Honey cake emerges from its hibernation around the High Holidays in the fall, when honey and other sweet foods are eaten to usher in a sweet new year. But as much as this is an early fall cake for the holidays, its warming spices make it a perfect winter cake that works both for dessert and in the morning with a cup of coffee. The rye adds a rustic feel, a feature of older Jewish and rural French honey cake recipes. Try cutting out the sugar altogether if you prefer a more subtle sweetness. We often bake our honey cake in a loaf pan, but for special occasions, a Bundt pan looks beautiful. If using a standard 10- or 12-cup Bundt pan, youll need to double this recipe, and let it cool for an hour before removing it from the pan.
One summer day, Jeffrey and I headed to Little Odessa in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. We were visiting our business partner Jackies ninety-two-year-old Russian-born great-aunt, Lilya. She had immigrated to Brighton Beach from the Soviet Union in 1989. Lilya was known for her borscht, and shed invited us to spend time with her while she salted and seasoned three varieties of the soup. At ninety-two, she was extraordinary, foisting shots of vodka on us and showering us with words of wisdom. We left Brighton Beach inspired and feeling lucky to have met her. She passed away a couple of years later. We developed this recipe with her in mind. This beet borscht is perfect served chilled on summer days or served hot in the colder months. The ideal borscht, writes Aleksandar Hemon in the New Yorker of his Bosnian family traditions contains everything . . . and it can be refrigerated and reheated in perpetuity, always better the next day . . . The crucial ingredient . . . is a large, hungry family, surviving together. Jeffrey thinks that this recipe should utilize rossel (the brine from fermented beets, otherwise known as beet kvass) instead of vinegar to add tang, since traditionally borschts coveted sour flavor was cultivated by first fermenting the beets. But I disagree. I like the flavor that vinegar adds, even if it isnt as Old World. This recipe uses vinegar (I won!), but if youd like to be more old school and first wait a week to ferment your beets, follow the Beet and Ginger Kvass recipe (page 290) but omit the ginger. And while this recipe calls for roasting beets and adding them to the soup, it also tastes great without roasted beets. Just cut the beet amount to 1 pound if omitting the roasting step.