes, could have gone less but today’s with a different honey didn’t arrive at toothpick clean until fifty.  Are differing honeys the wildcard?  Hm.

But feel free to bake it for an hour, the ol’ standby time if you prefer or start testing at thirty five, forty minutes if you’re willing and tweaky like me.

Anyway, do try this recipe.  Either version.

I’ve cut the original recipe in half to make a single loaf or approximately 32-34 mini muffins. 

slice of baked Honey Cake plated
Have a sweet, good year people!  Let’s eat!
Me chasing Mike as he’s leaving…”Babe, at least try a muffin before you run off to work.”  He’s not real into many of my traditional family recipes. “sigh….”  Pops the whole thing in his mouth.  Me awkwardly staring at him. “I just brushed my teeth, I have no response.”  Poof, out the door.  Yeah, he didn’t like it but that’s fine.  No worries.  His loss.  Heh, my gain (everywhere).  But now I secretly planted a sweet, good year ahead in him. Haha! 

Update:  Mike loves the mini muffin version.   He even asked me, *asked me* to make them!  He inhaled them when I did, it was awesome!

Note:  This content originally appeared on Flaky Bakers.

*The American Cake book and mini muffin pans are Amazon affiliate links.  Bake happy, thanks!   Please see the "Info" tab for more, well, more info.

Share your thoughts :

  1. I just read the recipe for Grandma Rose’s Honey Cake (she was my Grandma, too) and my heart is so full of love. Thank you for including this, Becky. ❤️

  2. Oh excellent! You're so very welcome! She was the best!


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