Honey Apple Cake

Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipe

This dessert was one of the very first recipes I posted on The Shiksa in the Kitchen. It has since become a holiday favorite for many families! I have updated this post and republished it with new pictures and more detailed recipe instructions. Enjoy!

Summer is coming to an end, which means goodbye sunshine, hello holidays! From September through the end of the year, we celebrate some amazing food-filled Jewish holidays. The first is Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year signifying the end of the Hebrew calendar cycle. It is the first of what we call the High Holidays (or High Holy Days), a ten-day period that ends with Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the Jewish year. Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. On the Roman calendar, Rosh Hashanah usually occurs during the month of September.

The Rosh Hashanah holiday is a time for reflection. We recognize and admit the things we’ve done wrong over the past year. Let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. Rosh Hashanah allows us to recognize our shortcomings, providing an opportunity to better ourselves through prayer. We are also actively encouraged to repent by seeking forgiveness from the people we have wronged during the previous year. It is not uncommon for Jews to apologize to people they have mistreated so they can start the new year fresh, with a “clean slate.” We are reminded not to repeat these mistakes in the coming year; in this way, Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity to improve the way we approach the world. It’s a holiday that helps us to become better people. And that’s a beautiful thing.  :)

Honey Apple Cake

 The shofar, a special instrument made from the horn of a kosher animal, is blown on Rosh Hashanah

Jews from different parts of the world celebrate Rosh Hashanah in a variety of ways. Holiday traditions vary according to family background and local customs. A special prayer service is held at synagogue emphasizing both repentance and remembrance. During this service, gratitude is expressed to God for the creation of the world and humanity. The shofar, a special instrument made from the horn of a kosher animal (usually a ram), is blown. Tzedakah, or charitable giving, is also part of the holiday. Good deeds are done in the hopes that God will seal our names in the “Book of Life,” which brings the promise of a happy year to come.

And then, of course, there’s the food. What would a Jewish holiday be without a celebratory meal of epic proportions? (Unless of course it’s Yom Kippur, a fasting holiday.) The Rosh Hashanah meal—or meals, depending on the way you celebrate—are particularly fun, because they feature symbolic foods that signify our hope for a “sweet new year.” We enjoy “new fruit,” a fruit that has recently come into season but we have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy this year (often a pomegranate). The head of a fish is sometimes served, symbolizing the literal translation of Rosh Hashanah, which means “Head of the Year” in Hebrew (on our table it’s strictly symbolic, we don’t eat it). Challah is baked fresh, sweetened with raisins or fruit and braided into a round shape. Apples and challah are dipped in honey, again symbolizing sweetness. In fact, honey is a major ingredient in many traditional Rosh Hashanah dishes, including the famous (or should I say infamous!) Rosh Hashanah honey cake.

Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipe

 Honey, apples and challah are traditional Rosh Hashanah foods.

I had trouble getting excited about this whole honey cake tradition. At my first few Rosh Hashanah celebrations, the honey cake was my least favorite part of the meal. It’s usually a dry, overly-spiced, overly-sweet cake that sits virtually untouched on the Rosh Hashanah buffet—more like an afterthought than a truly inspiring dessert. I tried many traditional honey cake recipes over the years, but each one seemed more disappointing than the last. I experimented with my own recipe ideas, but it always turned out kind of…well, honestly, kind of blah tasting.

A few years ago, as we were dipping our apples into honey, it occurred to me that maybe I’d been approaching this whole honey cake thing from the wrong perspective. Yes, a honey cake is traditional—but apples are also a traditional Rosh Hashanah food. Why not combine the two flavors into one dessert cake? Around that same time I bought my first Bundt cake pan, so I decided to play around with it and see what I could come up with. After a few failed attempts, I discovered the right combination of ingredients and baked an irresistible Honey Apple Cake. Shredding apples into the batter lends moisture and creates a lovely texture. This recipe is now our Rosh Hashanah tradition. My family enjoys it so much that I often serve it for other cold weather holidays like Sukkot, Thanksgiving and Purim. I’m so excited to share it with you!

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Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipe

Honey Apple Cake

Cake Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups all purpose baking flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Dash of ground cloves
  • 4 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored, and shredded

Icing Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 3 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1-2 tbsp non-dairy creamer

