The problem with honey cake – a traditional Ashkenazi dessert symbolic of wishes for a sweet Jewish New Year – is that a lot of people don’t like it. It seems there are always leftovers, even after you have a crowd for dinner.
For the record, I like honey cake. My favourite honey cake recipe calls for raisins, nuts, dates, and Maraschino cherries, which add a lot of flavour and texture. But even that one receives only a lukewarm reception when I make it.
So this year, I decided to try a recipe for chocolate honey cake by Mollie Katzen, author of the vegetarian classics The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.
I’d never attempted chocolate honey cake before, and to be honest, I don’t like the idea of it. (I feel the same about chocolate cheesecake.) It sounds to me like adulterated chocolate cake. Why mess with something good?
But Katzen’s recipe has a few things going for it that made me want to try it.
It’s got three different kinds of chocolate in it – cocoa, melted unsweetened chocolate, and chocolate chips. The combination would counteract the honey cake-ness of the cake, I thought, and the unsweetened chocolate would add richness.
Also, it’s an easy recipe that’s baked in a loaf pan. Unlike some traditional honey cake recipes, the instructions don’t call for separating the eggs.
As well, there’s only honey, no sugar. So while it’s still very sweet, it’s probably less sweet than many traditional honey cakes.
The cake was easy to prepare, but I messed up big-time on baking it. As per the instructions, I baked the cake at 325 degrees, not 350, because I was using a glass pan. But even after 40 minutes – 10 minutes longer than it should have taken – the cake didn’t pass the doneness test. It wasn’t even close.
I raised the temperature, and baked the cake about six minutes longer, maybe seven. Not a good idea. I took it out just as the top was starting to burn.
We ate it anyway, minus the burned top. I served it for dessert on Thursday, and again yesterday. Everyone liked it. They said it tasted more like chocolate cake than honey cake – although one friend said you taste the chocolate first, then the honey.
A triple dose of feel-good chemicals from the three types of chocolate, and lots of symbolism for a happy and sweet New Year.
The recipe’s a keeper… but maybe I should think about getting my oven calibrated.