It’s that time of the year again! Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) began yesterday night and today is the first full day. Honey cake is a traditional food to eat during this festival so here I am with another honey cake themed recipe. Last year I posted my recipe for traditional honey cakes but these often need to be baked a couple of weeks in advance, be wrapped up and allowed to rest so the flavours can mature. Contrary to the weeks needed for standard honey cakes, this swiss roll needs only the time it takes to cook, cool, fill and roll before you can be happily munching away on its deliciousness.
Honey cake is eaten to symbolise the wish for a sweet new year. It is classically flavoured with oranges and warming spices such as cinnamon and ginger but really any cake where the predominant flavour and sweetener is honey can be classed as a honey cake. My mum has been using the same recipe to make these for as long as I can remember and as a child, I absolutely loved helping out. This was probably because the raising agent (bicarbonate of soda) is stirred into orange juice and anyone who has done a small amount of chemistry knows what happens next. The bicarbonate reacts with the citric acid in the orange juice and goes super fizzy very quickly which was great fun for a child to be able to do – it’s still really cool to be honest.
There are other classic foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah too. Challah, an enriched, plaited dough made every week for the Sabbath undergoes a change of shape from the long plait to a rising spiral. This is an eastern-European Jewish tradition which several explanations: the roundness represents the continuity of creation; the roundness is because the year is round and goes on and on; the challah looks like a crown for crowning God as king on Rosh Hashanah; the rising spiral symbolises the hope that prayers will ascend to heaven. In the non-eastern-European communities, challah is sometimes shaped into animals like swans or lions often using biblical inspiration but sometimes, it is just done to mark Rosh Hashanah as different to other festivals and the sabbath.
Probably the most recognisable tradition from Rosh Hashanah is the dipping of apple in honey. The question of course is why do we use apples? Like the many reasons for round challah, there are different theories for the choice of apples. The fruit is sweet (back to the sweet new year thing again) but that isn’t enough because there are plenty of other sweet fruit out there: mango, papaya, dates and peaches to name just a few. The choice of apples was again an eastern-European one albeit one which has been picked up by many denominations of Jews from many different backgrounds. According to some sources, it represents the Garden of Eden which was supposed to have the scent of an apple orchard. Apples are mentioned in Solomon’s Song of Songs and are meant to be representative of people’s love for God. If you go back about a millennium or so, you find no mention of apples – dates and figs were used as sweet fruits for dipping so sometime since the 7th century, someone dictated that apples should be the fruit of choice and since then, it has become one of the most symbolic representations of the Jewish new year.
I feel that I have to mention that I view this as one of my most successful recipes. The flavours work amazingly well together, there are a mixture of textures and the tang from the crème fraiche cuts through the sweetness of the honey beautifully. The bites almost have layers, different flavours appear and then die down to be replaced by others and everything is matched up in the most amazing way. I hope you like it as much as it do!
Honey cake swiss roll
Work time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cool time: 45 minutes
75g caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
Zest of half an orange
Pinch of salt
150g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tbsp water
A few tablespoons of icing sugar
For the filling:
300ml double cream
300ml crème fraiche
3 tbsp honey
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C) and line the base of a large swiss roll pan with baking parchment.
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugars and salt until incredibly thick and foamy and has almost tripled in volume. This will take about five to ten minutes depending on whether you use a stand mixer or a hand-held electric one. You need an electric whisk to do this – it’s just not worth the effort to do this by hand. When you think the mixture is at the right stage, give it an extra 30 seconds.
While the eggs are whipping up melt the butter and honey together with the water in a small saucepan and set aside.
Once the eggs are ready sieve the flour and spices over the top and fold in.
When there are no longer big patches of flour in the mix pour the butter/honey/water, which should still be slack and slightly warm, around the inside edge of the bowl and fold this into the cake batter.
Pour the batter into the lined baking tray and bake for ten minutes until the top is golden brown and the cake is well risen. It will probably not pull away from the sides of the pan (unless you greased them too) so that is not a good indication of whether it is cooked or not. If you are unsure you can use the skewer test and see if a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven. Sieve over the icing sugar and make sure there is a thin layer over the top of the entire cake.
Lay a piece of baking parchment (which is larger than the cake) on a flat surface or table and flip the still-hot cake out onto this. Peel the baking parchment off (what was) the base of the cake.
Soak a tea towel in cold water, wring it out and lay this over the cake and leave to cool. This will stop the cake drying out when it cools and reduce the chances of cracking.
Make the filling while the cake is cooling.
Remove about ten walnut halves which look nice and set them aside.
Roughly chop the remaining walnuts and tip them into a large frying pan.
Toast the walnuts over a medium heat until they just start to turn golden. Remove from the heat immediately and leave to cool.
Whip the double cream until it is just about to reach stiff peaks.
Whip the crème fraiche for about 30 seconds to thicken it just a little.
Fold the crème fraiche and the honey into the whipped cream.
Once the cake is cool, spread about two thirds of the filling over the entire cake and sprinkle most of the toasted walnuts over this in an even layer.
Use your hands to push the walnuts into the filling. This will allow the filling to stick the cake together. If you don’t do this there is a chance the walnuts could form a barrier and prevent the cake sticking in it’s roll shape. It would uncurl which would not be ideal.
Using the baking parchment the cake is resting on, lift one end of the cake up and over to start the roll.
Continue to roll up the cake using the parchment to ensure the roll is nice and tight. If it starts cracking, just ease up on the tightness of the roll at that point and it should be ok.
Once the cake is fully rolled, wrap it tightly in the baking parchment and place it in the fridge, seam side down, to rest and set for about ten minutes.
Once the cake has rested a bit, remove it from the fridge and unwrap it.
Place the cake onto your serving platter and trim the ends to make a neat looking spiral.
Spread the remaining filling in a thick line across the top of the cake and stick the reserved walnuts to it. If there are any toasted pieces left, sprinkle these over too.
Drizzle a little bit of honey over the walnuts and cream.
This can be served immediately or kept in the fridge for a few days completely covered.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy trying your hand at some non-cakey Jewish treats, why not make yourself some rugelach? They are absolutely delicious.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious lunch which can be taken to work!.