Jewish communities from around the world use symbolic foods during the holiday to ask for a sweet, prosperous, peaceful new year. Chief among these symbolic foods are apples and honey.
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Eating honey or sweet food on Rosh Hashanah is first mentioned in the book of Nehemiah. Meanwhile, red apples were first eaten on the holiday by the Jews of France, as mentioned in the 1208 Machzor Vitri.
By the 14th century, the traditions of honey and apples combined. Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher writes in his book Orach Chayim, Manner of Life, that in Ashkenaz, Jews served “sweet apple in honey.”
This lovely tradition is kept to this day, although some Sephardi communities avoid honey during the holiday and use sugar instead, perhaps for reasons of kashrut. Iraqi Jews, for example, serve apple jam that’s made with sugar.
This recipe for apple and honey cake celebrates this beautiful tradition, and also tastes better than most other honey cakes.
Apple and honey cake
As with other honey cakes, this one needs to rest for 24 hours before eating to let the flavors develop.
For one 10” round cake
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
20 tablespoons (1 1/4 cup) butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons rum
grated zest of 1 lemon
6 large eggs
4 Granny Smith apples, 1/4 inch dice
1 cup chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 10 inch round pan with butter, sprinkle with sugar and shake to remove excess sugar.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl. Set aside.
3. Put butter and sugar in a mixer bowl with wire whip attachments and mix for 2 minutes. Add honey, rum and lemon zest and mix well. Add eggs, one by one, and mix briefly just until incorporated. Stop mixer and scrape sides with a spatula as needed. Lower speed to low.
4. Add flour mixture and mix until incorporated, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Remove bowl from mixer and mix in the apples using a spatula.
5. Pour batter into greased pan. Sprinkle walnuts on top. Bake for about 70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake come out clean. Cool on a rack. Cover lightly with foil and keep at room temperature for up to 5 days.