Honey Cake Pancakes
For Rosh Hashanah, back-to-school breakfast, or any darn time you like.
Hey there! If you’ve found your way here but are not yet subscribed for the weekly newsletter, you can do that here. You will never miss a recipe or a story, and I’ll be eternally grateful for your support.
Do you get excited about honey cake? Ashkenazi Jewish food is filled with polarizing dishes that people either adore or despise (hello gefilte fish and pickled herring!)
For me, honey cake falls somewhere in the middle. There are a few category-defining standout recipes out there, like the Majestic and Moist Honey Cake from Marcy Goldman’s cookbook, A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. (It truly is both moist and majestic.) But most of the rest are disappointingly dry, overly saccharine, just plain blah—or a combination of all three. Compared to Rosh Hashanah’s other iconic Ashkenazi dessert, apple cake, it simply can’t compare.
And yet, honey cake (called lekach in Yiddish from the old German word “to lick”) remains a stalwart of the Ashkenazi Rosh Hashanah table, appearing year after year regardless of anyone’s enjoyment. As Arthur Schwartz put it in Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited, ‘Honey cake is not so much loved as revered.” How can you not revere a cake that symbolizes your every hope for a sweet year ahead?
And here’s the thing: I may not love most honey cakes, but I love the *idea* of honey cake—a springy-crumbed, spiced snacking cake sweetened with golden bee nectar. (If you follow my Instagram account, you may have picked up on my affection for honey bees and other pollinators.)
I also appreciate the honey cake’s long-standing lineage. Variations of modern honey cakes date back more than 1,000 years to Medieval France and Germany (the cradle of Ashkenazi cuisine). And earlier iterations of the cake, not to mention the ancient practice of sweetening desserts with honey, are far older than that.
So this year, I decided to pay homage to honey cake by transforming it into something I *always* want to eat: pancakes. This flapjack stack embodies all of honey cakes most desirable potential while leaving behind the baggage. They are fluffy and tender, sweet but not aggressively so (even when drizzled with warmed honey or maple syrup at the table), and delicately spiced.
A lot of American-Jewish honey cake recipes are moistened with orange juice, so I offer the option of whisking a little orange zest into the batter to bring out a hint of citrus. Many traditional recipes also include brewed coffee, which didn’t work in the batter itself. But what goes better with pancakes than a cup of coffee?
If you are NOT READY to think about Rosh Hashanah just yet, I totally get it. Tuck the recipe away somewhere and revisit it when the time feels right. Or better yet, make these honey cake pancakes as an end-of-summer treat, a back-to-school breakfast, or for your brunch guests this weekend. They store in the fridge/freezer quite well, so you can also make them now and have them on hand for breakfast over the High Holidays. Future you will be so excited!
Honey Cake Pancakes
Serve these pancakes with a drizzle of additional honey (warm it up briefly in the microwave to make it easier to pour) or maple syrup.
Makes about twelve 3-inch pancakes
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial