Not my Grandmother’s Honey Cake

The mixed aromas of honey, strong coffee, whiskey, orange juice and cinnamon are wafting through the house. I’m making honey cake in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins tomorrow at sunset. Honey cake and dipping apples in honey symbolize the wish for a good and sweet year.

My mother, in her kitchen, is making her famous chicken soup and matzo balls, which we eat on every holiday not only Passover. Hers are the fluffiest and lightest ever, made so by the addition of some club soda. My daughter in-law is gathering the traditional foods associated with the holiday, beets, dates, pomegranates and fish heads among them. She’s baking challah with the help of two of the grands.

In my kitchen, I think of my grandmothers, who dutifully prepared for holiday meals. My paternal grandmother Rosie made the best apple strudel. Her recipe, passed to my siblings and cousins, doesn’t include exact measurements. She expertly knew how much of each ingredient to add. My grandmother Mae made chopped liver and chocolate cake. Neither used recipes for soups and stews.

Unlike my honey cake. I read different recipes. My daughter in-law asked me to make the one I made in May for a grandson’s Upsherin, eaten to symbolize the sweetness of learning that begins at age 3.  I couldn’t remember which recipe I used. Loaded with ingredients, it’s hard finding the right balance of not too sweet and not too dry. Hadassah magazine features a recipe it claimed never fails, as long a you follow the directions exactly.  I compared it to ones I’ve made and decided to try it.

On Thursday, I’ll listen to my son blow the shofar at the Columbia University Chabad. Later in the day, we’ll walk to the Hudson River and join thousands of New York City Jews in the Tashlich ceremony, symbolically  casting away our sins into the water.

L’Shana Tova, Happy New Year to all.


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21 Responses to Not my Grandmother’s Honey Cake

  1. Happy New Year dear Lisa, may your family be blessed with joy and sweetness this year! So glad to know you too throw away your sins, we walk to the river also for Tashlich, one of my favorite traditions on this holiday.


  2. I love the ritual and tradition and family connections your post evokes. EVery word imbues the spirit of celebration — beautiful!

    Happy New Year!


  3. Happy New Year to you and family!


  4. I love tradition Lisa and the honey cake sounds delicious – L’Shana Tova!
    Diana xo


  5. cyclingrandma says:



  6. they look divine…if only I lived closer I would absolutely devour one tonight.


  7. Sounds like a great RoshHashonah Celebration. if i were in better shape i’d help withthe honey cakes, too. Got to put the soup and matzo balls away


  8. I love Rosh Hashana and all the symbolic foods. It’s so much fun when the kids sing the “Dip the Apple” song…I have help this year with the cooking and serving etc..because of my foot situation…and my daughters-in-law are bringing some of the dishes…Great post that evokes a cozy and warm feeling for Jewish tradition and holidays. Shana tova to you and your family, Lisa!


  9. Gilla Stern says:

    Hi Lisa,

    Wanted to wish you and Matthew along with the rest of your family- a Shana Tova- may your year be filled with the best of health & happiness!


    Gilla & Yitz


  10. ShimonZ says:

    My best wishes to you lisa, and to your beautiful family for a happy and healthy new year. Your preparations bring back a lot of good memories for me. This year, it’ll be the younger generations that’ll do all the work, and I will just enjoy the products of their enthusiasm.


  11. Our sins will be tossed into the Long Island Sound as we spend Rosh Hashana with the family in Larchmont. It;s hard to find a recipe for honey cake, my favorite, that isn’t too dry. If your recipe turns out well, please tell me.

    A Healthy , Happy New Year to you and your whole family.


  12. L’Shana Tova, friend. What a sweeet post, and such wonderful traditions in your family! I never thought of honey cake, but love the idea, and I NEVER get tired of good chicken soup and fluffy matzo balls! Mine are infamously heavy and dense. 😦 Services last night were beautiful, however, and it’s always a reminder of my kids and the variables we have in our family. I know you understand. Lovely post, and a sweet New Year to you and those you love.

    Side note: in that 2nd to last paragraph, you spelled Chabad wrong. I know it’s a typo. 😉


  13. cyclingrandma says:

    Thanks, and to you too. Try the recipe– it’s amazing.


  14. susanissima says:

    A treasure of a post. Traditions are so important and, clearly, at the heart of your family’s gatherings. Thanks you for sharing these delicious moments.


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