Traditional Honey Cake

Great Grandma's Honey Cake

When visiting my dad in Montreal I overheard him and a friend talk about his two wonderful family recipes for honey cake. Not having been raised with my father, and knowing very little about his side of the family - I couldn't pass on the opportunity to connect to my paternal ancenstors via culinary traditions. One of them was from a friend of my grandma and seems a bit too tricky to make. The other, which I'm sharing here, seems very authentic and has even more honey than my Savta Ruthie's recipe which I grew up on.

It is very moist, and having less spices (and no cloves at all - fathom that!) it has a definitive honey flavour, which is a good thing. Honey is a strong flavour when added to more delicate things; but can easily get lost in a recipe such as cakes and cookies. It has very little oil, and is immensely moist and with a long shelf life. It is wonderful accompaniment to either tea or coffee. And also makes a very big cake, that you can cut into squares and share with family and friends as a gift - simply wrap in a wax paper and tie with a bow.

The cake has a bit of an unusual mixing method, so pay attention to the instructions:

Preheat oven to 350F/180c

Mix together ("Honey")
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup suagr
3 Tbs vegetable oil 
1 lb honey, liquid (place in hot bath prior if it has already crystallized) 

Mix together ("Tea"):
1 cup dark tea, cooled + 1 tsp baking soda

Sift or mix dry ingredients:
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp allspice, ground
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground

1/2 cup nuts (such as pecans, walnuts or sliced/slivered almonds)
1/2 cup raising or dates, dusted with some flour first (if you don't do that they will sink to the bottom of the pan and burn or caramelize at best) 

Juice of 1 orange 

Alternately add the tea blend and the dry ingredients to the honey blend. Mix well. Add the nuts and dried fruit and the orange juice. 

Place in a a round spinrgform pan lined with a baking sheet (or in a large rectangle pan) and bake for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Keeps well but if you don't think you can eat it within a week, keep it refrigerated. 

Return to Sea

Return to Sea

Shana Tova uMetuka to everyone who's celebrating. I've been up to my ears in adjustment mode and taking care of little details to start our new life here that my celebrations have been restricted to the Rosh HaShanna dinner. Otherwise most days just seem to continue merging into one another in one endless loop of tasks that remain undone and problems that are still unresolved. I know I should give myself a break (moving homes alone is one of the most stressful life events, and immigration amplifies this a hundred fold)  - but I have major responsibilities and there are some things I'm absolutely unwilling to compromise about (such as my child's health and well-being, at any age really).

This is a time for new beginnings, and that means a lot of letting go. Before I left Vancouver I returned all the shells I collected over the years to the ocean. To me this was a symbolic way of giving thanks to nature, and the Salish Sea in particular, which gave me much needed comfort throughout the years. The conception of so many ideas - and perfumes - happened to me as I walked along the seawall, in varying weather conditions and lighting degrees. The water helps me reflect on my life and recollect my thoughts. The fresh salty air around the water cleared not only my lungs but also the mind.

I'm thankful for being able to see the Mediterranean from where I live, and  that it is only a 20 minutes drive away. I've never seen a sea I did not like, and returning to my childhood's beaches is one of the most blissful part of this move (on par with my nephews and nieces' enthusiastic welcome and the fact that they remember us even though we didn't visit for a year and a half).

There is a strip of wild sand dunes and lagoons of the northernmost beach spanning all the way from Banana Beach to Rosh HaNikra/Ras El Nakura  - the grottos which are right on the border with Lebanon. I'm curious to see how it behaves throughout the seasons and the sea's mood cycles. There is plenty of wild life there, both in the water and along the shore - fragrant beach lilies included. I'm looking forward to being able to swim and enjoy the sea and its salty water almost year-around (it gets only as cold as the summer temperatures of the Pacific in wintertime; but it's also most stormy then). I can't wait to see what inspirations these waves will bring me.

Shana Tova U Metukah!

Red Delicious Apples, originally uploaded by Ronaldo F Cabuhat.

Happy Rosh Hashanah!
It is Jewish New Year's Eve tonight and we all wish each other a good and sweet year (in Hebrew, of course) as we dip slices of apples into honey.

Apple symbolizes wholeness, and by eating it we bless out year to be a full and complete one. Dipping it in honey to make it a sweet year, rather than a year of sorrow.

