This recipe from the 1930s comes from Hilary Finkel Buxton, a friend from our days at WGBH, the public television station in Boston, and her sister, Sandy. Their grandma Celia Goldberg admitted to 101 before she died. She was beloved by her family, and they treasured the sometimes cryptic notes she bequeathed to them for her Honey Cake, Mandlebread, and Noodle Pudding. Grandma called her sister, Yetta, who lived to be 102, every day when they both lived in the Bronx.
2 teaspoons instant coffee or instant espresso
1 cup hot water
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons warm water
½ cup oil
1 cup honey
½ cup thinly sliced almonds, toasted
- Set the oven rack in the middle position. Pre- heat the oven to 350ºF. Coat two 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Line the bottom and ends of the pans with a single strip of wax pa- per and coat with vegetable oil spray. Dust the pans with flour and tap to remove the excess.
- Add the instant coffee to the hot water and allow to cool, or place in the refrigerator to hasten the cooling.
- Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip the whites until they form firm peaks. Set aside. If you don’t have a second mixer bowl, transfer the egg whites to another bowl and set aside. The honey cakes come together quickly so the beaten egg whites will not have time to deflate.
- Add the sugar and egg yolks to the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat to combine. Turn off the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, scrape down the mixture from the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer on and continue to beat and combine with the rest of the mixture.
- Add the baking soda to the warm water and stir to combine. Set aside. Whisk together the oil, honey, and cooled coffee in a small bowl. Add the baking soda mixture, and continue to whisk until combined.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients to the mixture alternately with the liquid ingredients. Remove the bowl from the stand and fold in the beaten egg whites in three additions. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. The batter will be very loose. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the loaves and bake for 30 minutes. Tent each cake with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until a metal tester inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and cool for at least 20 minutes. Go around the edges of each cake with a butter knife and turn out onto a second wire rack. Invert the cakes onto the first rack and continue to cool. Grandma Goldberg’s Honey Cake should be wrapped in wax paper and stored at room temperature.
Yield: 2 loaves; 9 slices per loaf