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Honey Cake with Lemon Glaze

slice o’ honey cake

 It’s Rosh Hashanah and you need something to take to a little new year celebration that your friends have invited you to. What should you make? My vote would be for a honey cake, as they are fairly traditional, easy to make and very tasty.

I first spotted the recipe for this Ukrainian Honey Cake at The Wednesday Chef, where I was inspired to give it a try after Luisa’s review. The original recipe comes from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World and while I liked the simplicity of the cake in loaf form, I decided to change it up a little to make the cake just a bit fancier.

I baked my honey cake in a 9-inch round pan and replaced the butter in the recipe with oil, to make the cake non-dairy (feel free to use melted butter if you are making the cake yourself, but the non-dairy version tends to work better if you actually are making this to serve for Rosh Hashanah). I spread a little bit of lemon icing on top of the cake to give it a finished look and an extra pop of flavor. The icing is also non-dairy, but you can leave the cake plain or serve it with just a dusting of powdered sugar, if you prefer. You can clearly taste the honey in the cake, with the slightest hint of coffee in the background, but all the flavors are brought together well by the icing. It is a light, but fairly filling, cake that is best served with tea or coffee.

My final note about this cake is that it will stay moist for several days if kept well-wrapped, and even seems to improve in flavor over time, as some of the honey notes become more pronounced. So don’t let the fact that I presented this as a holiday dessert put you off of trying it; it’s just as good on any random day as it is for a holiday.


Honey Cake with Lemon Glaze
2 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup coffee, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, honey and vegetable oil until smooth.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add half of this mixture to the honey mixture, followed by the coffee and the remaining dry ingredients. Stir until smooth.
In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then fold them into the honey batter. Make sure the egg whites are completely incorporated and the batter is uniform in color when finished.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Turn cake out of pan, remove parchment paper and reinvert on a wire to cool completely. If you will not be serving the cake right away, store it in an airtight container when cool.
Top cake with lemon glaze (recipe below) and let it set before serving.
Serves 10.

Lemon Glaze
1 cup powdered/confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
lemon juice (fresh, if possible)

In a small bowl combine powdered sugar, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Add enough lemon juice to make the icing spreadable, but not too runny (start with 1-2 tbsp and add more if necessary. You can always add a bit of extra sugar to thicken it if you add too much) and stir until very smooth. Spread on top of cake. Allow to set for at least 20-30 minutes before slicing.

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12 Comments
  • Lydia
    September 13, 2007

    Every year for Rosh Hashanah, my mother would go to the local bakery and buy a honey cake to send to me, in college, afterwards, for years afterwards. The cake was always sickly sweet and oh-so-heavy, and now, whenever anyone says “honey cake”, that’s what comes to mind. Your cake looks so much lighter and so appealing — I will have to try it, and banish my honey cake demons.

  • daphne
    September 13, 2007

    I love a good honey cake and that is no exception. It certainly looks so fluffy and moist. hmmm

  • gail
    September 16, 2007

    I just baked this for my baby shower last Saturday, and it was lovely.

  • pi
    September 19, 2007

    This is a lovely moist cake- definately improved by the zingy icing. Although I found the oven temp a bit hot and had to turn the oven down after 30 mins cos it was looking a bit scortched on top and wobbly in the middle!!!!

  • sasa
    January 29, 2008

    Looks really great! planning to bake this on Fri 🙂

    Just a short qn, is it possible to bake this in a rectangular pan? if yes, what size is best? thx

  • Sam
    March 13, 2008

    I made this yesterday but used Tate & Lyle’s Maple Flavoured Golden Syrup instead as I had no honey to hand. It cooked perfectly and looked amazing but while in the oven it browned on top a little fast, so I covered it with some tin foil to stop it from scorching. The taste was amazing and the hint of coffee was very pleasant. I’ll be making this again (soon) as it was gobbled up by my friends in minutes x

  • Malia
    December 12, 2008

    I made this yesterday,it was sooo…good and fluffy….thanks for the recipe,it is a keeper.

  • lina
    March 21, 2011

    how strong should the coffee be?

  • Janet
    September 21, 2012

    Just a comment – i made this cake for my rosh hashanah dinner this year and it got rave, rave reviews. The only substitution I made was to use powdered instant coffee in the dry phase – and then added room temp water in the wet phase.

    Thank you so much!

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