I found this picture while looking through Flickr for inspirational imagery of Autumn to make me excited about the upcoming season. Summer is dying away, and it was too short, unfortunately. If you are fed up with me talking about it, I will tell you this much: I'm not usually a summer person, usually preferring cooler and milder weather AND I always greet the new season with much enthusiasm.

This feeling of not being ready for the season (mentally, that is) is very strange to me. I'm looking for things to be excited about and all I can think is the opposite - no more swimming in the ocean and picnics at the beach for dinner; goodbye to my favourite sun dresses, bikinis and shorts (well, not without tights for the latter, that is!); no more blogging on the balcony with the incense burning every morning and no more sitting there with friends till the wee hours of the night chatting and sipping tea with more incense wafting around the star jasmine flowers... And did I mention the beach yet?! This is a really sore point for me, who finally got brave enough to swim in the Pacific Ocean on a regular basis only last year.

I'm going to miss those things a lot. And unless I get myself excited soon about all things Autumnal I will be miserable. So how about a list of favourite fall things to make me excited about it, rather than threatened?

I sure am going to enjoy baking more - warm spicy apple cakes, pumpkin pies... Tomorrow I will be baking honey cakes for Rosh HaShanah with my grandmother's tried-and-true recipe. I'm probably going to bake it in muffin tins to form many little cupcakes to give to neighbours and friends, and make my holiday here feel less lonely (most of my family is still in Israel...).

I'm excited (and a little bit dreading) how full of events and markets this pre-holiday season is going to be. I'm really thrilled about getting back to my usual work schedule, but I also know that if I don't plan everything carefully, I'll be run down by mid-November... So I gotta make sure I have lots of help this season, and this means someone to entertain my daughter when my schedule becomes too hectic, and also I really do need to get someone to help me maintain this place. I find that I spend about 30% of my week just cleaning and organizing, and frankly, as therapeutic as it may be to do the dishes, fold the laundry, etc. I really need professional help (aka housekeeper) here to keep the place spotless with all the guests and events and parties I'm hosting here; and to keep it peaceful and organized so I can seek refuge here when I'm back from a long weekend at the holiday markets. So I'm finally learning my lesson of delegating, I guess...

And speaking of events: I will be hosting 3 tea parties in October alone (two of them are private parties - a birthday and baby showers). Probably another one in November, and maybe even another one in December. And that's on top of all of the plenty of fall holidays - Rosh HaShanah, Sukkot, Thanksgiving, Halloween, leading up to the winter festivities... Gotta play it right to be able to enjoy it a little too...

I'm also looking forward to my friend Jolanta's burnt-orange leather bag which is the colour I've been dreaming about ever since I've seen one in Paris and my bf at the time talked me out of buying (I had to make do with some nondescript neutral colour). Hey, it will even go well with my summer necklace that my friend Noriko made for me!

I'm looking forward to going to Southlands and ride horses with my daughter. The smell of cedar chips, horse manure, leather tacks and burnt horse hooves is something I have come to associate with fall...

And I love fall perfumes - that's the time of the year I bring out the Chypres and leathery scents and enjoy that cozy and fuzzy feeling inside you get when you get a whiff of a fireplace or a bonfire at Autumn... Will I find a new scent to fall in love with this fall? I wonder...

And friend will still come over for tea - only that we will sit by the fireplace in the living room, sometimes stretching on the rug in between sips and spilling out our secrets. And swimming in the icy ocean will be replaced by jogging on the sand along the waterline or on the seawall in Coal Harbour, noting the aquaplanes taking off. And slack-off beach-side Pilates will be replaced with very disciplined sessions at the Noam's studio.

So you see, I am trying to get excited about it, thanks to fashion and perfume and my awesome and creative friends who will motivate me to always have homemade shortbread on hands. Maybe a few more icy dips in the ocean will convince me after all that wearing tights and cardigans is fun, and that less is more when it comes to sunshine (i.e.: more work done?). Maybe...

Shana Tova

Shana Tova u-Metuka!
My dear SmellyBlog readers, I wish you a very sweet and good year to come!

The end of the old one is tonight, and the new year begins tomorrow night.
May we all find the little buds of pomegranate blossoms to brighten up our tree-of-life and promise fruit full of seeds and good deeds. In each seed is the potential and power for change.

Shana Tova!

De Super fruit - Guava, originally uploaded by Naseer Ommer.

Shana Tova to all of you celebrating Jewish New Year. May this year be sweet like a Gala apple dipped in honey, full of good deeds as a pomegranate, peaceful as a bowl of plain rice and fragrantly exciting like under ripe guava.

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