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Cool nights, apple cider…and pumpkins–thatʼs always been the start of my new year. Iʼve got nothing against December 31 or January 1, but it really doesnʼt feel like a new year as one month (and year) transitions into the other. They are both filled with just one raw, cold day after the next. (Well, it’s like that here in Cambridge, anyway.) Everyone goes back to the same job, same school, same clothing once January 2 rolls around. But September, thatʼs another story. The line of demarcation between August and September, especially post-Labor Day September, is far more pronounced. So long to easy living in bathing suits and flimsy sundresses and hello to sweaters and cozy corduroys.

There is a crispness in the air, a sense of renewal and excitement rather than the slow languor of August. Itʼs so palatable you can almost taste and smell it. Speaking of taste, apricots, nectarines, and peaches give way to the hardier fruits: pears, damson plums, and quince. And it is then that I think of apples: green, red, yellow, round, pointy–I donʼt discriminate. We cut them into thick cubes and bake them into dense cakes studded with raisins and orange peel. We grate them and fill buttery tart dough, then top them with chunky crumbs. Apple Strudel, Apple Muffins–thereʼs every permutation you can imagine.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs in September and I think that’s fitting, as it is a time of renewal and reflection. To symbolize our hope that the coming year will be a sweet one, we dip apples into thick, amber honey–the true color of autumn. Resolutions are made on Rosh Hashanah as well: to be better, do better, and make the world a better place. In the midst of all the introspection and recalibration, there is still a place for celebration….

The cake below is a swirl of two cakes: a deep-flavored honey cake, and a dark chocolate. The two look lovely wrapped around each other, and intertwined like parts of the old and New Year dancing together. The sugared, thinly-sliced apple layer on top adds another dimension of flavor, and gives a bow to the fall harvest. While this cake may seem complicated, trust me…it is not. It’s well worth the effort

Chocolate Ripple Honey Cake (adapted from Marcy Goldman)

Honey Spice Layer:

1c. all-purpose flour

1c. whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/2 c. vegetable oil

1/2 c. honey, preferably dark

3/4c. granulated sugar

1/4c. brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2c. strong, brewed coffee, cold

1/4c. apple cider

Chocolate Layer:

1 3/4c. all-purpose flour

1/3c. cocoa, sifted

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed

1/2 c. vegetable oil

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 tsp. almond extract

1c. strong, brewed coffee, cold

2 large apples, for garnish

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a 9- or 10-inch tube pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle the 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar around the bottom of the pan. Thinly slice the two apples lengthwise (about 1/8-inch thick), right through the core, without breaking the slices. Discard the seeds and stem, and spread slices in a concentric circle on top of the sugar. Set aside.

For Honey Spice Layer: Place flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice into large mixing bowl. Blend with a whisk; make a well in the center. Blend together oil, honey, white and brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, and apple cider. Pour into the center of the dry ingredients and blend all together to make a smooth batter. Set aside.

For Chocolate Layer: In a separate mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Make a well in the center. Blend together oil, white and brown sugars, eggs, almond extract, and coffee. Pour into center of dry ingredients and blend all together to make a smooth batter

Spoon half of the honey spice batter into prepared pan, making sure the apples remain flat on the bottom. Carefully spoon the chocolate batter on top, and then top with remaining honey spice batter. Run a knife through the cake batters once to create a marbled pattern. Bake  for 55 minutes to 1 hour, or until cake springs back when gently touched. Allow cake to cool in pan for 20 minutes, and then unmold onto a serving platter.

 

Another great honey cake recipe from The Creative Self:

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 1/3 cups soft light brown sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 cup boiling water

Sticky Honey Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Bees:

  • 1 ounce yellow marzipan
  • 12 flaked almonds
  • Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan

Directions

Take whatever you need out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come to room temperature, and while that’s happening, melt the chocolate from the cake part of the ingredients list in a good-sized bowl, either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and line a 9-inch springform pan.

Beat together the sugar and soft butter until airy and creamy, and then add the honey.

Add 1 of the eggs, beating it in with a tablespoon of the flour, and then the other egg with another tablespoon of flour. Fold in the melted chocolate, and then the rest of the flour and baking soda. Add the cocoa pushed through a tea strainer to ensure you have no lumps, and last of all, beat in the boiling water. Mix everything well to make a smooth batter and pour into the prepared pan. Cook for up to 1 1/2 hours, though check the cake after 45 minutes and if it is getting too dark, cover the top lightly with aluminium foil and keep checking every 15 minutes.

Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a rack.

To make the glaze, bring the water and honey to a boil in a saucepan, then turn off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate, swirling it around to melt in the hot liquid. Leave it for a few minutes, then whisk together. Add the sugar through a sieve and whisk again until smooth.

Choose your plate or stand, and cut out 4 strips of baking paper and form a square outline on the plate. This is so that when you sit the cake on and ice it, the icing will not run out all over the plate. Unclip the springform pan and set the thoroughly cooled cake on the prepared plate. Pour the glaze over the cold honey bee cake; it might dribble a bit down the edges, but don’t worry too much about that. The glaze stays tacky for ages (this is what gives it its lovely melting gooeyness) so ice in time for the glaze to harden a little, say at least an hour before you want to serve it. Keep the pan of glaze, (don’t wash it up), as you will need it to make the stripes on the bees.

Divide the marzipan into 6 even pieces and shape them into fat, sausage-like bees’ bodies, slightly tapered at the ends.

Using a wooden skewer, paint stripes with the sticky honey glaze left in the pan from icing the cake. About 3 stripes look best, and then very carefully attach the flaked almonds at an angle to make the bees’ wings, 2 on each one. They might snap as you dig them into the marzipan bodies, so have some extras. I’m afraid to admit it, but I also like to give them eyes by dipping the point of the skewer in the glaze and then on the bees: they look more loveable with an expression, which is somehow what the eyes give them, but then this is where the Disney effect comes in. If a more imperial dignity is required, forgo the dotting of the eyes and present this as your Napoleonic Chocolate Cake.

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