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A Giant Jelly Donut Cake for Hanukkah

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Would you like a piece of cake right now? For Goodness Cake is here for you. Every week, we'll be sharing recipes that prove why cake should be its own food group.

Today: It's about time that Hanukkah got a cake of its own, and it's about time that we had a cake that tasted like a donut. 

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Please don’t tell my parents (or worse, my grandparents -- oy!), but I've come down with a case of Christmas envy. My proclivity towards shiny things like tinsel and my gripping desire to feel jolly have made me particularly susceptible. Did it start when my friend realized I didn't celebrate Christmas, looked at me like I was a recently-kicked puppy, and asked, "But when do you get presents?" Maybe it did. Or maybe it started when I saw Love Actually for the first time. It’s hard to say.

It’s less that I'm unsatisfied with my own traditions and more that I want to have a part in it all. I want to spin the dreidel and decorate the tree and grate potatoes for latkes and light the Hanukiah and eat cake. Because for all of the ways that Hanukkah’s been skewed to resemble Christmas -- in a victory for the toy industry, we get presents now, too (and even eight, if we’re lucky) -- we still don’t have cake. No fruit cake; no gingerbread; no stollen. The triumphant Hanukkah dessert is sufganiyot, but my family has never been ambitious enough to heat up a pot of oil to fry them, and that's left me longing for a Festival of Lights tradition of my own. And so, cake! Cake was the gaping hole that I could fill with something of my own creation. (I dare you to watch this video and not agree with me.)

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More: Now is your time to eat a diet of fried foods for "religious reasons."

It took a lot of early morning cake consumption to get this cake right. Some said it couldn’t be done (some also said the Maccabees’ oil wouldn’t last, but they were wrong). And I had doubts, too. For the weeks that I was trying to wrap my head around how to make a jelly donut cake, I couldn’t talk about anything else. The question “How would you make a jelly donut cake?” became my icebreaker at parties; I slipped it into conversations with Dorie Greenspan and Alison Roman; I even tried to use my eighty-eight Twitter followers to crowdsource (that was a low point). Molly Yeh suggested that I deep-fry an entire cake, but I saw the headline “Cake Columnist Dies in Freak Frying Accident” flash before my eyes. 

Eventually, with the advice of many others, I figured out how to make a cake with a donut-like inside and a barely crunchy outer layer (a technique inspired by the duffin -- a donut-muffin hybrid): brioche is enriched with extra sugar and shaped into a ball; immediately after it comes out of the oven, it is doused with melted better, which you’ll hear sizzle and fry as it hits the hot pan; in the pièce de résistance, the whole thing is sanded with sugar.

After that, the next challenge was the jelly filling. We ruled out injecting the cake: too surgical. We ruled out using straight-up jam: too heavy. I took Kenzi’s suggestion, turned to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible, and made a raspberry whipped cream filling light enough to float atop the airy brioche yet jammy enough to be identifiable. At the office, we decided to cut the cake in half like a giant hamburger, plop some filling on top, and reunite the two brioche buns. Then we all smiled about how much it resembled, both in apperance and in taste, a donut. I thought we all deserved a handful of gelt. 

You are going to have to do some planning ahead to bake this cake. Good thing Hanukkah doesn't begin until next Tuesday! And as my mom always says, “If the Maccabees could defeat Antiochus, you can make brioche.” The recipe is lightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s brioche in Baking Chez Moi, so you know you can trust it. 

Sufganiyot (Jelly Donut) Cake

Brioche recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan; raspberry whipped cream from Rose Levy Beranbaum

Serves at least 8

For the brioche dough:

1/4
 cup warm-to-the-touch whole milk

1/4
 cup warm-to-the-touch water

1/3 
cup sugar (or up to 1/2 cup if you want a sweeter cake)

4
 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 3/4
 cups (374 grams) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 
teaspoons fine sea salt

3
 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature

2 sticks
 (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided (12 of the tablespoons at room temperature, cut into small cubes; 4 tablespoons left as is, for melting)

Sugar (plain or vanilla-scented), for coating

For the raspberry whipped cream filling:

2
 cups heavy cream, chilled

1
 cup raspberry preserves (preferably seedless)


See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

How would you make a jelly donut cake? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And Happy Hanukkah!

Photos by James Ransom


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Tags: hannukah, cake, dessert, chanukah, hanukkah, hanukah, channukah, jelly donut, donut, sufganiyot, jewish, baking