By Sonya Sanford
(The Nosher via JTA) – For as long as I’ve been cooking I’ve made honey cake for Rosh Hashanah. I do this just as my mother did, and my grandmother did, and likely my great-grandmother before her. I love my family’s recipe, and I have even made tweaks to it over the years.
But the truth is, I like honey cake more for tradition’s sake than for its flavor. Last year it finally occurred to me that I don’t have to make honey cake for Rosh Hashanah.
What did I actually want to eat and serve on Rosh Hashanah?
I love sunken apple cake, but there are always so many apples eaten over the High Holidays that I wanted to make something featuring another fruit. I had just picked up a beautiful bag of plums from the market, and they called out to me. Why not make a sunken plum cake?
The flavor of plum goes so well with honey. Like an apple, the plum’s tartness cuts through and complements honey’s sweetness. Their bold colors always add beauty to any baked good, and I love that plums are highly seasonal. They’re only at their best for a short window of time each year, which typically coincides with the Jewish New Year. For me, using plums at their peak is always celebratory.
This is a simple cake to make with lots of flavor. I add ginger to the batter for its warmth and zing, and cardamom for its subtle and welcome citrusy spiciness. The ginger and cardamom’s perfuminess and oh-so-subtle heat also serve to exentuate the fruitiness in the plums. You can use any plum or pluot for this cake, but I like ones that are slightly firm and ripe, and not too small. This recipe can be made pareve by using vegan butter, and the flour can be swapped for a gluten-free all purpose mix.
Like any good holiday recipe, sunken plum cake tastes even better made a day in advance. At dinner, I love to serve the cake topped with whipped cream or ice cream, but this also makes a delicious indulgent breakfast treat on the holiday.
½ cup (1 stick) vegan butter or unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1¼ cup all purpose flour or gluten free all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter, pinch of salt if using vegan butter
4-5 plums, halved, pitted and sliced ¼-inch thick
Turbinado/raw sugar, for sprinkling on top
¼ cup honey for the glaze (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, or you can also make this in a 9-by-9-inch baking dish.
- Cream together vegan butter/butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, using either a handheld mixer or stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Add the honey to the sugar mixture and mix until well incorporated.
- Add the eggs, vanilla and freshly grated ginger, and mix until they are also well incorporated.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cardamom. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until just incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix.
- Pour the batter into the lined and greased cake pan. Add the sliced plums on top of the cake; they will sink as they bake. Top the cake with a generous sprinkling of Turbinado/raw sugar, or regular sugar if you don’t have raw sugar.
- Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean when tested in the center of the cake.
- If desired, you can brush honey on top of the cake once it has cooled: Heat ¼ cup of honey until just warm, and then brush it over the cake.
- Serve topped with whipped cream or ice cream. Can be made a day in advance. Serves 8-10.
(Sonya Sanford is a chef, food stylist and writer based out of Los Angeles.)
The Nosher food blog offers a dazzling array of new and classic Jewish recipes and food news, from Europe to Yemen, from challah to shakshuka and beyond. Check it out at www.TheNosher.com.