Leonard Bernstein’s best honey cake

norman lebrecht

September 14, 2023

‘There’s honey in store for you, big stuff’ sings someone in Leonard Bernstein’s Fancy Free (1944). (Photo by Suzie Maeder)

Elbie Lebrecht wonders what would have been Bernstein’s favourite New Year/Rosh HaShanah cake. Was it his mother’s apple cake or his grandmother’s honey cake? Bernstein was a man of great passions. He would not have been neutral on this existential issue.

I’m betting on his granny’s honey cake.

Honey cake recipes follow a classic theme. The ingredients are obviously honey, eggs, flour, sugar and oil with a generous dash of bicarbonate of soda to to give it a boost and a handful of chopped nuts sprinkled liberally on top. Simple to prepare and always scrumptious. Here is how you do it:


6 ozs (175 g) plain flour

3 ozs (75 g) fine caster sugar

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice  for baking

8 ozs (225 g) honey

3.5fl oz (100 ml) sunflower oil

2 eggs

3.5 fl oz (100 ml) orange juice

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda/ baking soda

handful chopped walnut or flaked almonds


  1. Preheat oven 350°F / 180°C (but 165°C for fan oven)/ Gas 4
  2.  Mix together flour, sugar, spices and make well in centre
  3.  Add honey, oil, eggs. Mix well together until smooth.
  4. Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in orange juice (it will fizz up) and stir into flour mixture
  5. Pour into baking tin lined with greaseproof paper or baking parchment
  6. Sprinkle your choice of nuts over the even surface
  7. Bake for around 50 minutes until a knife comes out cleanly from the middle of the cake. All ovens are different as to how hot they actually are so  keep a carful eye on the cake and if it seems to be in danger of burning around the edges put a loose sheet of foil on top so that it will continue to cook on the inside but not on the top


Happy New Year!

Source link