This Honey Orange Blossom Cake Recipe Starts Rosh Hashanah on a Sweet Note

Honey and orange blossom cake

Active time:45 minutes

Total time:1 hour

Servings:8 to 10 (makes a 9 inch cake)

Active time:45 minutes

Total time:1 hour

Servings:8 to 10 (makes a 9 inch cake)

For me, September has always felt like the start of a new year, more so than January has ever been. With back to school and Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in quick succession, there are new and renewed routines, goals and resolutions.

Besides celebration, Rosh Hashanah invites personal reflection, as you take stock of the year that is ending and reflect on your intention for the new one. Symbolic and traditional dishes – apples dipped in honey, pomegranates and round challah (to symbolize the end of the year) – are just some of the foods that grace the holiday table. And a typical greeting might include “L’shanah tovah tikatevu v’tichatemu”, meaning “May you be inscribed and sealed [in the Book of Life] for a good year.

This year I wanted to do something new but still with a traditional ingredient. I found inspiration in Aleksandra Crapanzano’s deliciously charming new cookbook “Gâteau”. The book, with seductive illustrations instead of photographs, is an exploration of the pastry repertoire of French cooks. In his introduction, Crapanzano notes that although the French cook a lot, the recipes are simple and much simpler than you might think. “The French have mastered the classics,” she writes, allowing them “to improvise with confidence and panache,” creating seasonal riffs based on what they have on hand. You won’t find puff pastry recipes in the book, but rather cakes ranging from everyday to special occasion, including a simple yogurt cake that is taught to all French children in kindergarten.

While looking for inspiration for Rosh Hashanah, I came across an unassuming recipe with a lovely name, Orange Blossom Honey Cake. Crapanzano describes the cake – made with honey, orange blossom water and orange zest, and dressed in a lovely honey-orange blossom-water syrup – as a “soft, subtly sweet cake and flowers”. Given my preference for sweet rather than aggressive cakes and my immediate affection for orange blossom desserts, I was won over.

While testing the recipe, I tweaked it slightly to make it even friendlier and even more fragrant. I substituted the suggested cake flour for all-purpose, not only because more and more home cooks have it in their pantry, but also because I preferred a slightly sturdier crumb. And I added the zest to the step where the butter and sugar are creamed together to release more citrus oils into the cake batter. My final modification to the original recipe was to use half the honey syrup, but if you prefer a sweeter, fluffier cake, use all of it.

The cake was simple and easy to make, and was as delicious and subtle as promised. A savory dessert that can be accurately categorized as an “easy lift” is something a busy cook who’s busy whipping up a holiday feast will always be grateful for.

By the way, I discovered that having this cake in your recipe arsenal is a bit like having a fantastic little black dress in your closet: ideal for impromptu meetings, afternoon lunches, the morning as an accompaniment to coffee or tea (for tea drinkers, an Earl Gray is ideal here), and last but not least, holiday dessert offerings.

While the cake is delicious on its own, it tastes even better with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche, which Crapanzano recommends. After a rich and hearty Rosh Hashanah meal, bites of this fragrant cake are a delicious and symbolic way to end the meal as we wish a sweet New Year to ourselves and our loved ones.

Honey and orange blossom cake

This fragrant and flowery cake with a tender crumb and subtle sweetness is like a little black dress for desserts, as appropriate for intimate gatherings as for festive meals. It would also make a lovely accompaniment to a morning cup of coffee or tea. A honey-based icing, in addition to yogurt and almond flour, helps keep the cake moist. Food writer Aleksandra Crapanzano writes in her cookbook “Gâteau” that these simple cakes are the norm in France, which might explain why the French bake so often. She recommends serving this cake with a dollop of fresh cream.

If you don’t have oranges, you can use another citrus fruit, such as Meyer lemons or clementines.

Storage: Store, covered with a clean cloth, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Or buy: Orange blossom water can be found in well-stocked supermarkets, Middle Eastern markets or online.

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  • 1 stick (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (85 grams) almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from 2 large oranges, preferably organic; see main note)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (160 grams) sweet honey, preferably orange blossom or wildflower
  • 1 cup (227 grams) plain whole-milk yogurt, at room temperature (can be replaced with fresh cream)
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup (100 grams) sweet honey, preferably orange blossom or wildflower
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon (about 1 1/2 teaspoons zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 2 teaspoons orange blossom water
  • Fresh cream, to serve (optional)

Make the cake: Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch cake pan with 2 inch sides and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended. If the almond flour is lumpy, break up the lumps with the whisk.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and a hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and orange zest on medium-high speed until smooth. until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stop and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and beat briefly again to incorporate. Reduce mixer speed to medium, drizzle with honey and stir to combine. Add the yogurt and orange blossom water and mix.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients in two or three batches, until no traces of flour remain.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and use a small offset spatula to smooth the top. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cake is nicely browned around the edges and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before unmolding onto a large plate.

Make the syrup: While the cake is baking, in a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Drizzle with honey and stir in vanilla and zest. Remove from the heat and stir in the citrus juice. Just before browning, add the orange blossom water; you should have about 3/4 cup (180 milliliters).

Frost the Cake: While the cake is still warm, drizzle half of the frosting all over the cake (you can add the remaining frosting, if you like, but start with half). Let the cake cool completely, then slice and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche, if using.

Per serving (1 slice, using half the syrup for the entire cake), based on 10

Calories: 305; Total fat: 13 g; Saturated fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 74mg; Sodium: 213mg; Carbohydrates: 45g; Dietary fibre: 1 g; Sugar: 30g; Protein: 5g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

Adapted from “Cake” by Aleksandra Crapanzano (Scribner, 2022).

Tested by Olga Massov; questions by e-mail to [email protected].

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