Serves a Crowd

Gentle Gingered Honey Cake

December  9, 2013
1 Ratings
Photo by creamtea
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves a crowd (can be halved)
Author Notes

This is my mother's honey cake, and a traditional Rosh Hashanah treat. It has a gentle hint of orange and spice, and a moist crumb. The flavors are soft and sweet. The top self-glazes from the honey in the batter. This recipe lacks the bitterness one often finds in other versions that results from too much coffee and spice; in fact it is the only one I'll bake. It makes a large honey cake that will serve a crowd. It is best if baked a day or more early and allowed to mellow; it just gets better and better.
Author's Note: Please try it as written before succumbing to the temptation to tinker with this recipe. It is just lovely and perfect as it is. - creamtea


What You'll Need
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons in total of the following spices: allspice, ground ginger, cloves and nutmeg.
  • a few grinds of freshly-ground black pepper (optional but good)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup plus 2T honey, warmed
  • 1 cup strong coffee, still warm
  • grated zest and juice of one large orange
  • 2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped (more if you love candied ginger OR same amount of candied orange peel
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325º. Grease and flour a large 15 x 10 roasting or baking pan and line with parchment paper. Grease and flour paper.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and ground spices together onto a sheet of wax paper. Set aside.
  3. Combine coffee, honey and oil in a bowl. Beat well to combine.
  4. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add sugars and beat until thoroughly combined.
  5. In 3 additions, add flour mixture alternately with coffee/honey/oil mixture to egg mixture, mixing after each addition just until incorporated. Stir in minced ginger and optional walnuts. Scrape into pan, bake 45 to 60 minutes, until cake smells fragrant and moist crumbs adhere to a toothpick inserted in the center. Allow to cool 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely and remove parchment carefully.
  6. Cut into squares and serve, preferably after it has mellowed for a day.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • creamtea

8 Reviews

LeBec F. February 3, 2016
p.s. i forgot to say that my experience was evidence that your baking knowledge and intuition is excellent; you might just consider being more confident and bolder in putting your flavor ideas to use!
creamtea September 15, 2016
Again. Your results do not accurately reflect my recipe. You volunteered to test it, but assumed it would fail because you read someone else's thoughts, then altered my family's version so as to be completely unrecognizable; then you reviewed the result of your own experiments. That is not recipe testing. That is kitchen experimentation run amok. I have no idea who Marcy Goldman is, nor why her recipe must be the standard for mine. Please follow a recipe next time without prejudice and with respect for its author.
LeBec F. February 3, 2016
ct, i always enjoy seeing your work on 52, but i did not find this recipe noteworthy. I wouldn't have sent these notes to you because they may sound too harsh, but you asked my experience. I have no intention to be hurtful and I did not re-write this to be more tactful, so plse forgive my candor.My testing notes for Orange Scented Ginger Honey Cake:
Recipe Notes:
Previous to this recipe testing, I had spent countless hours reading about Honey Cakes and wanting to try one. They all contained coffee, oj and honey, which really appealed to me. But unfortunately, Honey Cakes have a very bad reputation; dryness being the ubiquitous complaint. Then I learned that cookbook author, Marcy Goldman, had solved this problem by upping the typical amount of oil to equal half the volume of flour. Her results were raved everywhere. While creamtea described her mom's cake as moist, I decided to side with the multitudes, and I used 2 1/4 cups oil(almost 5 times more than her recipe for 1/2 cup) which is half her flour volume of 4 1/2 cups. Goldman's cake had also included whisky in its liquid, so I did the same, using the same ratio.

After tasting the batter, I found it too sweet, so I attempted to assuage that problem. It was too late to omit some of the sugar, as many have done in similar Honey Cake recipes, so I added 2 tsp kosher salt (none had been called for) , 16 more turns of freshly ground black pepper, 4 teaspoons espresso powder, and 1 lemon's zest, all of which helped cut the sweetness and emphasize their flavors more. To bring out the nuttiness (an element that distinguished creamtea's Honey Cake from most others), I doubled creamtea's ground nuts, using pecans for the addition instead of the original walnuts. I followed all her other ingredient amounts but I used half white AP flour and half white whole wheat flour instead of all white flour.
Among the optional additions that Creamtea had listed, all of which would help make her recipe unique, I added 4 T. total candied orange and ginger to one pan's batter. Then, for my own contribution, I added 4 T. total candied lemon and chopped dry prunes to the other pan.

I baked the batter in two 9 x 13 pans in my convection oven and it was done after
~ 40 minutes, instead of the 60 minutes for creamtea.

Honey Cakes are tricky things. You are more likely to hear about dry ones than good ones.
Creamtea's recipe stands out from others because of its nuts, orange zest and candied ginger and orange peel, but , in order for them to really be noticed, she needed to dramatically increase their amounts. Likewise, in order to achieve the moist cake she desired, she needed to drastically up her oil.
My baking experience and taste buds told me that if I had followed creamtea's recipe to the letter, it would have resulted in a drier, too sweet, less distinguished dish. Well conceived flavoring elements were present but too scant to make enough of an impression. The major changes that I made were: increasing her oil fivefold, introducing salt, lemon zest and whiskey (where there had been none) and upping the pepper, espresso powder, and nuts. Minor changes were the addition of small amounts of candied lemon peel and chopped prunes to one batter , and chopped candied orange peel and ginger to the other batter.

The resulting cake is a medium dark brown with a moist interior and domed top. I tasted it after it had sat for a day. It is sufficiently sweet. The nuts are somewhat detectable and do add to the texture. For me, even with the additions I made, it tastes like a mild moist spice cake without stronger elements. I had expected it to taste complex with noticeable citrus and fruit elements, but that did not happen for me. Were I to make it again and want it to stand above all the other Honey Cakes out there, I would triple or quadruple the nuts and dried and candied fruits. I also did not taste the honey in the cake, but I glazed part of the cake with a liberal amount of heated honey, and tasted it the next day (2 days after baking) and that really helped the honey to be noticeable. I'm not sure if the whiskey made any difference in flavor.


1/2 cup ground pecans
----------------------TO HALF, I ADDED:
-----------------TO HALF I ADDED
creamtea September 12, 2016
lbf, thank you for your comments. I appreciate your taking the time to test my recipe, but I have to say, you made so many changes, that what you baked was unrecognizable to me! I do not list whiskey among the ingredients (my mother would never have used it--it is her recipe, as I state). Pecans would make a very good substitute indeed--I have no issue with that. You upped the oil 5 fold. The raw batter is sweet, but the sweetness mellows in the baking process. You attempted to compensate for the sweetness by adding or increasing other ingredients, then after baking added a honey glaze that is not indicated! Prunes and candied lemon zest are not part of the recipe. Again, I appreciate your taking the time to test the recipe, but in fairness, I think you ought to have baked it as written. This review has no relation to my submitted recipe.
THE M. September 12, 2016
I just can't comprehend how Le Bec Fin can claim to be a tester and then offer a review of something when she or he tampered with the ingredients! What Le Bec Fin did is take CreamTea's delightful honey cake recipe and distort in - in more ways than one! That is not what a reviewer does. A book reviewer for example doesn't edit the book, add a chapter or two, and then write a book review! There are certain rules of procedure when one engages in the reviewing process, and clearly Le Bec Fin violated these rules and did not play fair.
LeBec F. December 26, 2015
hahaha! I TOLD you it was a great recipe! Congrats on 'making it to the test stage'! And guess who signed up to test it for her first testing yet? Yep, little ol' me. At least you know I'll be ruthlessly honest, eh?! I'm wicked psyched; I had already printed it out and moved the KitchenAid into place, and I have all the ingredients. (Maybe I'll surprise My Love and also make my Hermits, which have many shared ingreds!)
Congrats again.
LeBec F. December 23, 2015
ct, this is a LOVELY recipe. my only caveat (yep, i'm a broken record on his one) is that it lends itself so well to multigrain flours; that's what I will try out. At least White Whole Wheat, and maybe Rye or wheatgerm. The photo perfectly illustrates how moist it is, and I LOVE it that you used coffee and citrus, and a good amount of nuts! I have been surfing Honey Cake recipes for some years, so I think yours has finally hooked me! Thx so much for this inspiring recipe!
creamtea December 23, 2015
Thank you LBF, let me know how it works with alternative flours! But, with the exception of the candied ginger--my own addition--this is the version I grew up with. I'm very curious to hear about your results!