In the Jewish tradition, honey cake is served at special occasions, whether formal holidays or not, and is especially beloved in the Ashkenazi Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) repetoire. As we know, strict vegans don’t use honey (though some who do use carefully sourced honey are called “bee-gans”). To make this vegan honey cake just as sweet as the original, agave nectar and/or maple syrup combine to create an authentic flavor.
As with almost every sacred celebration, food plays a central role to the Jewish New Year and is filled with symbolism. When making the challah bread for the holiday, for example, the baker might pinch off a bit of dough and burn it in the oven as a metaphoric sacrifice. Carrot dishes served at Rosh Hashanah symbolize a wish for prosperity in the coming year — the Yiddish word for carrots means “to increase.”
But Rosh Hashana is more than a New Year celebration — in a sense, it can be compared to the true meaning of Thanksgiving. The holiday has ancient roots as a harvest festival, and enjoyment of the abundant produce of early autumn remains central.
The foods served emphasize the holiday’s optimistic spirit. The choice of produce used for a Jewish New Year meal will differ somewhat depending on whether one is of Ashkenazi or Sephardic descent. Ashkenazi dishes feature apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and other foods native to Eastern Europe; Sephardic dishes feature all those plus apricots, dates, pumpkins, and turnips. In both cases, the food used to create holiday fare symbolize abundance, prosperity, and sweetness.
Sliced apples with honey to dip them into is another holiday tradition, so if you’re a honey-free vegan, you can serve the apples with maple syrup, agave, or a combination of the two. And to extend the theme of sweetness, serve this traditional treat with this delicious vegan honey cake.
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry or spelt flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
- 1 cup dark agave nectar or pure maple syrup, or or half of each
- 1 cup applesauce
- 1/2 cup safflower oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dark or golden raisins
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- Preheat the oven to 325º F.
- Combine the first 6 (dry) ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until completely blended.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the agave and/or maple syrup, applesauce, oil, and vanilla.
- Stir together until the wet and dry ingredients are thoroughly combined, then stir in the raisins.
- Cut two pieces of baking parchment to fit the bottoms of two loaf pans. Lightly oil the sides. Divide the batter between the two pans. Sprinkle the almonds evenly over the tops of the loaves.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of a loaf tests clean. Take care not to over bake.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely. Use a knife to go around the sides of the loaves to loosen if need be, then carefully remove the loaves from the pans by tipping them into your hand, then setting on a platter. Cut each loaf into 12 slices to serve.
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 177 Total Fat: 6g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 180mg Carbohydrates: 28g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 11g Protein: 4g
More vegan Jewish New Year
(Rosh Hashanah) recipes
Recipe adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. Photos: Susan Voisin, FatFreeVegan.com
- See more vegan Jewish recipes.