Rosh Hashanah

Brown Butter, Tea & Honey Cake

September 14, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Bobbi Lin. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
Author Notes

The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, looms at the end of each summer and comes around just as the darker months arrive. Its appearance has an effect on even the laxest of us Jews, like the extra credit that can neutralize all of the year’s offenses. It can be an anxiety-inducing day for many who are grappling for forgiveness and clean slates. Aside from the lack of food or water for 25 hours, Yom Kippur is truly exhausting, physically and emotionally.

On breaks between prayers and sermons, hushed conversations abound among the fasters regarding cravings and fantasy meals. On one side of the congregation, you can usually catch the words "bagels" or "babkas" among the whispers, while chopped liver recipes are discussed on the other. Whisky tends to frequent these muted discussions among the older men. Each and every faster has their own tradition for this annual act of self-care (and love), the breaking of the Yom Kippur fast.

Symbolizing the start and continuation of a "sweet" new year ahead, honey cakes are often gifted from one family to another during the period between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to Yom Kippur.

It takes a lot for me to set aside my savory tooth and prioritize dessert, but I’ve realized these three necessities of my mother’s table and have developed a simple cake with complex flavors: the nuttiness of brown butter, the sweetness of honey, and the aroma and energy boost of English breakfast tea.

It’s the comfort cake that can forgive all. —Emanuelle Lee

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Makes 1 cake
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole, skimmed, or oat milk
  • 3 English breakfast tea bags
  • 250 grams (about 2 sticks plus 1½ tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup runny honey
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup light brown or Demerara sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 large eggs
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Heat the oven to 340°F/170°C. In a small pot, bring the milk to a boil. Transfer to a small bowl and add the tea bags. Let infuse and cool.
  2. Wipe out the pot and heat over medium. Melt the butter, then slowly let it become dark golden in color. It should become very foamy, and the milk solids should be light brown. As soon as you reach this color, transfer to another small bowl (as it will burn quickly) and mix in the honey. Let cool.
  3. Into a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda through a fine-mesh sieve. Add the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ginger and mix well to combine. Once the brown butter and milk have cooled, squeeze the residual milk from the tea bags into the milk and discard them. Add the milk to the brown butter mixture and mix well.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, mix the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, reserving a little bit in case the batter gets too thin. Add the eggs and mix again until smooth.
  5. Grease a 9x5-inch pan with a little bit of butter or oil. Pour in the batter. If the batter is less than an inch below the top of the pan, pour a little bit out to prevent overflowing.
  6. Bake for 1 hour and 10 to 20 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan. It should rise in the oven and deflate slightly once cooled.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Gibson2011
    Gibson2011
  • FrugalCat
    FrugalCat
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Stevie the Fish
    Stevie the Fish

11 Reviews

Stevie T. September 10, 2021
At #6, it says, "If the batter is more than an inch below the top of the bread tin, pour a little bit out to prevent it overflowing." I think that it should read "*less* than an inch from the top", as by pouring out liquid you prevent overflowing. Why pour pout if you have more than an inch of margin?
 
Gibson2011 June 30, 2021
5 teaspoons of leaveners seems a bit much.
 
Laura September 29, 2020
As you can probably guess, this cake had a rich, deep flavor, which was perfect for the beginning of Fall. Thanks to the other reviews, I decreased the amount of baking powder and baking soda to 1 teaspoon each. The cake had a decent rise and looked like it was going to boil over in the oven but never did. If I were to make the cake again, I would repeat using 1 teaspoon of baking powder and baking soda each. While the cake was a success, and while I enjoy playing around with different flavors and textures, I'm not sure that this recipe has convinced me that brown butter needs to replace oil in honey cake.
 
penmoon April 25, 2020
There's something amiss with this recipe. I've made it twice and it just doesn't work. The batter is super-runny and literally boils in the pan and over the sides. There is way too much leavening in this recipe--perhaps it's a misprint?
 
LG October 10, 2019
Made this cake for Yom Kippur break fast dinner. It not only was a huge hit but I thought the cake was really delicious and came together very easily. My one complaint (and maybe this was my doing) was that I think it had too much leavening agent in it and it really sunk in the middle because of that. That being said, once it's cut into slices its a lot less noticeable and didn't impact taste.
 
FrugalCat October 10, 2019
I made this and put it in silicone muffin molds- like honey cake cupcakes. I put sliced blanched almonds on top, because that's what the bakery of my youth put on its honey cakes. They were delicious, but I noted that they didn't disappear immediately, as usually happens with baked goods in my house. Upon asking my husband about this, he replied "Honey cake? I thought they were bran muffins so I didn't touch them!"
 
cindymstec October 5, 2019
did anyone try this and end up with a very runny batter which boiled over in the oven? I withheld a cup of the liquid, and still came out like a baked pudding/pancake. I think if the flour were increased to 3 cups it might be better.
 
Debbie C. September 11, 2021
I also withheld a cup of liquid. The cake came out fine but what a waste of a cup of precious ingredients
 
Katie H. September 30, 2019
Oven temp is wrong. 170C is about 340F, not 240F. I set the oven to 240F and got honey cake soup.
 
Eric K. October 1, 2019
Hi Katie, I'm so sorry for the error. Correct, it should say 340°F, not 240°F; thank you for catching the typo.
 
Katie H. October 1, 2019
I put it in for 40 minutes more at 340F and it turned it right around! Its delicious.