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Honey Cake, AKA Lebkuchen! (Gesundheit!)

December 14, 2010

Alright, I’m giving in. All of my fellow food bloggers have been baking up a storm – cookies and cake and fudge. Clearly, it’s the most sugary time of the year, and I’m jumping on board.

This recipe was motivated chiefly by childhood nostalgia. Lebkuchen, or honey cake, was something we ate every Saturday after shul when I was little. It was baked by terrifying old ladies who guarded their kitchen kingdom like vicious little hawks. Needless to say, I never got their recipe, so I had to make up my own, after reading about a dozen others online. It does have a lot of ingredients, but it ended up coming pretty close to the flavor I remember – sweet and sticky and a bit spicy.

Depending on who you ask, this is either an Ashkenazic Jewish dessert or a German one. The main difference between the two variations seems to be using oil or butter, which would make sense given the meat-and-milk prohibition (with oil, you could eat this after a steak dinner.) I used butter for mine, but you could just as easily use oil.

One other thing to keep in mind if you make this: it’s not a fluffy, airy cake for delicate ladies having a tea party. This is a dense, wet cake, made for stodgy people undergoing cold winters. As I was told by a German friend while learning how to make Bavarian cream: “this will make you big, hearty Bavarian woman.”

On the other hand, if you read through the ingredients list, it’s not all that bad as cakes go – if you use homemade applesauce, it’s practically a serving of fruit.

Melted butter with coffee, applesauce, honey and brown sugar. I did this on the stove over low heat because it helps the sticky stuff come together.

Mix it up and set it aside to cool.

Sift together some flour, baking powder and soda, salt and spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

Mix 3 eggs into the cooled batter. Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time and whisk until smooth.

Pour batter into a 10-inch round pan or a 9×13 rectangle. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the glaze to go on top. Yet more honey, sugar and butter.

Once a toothpick in the center comes out clean, it’s ready to go. One of the perks of a cake with little holes – you can’t see the toothpick prick!

While the cake is still warm, pour the warm glaze on top. You can do this once it’s out of the pan – I just ran a knife around the edge to let the glaze run down the sides of the cake.

I enjoyed this with two of my countrymen, Ben and Jerry.

Honey Cake, or Lebkuchen

Makes one 9″ x 13″ sheet cake or 10″ round cake.

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¾
Cup brewed coffee
¾
Cup applesauce
¾ Cup honey
½ Cup brown sugar
2¼ Cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
teaspoon nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
3 eggs, lightly beaten
cup honey glaze (see recipe below)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 176°C
2. Melt butter in a pot over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in coffee, applesauce, honey and brown sugar. Let cool.
3. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices. Grease and flour a 10-inch round cake pan or a 9×13 pan.
4. Whisk eggs into cooled wet mixture.
5. A little at a time, add flour mixture to wet ingredients and whisk together until there are no lumps. Pour into cake pan.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Pour the warm glaze over the still-warm cake. (Either remove cake from pan or run a knife around the pan sides to allow glaze to coat edges.)

Honey Glaze

From Joy of Cooking.
Makes 1/3 Cup.

¼ cup honey
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Combine ingredients in a saucepan, heat to a boil, and then let cool.

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