A Non-Apple Cake That's Right at Home on Your Rosh Hashanah Table

September 29, 2016

Before moving to New Orleans, I worked in a predominantly Jewish community where I was creating and learning about traditional desserts for many religious celebrations.

So when we were planning our Rosh Hashanah meal at Shaya, where I work as a pastry chef, we thought that the best way to end the meal would be a blessing for the new year. Although apples are the most-ubiquitous Rosh Hashanah food, we immediately turned to carrots, a symbol of the hope for plenty in the new year, and carrot cake. But we wanted to put our own unconventional spin on that nostalgic, classic dessert.

We used the traditional spices but tweaked the recipe by incorporating very high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and fresh pineapple to add moisture and flavor to the warm spices. The resulting cake is super tender, with the acidity of the pineapple shining through in each bite.

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To finish off the cake, which is delicious to eat alone, we shied away from the iconic cream cheese frosting and decided to showcase a favorite ingredient for us: sesame. This sesame buttercream is a super simple recipe (and can easily be made pareve by simply substituting margarine and soy milk for the dairy products).

For the assembly of this cake, we like to keep it old-school and serve it as a sheet cake, but that's all up to your personal preference. The batter can be baked in round cake pans, a bundt or loaf pan, or even cupcakes. The cake can be stacked and filled or simply served in unfrosted slices with a dusting of confectioners' sugar or a drizzle of sesame glaze (to make this glaze, simply melt the frosting over a low heat, whisking until smooth).

What's your favorite dessert on the Rosh Hashanah table? Tell us in the comments below!

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  • Erin Higgins
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Erin Higgins

Written by: Erin Higgins

Erin Higgins is the Pastry Chef at Shaya in New Orleans, where her work has brought the restaurant to two notable accolades of late: Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Awards and Best New Restaurant: South at the recent Taste Talks Awards.


Erin H. October 3, 2016
It should be 1 cup of olive oil. It was a typo. Sorry for any confusion here.
Kylie T. October 3, 2016
Oh jeez. Well...that was an expensive mistake to make. :(
Sarah J. October 3, 2016
I'm so sorry about this! We actually made it with 2 cups of oil at the test kitchen! It was very moist but still delicious.
ahochster September 30, 2016
Love that this can easily be made non-dairy for a meat meal in a Kosher home! Can't wait to try it
ChefJune September 30, 2016
This recipe doesn't read like it will work. Sorry. An awful lot of moisture for only 2 cups of flour.
As well, it doesn't sound like a Rosh Hashanah cake to me. Carrot cake? Nah... The traditional cake for Rosh Hashanah is a honey cake, not an apple cake.
sydney September 30, 2016
Agree with both points.
danielle September 30, 2016
Could you use all butter instead of Crisco for the icing? Also - two cups of olive oil for the cake sounds like an awful lot. Misprint???
danielle September 30, 2016
Could you use all butter instead of Crisco for the icing? Also - two cups of olive oil for the cake sounds like an awful lot. Misprint???
ChefJune September 30, 2016
Not if you're an observant Jew and are having a meat meal.
danielle October 2, 2016
Yes, of course. I keep kosher, so I am aware of that. There is already butter listed as an ingredient so I presumed it would not follow a meat meal. I am just wondering if the texture (or anything else) would suffer if you used a full cup of butter and NO Crisco at all.
danielle September 30, 2016
Could you use all butter instead of Crisco for the icing? Also - two cups of olive oil for the cake sounds like an awful lot. Misprint???
Bascula September 30, 2016
Wow, two cups of "fat" in a 9x13 cake? seems extreme (and kind of expensive, using EVOO).
Kylie T. September 29, 2016
I made this tonight and I wasn't really happy with how it turned out. The icing was exceptional! But the cake batter was SO liquid-y and oily. I had reservations about even baking it, but I went ahead and did it anyway. After 1 hour, it was still like jello.

Obviously, I like moist cakes, but this is really, really bizarre. I don't know what to do with it.
Kylie T. September 29, 2016
Once I let it set out for about an hour, it set up a bit more. I'm not a huge fan of the stickiness of the cake, but my SO likes it!
liz A. September 29, 2016
huh! this was one of my favorite things i gobbled this week!
and hilariously enough, i kept taking the icing off and just eating the batter :-P
liz A. September 29, 2016
ugh. by batter i meant cake. duh.
Kylie T. September 29, 2016
Weird! Was the cake itself supposed to be super sticky/moist/jello-y? Jason loved it so it might just be me!