You will also need

  • 9 inch Bundt cake pan, sifter, wire cooling rack, parchment paper, Ziploc bag
Cook Time: 75 - 90 Minutes
Total Time: 2 - 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Servings: 10
Kosher Key: Pareve
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until they are frothy. Whisk in the honey, white sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla. In a separate medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and spices. Incorporate the flour mixture into the liquid, stir to blend. Fold in the shredded apples.
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeSpray your Bundt pan with cooking spray, making sure to evenly coat the entire inner surface. Pour your batter into the pan. Bundt pan depths vary, so make sure the batter fills the pan ¾ full or less. Do not fill beyond ¾ or your cake might overflow during baking. Use a spatula to gently push the batter to the outside of the pan, pushing slightly up the walls. This will help to get rid of any air pockets that might interfere with the pretty details of the pan. Smooth the batter on the top so it is flat and even all the way around the pan.
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeBake cake in preheated oven for 75-90 minutes. When the edges darken and pull fully away from the sides of the pan, and the cake browns all the way across the surface, insert a toothpick deep into the thickest part of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. It’s a very moist cake, so it’s easy to undercook it– err on the side of caution and let it bake a little longer if you’re unsure (but don't bake it too long or it will dry out!).
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeLet the cake cool for exactly 10 minutes, then invert it onto a flat plate. Tap the Bundt pan gently to release the cake. If your cake sticks, use a plastic knife to carefully loosen the cake around the center tube and sides. Allow cake to cool completely (very important to let it cool before frosting).
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeNow it’s time to decorate your cake. Decorate this cake the same day you serve it; the cake is moist so it tends to “soak up” the powdered sugar, plus the icing looks prettier fresh. To keep things neat, I like to do this part on a wire cooling rack with a piece of parchment paper underneath to catch extra sugar/ drips. You can simply do it on a plate if you prefer. First, put 3 tbsp of powdered sugar into a handheld mesh strainer or sifter. Sprinkle sugar onto the top of the cake by tapping the strainer or sifting to release an even shower of sugar around the surface of the cake.
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeNext, make your drizzle icing. Sift 1 cup of powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Add ¼ tsp of vanilla extract and 1 tbsp non-dairy creamer to the bowl. Stir with a whisk or fork to blend. Add additional non-dairy creamer by teaspoonfuls, mixing constantly, until the mixture has the texture of very thick honey. You want the icing to be quite thick, but still pourable. When you can drizzle the icing in stripes across the surface, and it takes a few seconds for those drizzles to dissolve back into the icing, the texture is right.
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipePlace a Ziploc bag inside a tall water glass, open end facing upward and wrapped around the edge of the glass, so there is an open space for easy filling. Pour the icing into the Ziploc bag.
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeClose the bag, leaving a small bit open to vent. Guide the icing towards one of the lower corners of the bag. Cut the very tip of that corner off the bag.
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeDrizzle the icing in a zig-zag pattern around the cake by squeezing the Ziploc bag gently to release the glaze.
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipeAllow icing to dry completely before serving—this usually takes about 30-60 minutes. Slice and enjoy!
  • Honey Apple Cake for Rosh Hashanah #jewish #holiday #recipe

Comments (177)Post a Comment

  1. I love the thoughts behind Rosh Hashanah, of making things right with others and looking to do better in the coming year.

    This cake is so pretty to look at and I’ll bet it tastes even better.

  2. Thanks Tori! I like to make this w apples and without! Honey Cake, When I worked as a personal Chef for my boss´s mother, she made a honey cake for Rosh Hashanah, and I got hooked! But never got the recipe till now. I tried one on food network site and it wasn´t hers!

  3. Is the honey taste very strong? I am not a fan of regular honey cakes but this looks and sounds, for the ingredients, delicious!

    Love your blog, Tori–it’s the first blog I found and subscribed to a while ago. Your writing, clear explanations, and well-designed recipes set a high standard for other bloggers! Keep up the good work.

    1. Hi Marlene, thank you for the kind comments! I work so hard to make this blog a useful and fun resource for all, I appreciate you noticing the effort. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of regular honey cakes either, but in this one the honey flavor is mellowed by the apple. I’ve never met somebody who doesn’t love it. Try, and enjoy!

  4. I’ve been making a recipe very similar to this one for years. Now I’m not allowed to show up w/o it! Thanks for the icing recipe!!!

  5. Love your recipes, and your blog. Your description of Rosh Hashanah is beautiful and inspiring. This shiksa is going to celebrate the holiday too.

  6. What other oils would you recommend? Olive, coconut, sunflower, grapeseed? I’m supposing any will do, but was wondering your opinion. I plan to make this for our Rosh Hashanah meal.

    1. Light olive oil, sunflower or grapeseed would work well. I’m not sure about coconut. Regular olive oil will taste too strong for this cake, but the light would be fine.

  7. I made it and it was delicious, light, moist. My only complaint is that it was hard to tell that there were apples in there, maybe because they were grated instead of in chunks or slices. What do you think?

    1. The apples are grated to give the cake that moist, light texture. Chunks of apples will change the texture of the cake. I much prefer them shredded, but if you try the chunks and like it better, let us know!

  8. This looks wonderful! I love the idea of honey cake combined with apples, because both are symbolically significant, and I’m always making 2 cakes–apple and honey! Problem solved! I’m not going to use the coffee creamer–we don’t consume those kinds of products–and this cake doesn’t need a lot of icing–the icing is purely for esthetic purposes.

  9. Hi, do you think I can substitute whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour, at least some of it? Can’t wait to bake this cake.

    1. Hi Ailuy– I’ve never subbed whole wheat flour, but I’m guessing you can probably sub up to half with a good result. Let me know how it goes!

  10. Hi Tori and greetings from Sweden! I baked the cake today, and it was a huge success ! I used sunflower oil instead of canola, and some cardamom instead of the all spice, and it worked perfectly fine. Delicious flavour, very light and moist at the same time. My son ate three helpings :) My next challenge will be the Challah !

  11. this looks great for rosh hashana. need to keep it pareve. coffee creamers in the house are all milchig, hardly worth buying coffee rich for a tablespoon or two so I’ll try it with water or iced tea to mix the confectioners sugar.

  12. Cake is fantastically moist but needs more flavor.. I’m making it again today (these are dry runs for Rosh Hashana) and will advise. Thank you Shik!

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