Grandma Fanny’s Honey Cake

April 25, 2023
6 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 1 (9x13-inch) cake
Author Notes

For me, the Jewish holidays are all about food. I appreciate the rituals and traditions, but let’s be honest, I’m here to eat. For Rosh Hashanah, honey symbolizes our excitement for a sweet new year. However, traditional honey cake isn't exactly the go-to dessert of my dreams. Anyone you ask will tell you the same: The classic version is dry, and it’s basically a Jewish version of Christmas fruitcake. My Grandma Fanny's recipe was no different, yet my family continued to make it. Truth be told, there’s still something compelling about honey cake. Maybe it’s the coziness the cake exudes, or our ancient, instinctual love of honey? Maybe it’s the allure of a family recipe? Whatever the pull, I wanted to find out how good it could be. To my family’s original recipe, I added oranges, olive oil, and whole-wheat flour, and found Fanny’s recipe transformed. Crispy edged, fruity, slightly salty, and fluffy-crumbed, it’s a truly great dessert.

Rosh Hashanah is a fall holiday, so my mother always served Fanny’s cake with apple sauce and poached pears. I tried a few garnish swaps and found just how dynamic this sweet little dessert could be. In winter, I pair it with red wine-poached prunes and mascarpone. For spring, kumquat jam and candied fennel. In summer, roasted peaches and whipped cream. Or, keep it simple and eat it with a dollop of crème fraîche and a cup of tea or coffee.

I treat the eggs and olive oil in this cake similarly to how you would make mayonnaise—beat the eggs until they’re light and fluffy, then slowly drizzle in the oil to create an emulsification. This cake can be a cozy snack or the upscale finale to a festive meal. —Jessica Faith Meter

What You'll Need
  • 2 1/8 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup (80 grams) whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) baking soda
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (130 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup (220 grams) honey
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (180 grams) light cooking oil, like grapeseed oil or a light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (45 grams) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 navel oranges, zested
  1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Line a 9x13-inch cake pan with parchment and lightly grease with olive oil.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on high until fluffy, 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to combine.
  4. Add honey and vanilla, mix on low speed to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer on medium speed, add both oils in a slow, steady drizzle as if you were making mayonnaise. If the mixture starts to look greasy, take a break from adding the oil and mix for 10 to 15 seconds. (It should take 2 to 3 minutes to add all the oil.) Once all the oil has been added, whisk on high for 1 minute. Batter should appear silky and smooth.
  6. Add sour cream and orange zest, mix to combine. Add half of the dry ingredients, mix on low speed until just incorporated, then add the second half. Mix on low speed until just incorporated, less than 30 seconds.
  7. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes, then carefully remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Cake will keep wrapped in the fridge for up to 1 week.

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