Honey is one of the world’s oldest foods. Ancient Egyptian tomb reliefs from as far back as the 3rd millennium B.C. show bees being smoked from their hives to produce it. Nomads and traders helped honey’s popularity spread worldwide, while it remained a prevalent sweetener in the Middle East, where it still often, and wonderfully, appears in Mediterranean, Arab and Jewish dishes.
Jews around the world traditionally celebrate their new year by dipping apples in honey, and by eating honey and spice cakes, the better to usher in a “sweet new year.”
And lots of people ring in the fall by making honeyed cakes of wonderful harvest ingredients like pumpkin, and warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
This terrific and tasty honeyed spice cake recipe recently appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, just in time for our good friend and fabulous cook Sandy Waks to try it out for a Jewish New Year gathering last week. It was very meaningful to slow down and gather around her table, which brimmed with fresh, often biblical, foods — Sandy’s also a fantastic gardener — and warm, interesting company, and to stop and give thanks and blessings for the new year.
Of course, a year, or even a season, needn’t be starting to make this cake. I intend to make it many times this fall. Dense cakes like this one pack well for school lunches and other times, are loaded with healthy ingredients, and just taste yummy.
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman: Pumpkin spice cake at the Mill Valley Book Depot