Honey Spice Cake

Inspired by Edda Servi Machlin’s recipe in Classic Italian-Jewish Cooking (Ecco, 2005)

Serves 12

This recipe is barely recognizable from Machlin’s recipe, which is more akin to a richer, denser, fruitcake. What results here is a very light cake, with a drier crumb. I think it would be a lovely breakfast addition since it’s not sweet at all, though you can remedy that with a healthy dusting of powdered sugar on top. If you don’t have whole-wheat pastry flour on hand, regular all-purpose white will do just fine. And feel free to swap in granulated cane sugar for the coconut sugar.

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons coconut sugar

1/2 cup (160 grams) honey

Generous pinch of sea salt

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups (225 grams) whole-wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking soda

Few grinds of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) ground cinnamon

1/4 cup brewed espresso

1/4 cup orange juice

1 cup (133 grams) chopped walnuts

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Line an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper long enough to hang over the sides. Spray the parchment with cooking spray, if you have on hand, for extra insurance that the cake doesn’t stick.

In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, honey, and salt. Beat with a whisk to blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk vigorously until thick and well blended.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, cinnamon, espresso, and juice to the bowl. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir until mixed and there are no visible signs of flour. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the walnut evenly over the top. Gently press them into the batter so they form a crumble-like topping. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched (or a metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean). Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, or overnight (I tend to be a night baker after tucking the kids into bed). Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving, if desired.