Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.’ – Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Jewish New Year edges its way through the tail end of summer, pushes through the last warm days and the start of the rain, bringing with it something melancholy. Maybe it is the sudden oncoming of the storms and the oppressive mugginess, the unexpected chill in the air.
Quite possibly it is that it is nearing, but not quite, the end of our first season at the hotel; it is hard to believe that we are well into our eighth month running the Diderot and this first high season has been exhilarating, yes, but utterly exhausting. And there is still another six weeks of high season left.
Or maybe it is that the New Year is bittersweet since the death of Michael, buried on the Jewish New Year six years ago. The New Year is a time of promises and rebirth, of life and celebration. And mine, since that September morning six years ago, is heavy with sadness, intertwined with something mournful and pensive.
Each age has deemed the new-born year the fittest time for festal cheer. – Walter Scott
But it is the New Year, a time of joy, remembrance, and renewal. A celebration dinner, a table laden with homemade treats, special holiday foods and dishes rich with symbolism and history. The traditional braided Challah is twisted and shaped into a round, enriched with eggs, yes, but honey, ground almonds, and raisins, making it sweet for the New Year. New fruits enhance the meal and, of course, apples and honey, wishes for the round sweet year to come.
How many plates of apples and honey do I remember after how many New Year’s services at the synagogue when I was a child! Flimsy paper plates, too fragile to hold the weight of all of those slices of apples. Sitting in the classrooms behind the synagogue on those chilly folding metal chairs, we would pass around that paper plate, balance it on one small hand while choosing one slick slice of apple, dip it in the shimmering golden honey and proffer the plate to our neighbor. Concentrated on the paper plate as we were, ever-fearful that it would tip and flop over, visions of apples tumbling to the floor, the honey perched on the tip of our own slice would slither down our fingers, leaving a sweet sticky remembrance of this special New Year treat. Apple slices eaten, fingers licked, we would listen as our teacher explained the significance of the sweet apples and honey. A round, sweet year!
And on every holiday table, to end every holiday meal, a traditional honey cake, a favorite family recipe, a variation of every other one. So why not make a honey cake that is something special to see in the New Year? Special… spectacular!
I discovered a recipe for Honey Whiskey Mini Bundts with Honey Whiskey Glaze on my good friend Stacy’s blog Food Lust People Love, and I rethought that classic honey cake. This is a cake suffused with the earthy heat of whiskey paired with the sweetness of honey. A moist, dense yet delicate cake topped with pecans, buttery with a hint of whiskey, made for something so good, special indeed, worthy of a celebration. Honey with the addition of butter and a pinch of salt gives the syrup the splendid taste of a salted butter caramel or buttery caramel candies with the added kick of the whiskey. Sophisticated and spectacular, this is definitely a cake for a special occasion, for company. Although it would also make a gorgeous everyday treat.
Wishing you a round, sweet year. L’Shana Tova! Happy New Year!
- ¾ cup (150 g) sugar
- 6 Tbs (85 g) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for buttering pan
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups less 1 Tbs (250 g) flour
- 1 ½ tsps baking powder (by error I also added ½ tsp baking soda and it was fine)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) good quality liquid/runny honey
- ⅔ cup (155 ml) milk at room temperature
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) whiskey, bourbon or amber rum
- ¾ cup (about 90 g) chopped pecans (I used about ½ cup or less than 50 g)
- ¼ cup (60 g) unsalted butter
- 2 Tbs water
- ¼ cup (60 ml) good quality liquid/runny honey
- ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
- ¼ cup (60 ml) whiskey, bourbon or amber rum
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Using a pastry brush, generously “paint” the inside of an 8 ½ inch (21 ½ cm) Bundt pan with softened butter.
- Sprinkle the pecans into the bottom of the buttered Bundt pan.
- Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside.
- Combine the milk, bourbon and honey for the batter in a measuring cup and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add half of the flour mixture and half of the liquid mixture and beat well. Add the remaining flour and liquid mixture and beat well again.
- Gently scoop or spoon the batter into your prepared pan, on top of the pecans. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning the Bundt cake out of the pan and immediately turning right side up (nut side up). Cool on a wire rack while you make the syrup glaze.
- Put all the ingredients for the syrup in a small pot over a low flame and heat it until boiling. Allow to boil for a few minutes, until it reduces slightly. Turn off the heat and allow to cool until just warm.
- Put the still-warm Bundt cake either on a rack or a piece of parchment or foil in a pan or plate with sides to catch the glaze that doesn’t soak in immediately. Drizzle or liberally brush the syrupy glaze, at little at a time, over all of the cake. Continued to brush the syrupy glaze on the cake - on top, on the sides and inside the center hole, over a period of an hour or so, allowing the glaze to soak into and imbibe the cake gradually; pouring it on all at once and too much will run off.
- Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.