Grandma Goldberg’s Honey Cake

Grandma Goldberg’s Honey Cake

Honey cake recipe and memories from the Brass Sisters, Marilynn and Sheila.

Our mother, Dorothy Katziff Brass, taught us how to cook as soon as we could reach the table. She had a wonderful recipe for honey cake, but for some reason we lost it. Honey cake is traditionally served at the Jewish New Year, when you’re supposed to eat something sweet to welcome in a sweet new year. But you can really eat it anytime.

We were talking about our missing recipe with a friend of ours, Hilary Finkel Buxton, and she told us about her Grandma Goldberg’s honey cake. The recipe is so typically like our mother’s. It has just a little bit of coffee, and as it bakes, this wonderful aroma comes from the oven. It makes two loaves—“One to eat and one to give away,” as Grandma Goldberg said. We learned that she lived to be 101, and she spoke to her sister, Yetta, who lived to be 102, every day. It’s such a wonderful story, how the two sisters kept in touch. 

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 9 slices per loaf



  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee or instant espresso
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • Fresh kumquats, halved, for garnish (sliced almonds also work)


Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350° and coat two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Line the bottom and ends of each pan with a strip of wax paper and coat it with spray. Dust pans with flour and tap to remove excess.

Add the instant coffee to the hot water and let cool.

Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and ginger in a bowl. Set aside.Put the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and beat until the whites form medium-firm peaks. Set aside (if you don’t have a second mixer bowl, transfer the egg whites to another bowl).

In the mixer bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together on medium speed. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer back on and beat until the mixture is pale yellow. Set aside.

Whisk together the oil, honey, and coffee in a bowl. Stir the baking soda into the warm water and add it, too.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg-sugar mixture in three batches, alternating with the oil-honey mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold in the beaten egg whites in three additions. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes. Tent each cake with aluminum foil and bake until a metal tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes more. 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. Turn the cakes out of the pans and return to the rack to cool completely.

Before serving, drizzle with additional honey and garnish with halved kumquats. Serve honey cake warm or at room temperature. Store at room temperature, wrapped in wax paper.

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