For the next two days, I will be digitally incommunicado as I celebrate one of the most important holidays of the year. That’s right, my Jewish friends. It’s Rosh Hashanah!
For those of you scratching your heads right now, that means that the Jewish new year is upon us. It’s traditional to eat apples and honey and other sweet foods to bring on a sweet year. There’s only one problem with that.
Honey cakes are often dry and not worth eating. It’s a serious problem. So here I am, your holiday 411. This cake is definitely worth gobbling!
What I like about the Jewish new year is that it’s introspective. Instead of making resolutions that we can’t possibly keep, the holiday is focused on us reviewing the past year and atoning for the mistakes we’ve made. If we’re truly sorry, and if we really wish we’d done things differently, this is our chance to try again with a clear slate.
But I’m not talking about the things we do constantly and don’t change, like Netflix binge when we’re supposed to be working. It’s not that kind of atonement. It’s centered on how we treat other people, how we treat ourselves, and how we interact with the world around us in a meaningful way. I like to take time to think about that, so it’s a good thing we get two days in synagogue to hammer it all out.
Mistakes are par for the course, but it’s how we respond to them that really makes a difference. I wish I were less of a gossip, and it’s actually considered really wrong in Judaism to speak badly about other people. It’s also the hardest habit to break. After all, what could make us feel more confident than putting someone else down behind her back? Or being the first to deliver news that nobody knows yet? What a great way to feel important.
Over the years as I try to better my own personal habits, I find that the best way to become a better person is to look outward. Nope, not inward. Outward. Look around at all the people who need help, and do something about it. That help could be as simple as giving charity to a local food bank, or more complex, like volunteering precious hours of time to make someone else’s day a little better.
A few years ago, I was discussing the concept of charitable giving with a bunch of teachers. One said, “I don’t need to give charity. That’s what I do every day for a living.” I didn’t say anything out loud, but it make me kind of angry. Sure, teachers are underpaid. And sure, teachers spend their days helping others. However, I get more from my job than it gives me. It’s great to go home at the end of the day not only with a paycheck, but also with the feeling that I’ve done something worthwhile with my day.
On Rosh Hashanah, then, I think about how to be a better person. And of course, I think about how to bake a better cake.
This year, I grated an apple into the cake batter. I was trying to see what it would accomplish. Would it add to the cake’s moisture? Change the texture? What would happen? Oh, the experimental life of a baking blogger.
I grated the apples in so finely that they’re invisible after baking. I could taste the apple in the final product, but not too much. The apple gave the honey cake a gentle edge that honey cake usually doesn’t have. And to add to the moisture content, the cake is topped off with a simple sugar glaze. I’ve never met a bundt cake that didn’t benefit from some glaze on top.
Is this the most moist honey cake ever? In the end, no. But it’s still really good. And next year, I’ll keep trying to make it better, just like I’ll keep trying to make myself better.
To my Jewish friends, shana tovah (happy new year). And to everyone else in the digital realm, I’ll catch up with you in a couple of days!
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 and 1/4 cups canola oil
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 apple, finely grated (I used Granny Smith)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons milk (I used almond milk)
- Preheat the oven to 325. Coat a large bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the honey, both sugars, oil and vanilla, mixing again until smooth.
- In a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients and spices. Add the dry mixture to the liquid mixture, stirring until the batter is smooth. Mix in the grated apple.
- Pour the batter into the bundt pan and even it out on top. Bake the cake for 55-65 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
- When the cake is cool, make the glaze. Combine the glaze ingredients until smooth and spreadable. You can either spoon the glaze over the cake, or you can use a piping bag with a hole cut on top to make a pattern.
- Let the glaze set. Cut into slices and serve.