Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

The Jewish New Year is one of my favorite holidays – and not just because the food is awesome. It has more to do with tradition and that autumn is my favorite season of the year.  Rosh Hashanah food (here) is really more like a feast for the soul –  a big harvest feast.

This month at the GF Canteen we are bringing you several Jewish New Year baked goodies, all gluten-free and dairy-free: challah, honey cake, apple honey upside down cake (out of a box series), pomegranate fig tart and kichel.

One of my favorite Jewish Holiday cookbooks is Jewish Holiday Cookbook written by Joan Nathan.  Her books are a part of our treasured collection and I turn to them throughout the year, not only for the recipes but for the wonderful narratives. Over the years I’ve modified them to fit our gluten-free household, but I’ve also used them for inspiration to create some of my own recipes.

Honey cake is a traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert. Its rich honey flavor is a symbol of goodness for the coming year.  My childhood version of honey cake came from Snowflake Bakery and a couple or years ago my baking hero, Milt Zeigler of Snowflake Bakery fame helped me convert that childhood favorite  to a kitchen recipe. You can find that story and recipe here on

This particular gluten-free, dairy-free recipe is a modified adaptation of Ben Moskovitz’s Apricot Honey Cake recipe from Joan Nathan’s The Jewish Holiday Cookbook.  The addition of both espresso powder and unsweetened cocoa add a depth of flavor that make the cake extra special.  And don’t leave out the rum! After all, can it be a Jewish Holiday without a little sip of something spirited?

It is traditional to bake the honey cake in a round for Rosh Hashanah, but it does well in a large loaf pan, too.  Or as a Madeleine Cookie as I discovered with some leftover batter.

Honey cake, like a quick bread with attitude, will undoubtedly make its annual debut on many a Rosh Hashanah dinner table this month.  Just remember, honey cake is only as good as the honey you use.  For this occasion, buy the best you can afford.  You’ll be glad you did.

L’shana tova.

Honey Cake
The recipe benefits from the addition of the unsweetened cocoa powder. Don't be tempted to use brewed coffee instead of espresso powder. Both ingredients plus the rum, vanilla and the pinch (literally a pinch) of spices, clove and cinnamon give the recipe an intense backnote flavor that gets better with age. You need to bake this ahead and let it age slightly - about 24 hours for best flavor. Cool thoroughly before wrapping in plastic. Serve at room temperature.
  • 54 grams spectrum vegetable shortening (kosher) (1/3 cup)
  • 100 grams sugar (about ½ cup)
  • 3 large eggs (150 grams)
  • 325 grams (1 cup) really great honey
  • zest of one lemon
  • zest of one orange
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 300 grams GF flour (150 grams superfine brown rice, 100 grams GF oat flour, 50 grams potato starch)
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch cinnamon
  • tiny pinch ground cloves
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9.5x5 inch loaf pan or two mini bundt pans (3 cup) or one regular sized bundt pan with high heat baking spray.
  2. Weigh shortening and sugar in a stand mixer bowl. Bend together until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides as needed. Add the eggs and mix on medium high until well blended. In a small bowl weigh honey and mix in zests, vanilla and rum. Add to the stand mixer and blend thoroughly. Weigh flours in another small bowl and add espresso powder, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Whisk together. With the mixer on low, add in the flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Turn mixer on medium high and let it blend for two minutes.
  3. Scrape down sides with a spatula and fold all the rogue little bits into the batter. Pour batter (or scape batter is more like it) into the prepared pan(s).
  4. Bake about 20 minutes and rotate. Bake about 18 minutes more and keep an eye on the cake. Remove as soon as a toothpick comes out clean. Don't over-bake the cake because it will dry out. Cool for a minute or two and then invert on a rack and cool completely.
  5. Best served after 24 hours so the flavors can develop.


Other honey cake recipe resources:

Smitten Kitchen Honey Cake here

 Marcy Goldman Honey Cake here

 Joan Nathan and Heidi Wortzel’s Honey Cake here


  1. Gorgeous looking cakes!
    We are all busy baking cakes already for Rosh-Hashana, and your are wonderful. Have a great holiday 🙂

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Thank you, Winnie. Your challah looks beautiful. I bet your honey cakes are delicious, too. Thanks for coming by and Happy New Year to you, too.

  2. Beautiful cakes! And delicious looking recipe.

  3. Lovely honey cake. Looks so tempting

  4. Hi Lisa, Your Honey Cake for Rosh Hashanah recipe has been selected to be featured in a Recipe Guessing Game. Please share the following link with your friends and fans. To play, go here: Congrats again!! 🙂

  5. Virginia Ellen Perkins says:

    Do you have another honey cake recipe? I am allergic to rum-all rum! Also, is it possible to make the challah with raisins. Also is there any recipe using gluten free oat flour for the challah? My rabbi says it needs oat flour for me to say hamotzei. The other flours do not qualify.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      It’s fine to leave out the rum. And yes, you can add raisins to the challah. There are five challah recipes in our book, one with raisins. I do not have any recipes for GF challah with oats. Many people eating GF for health reasons cannot eat oats. Sorry. Can’t help with that.

      • Virginia Ellen Perkins says:

        Thank you anyway. The recipes you have are a great help. I hope you will have more recipes for future holidays. I did find a recipe for donuts for Hanukah. But i am looking for any and all variety I can find. Keeping kosher and being gluten free is some task! I have ordered the book, but it will not be here before Rosh Hashonah.
        What scale do you recommend? And is a special thermometer needed? I really am just setting up everything!

      • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

        Hi Virginia. Thank you, hope the book helps. This page should help you decide on a scale. A good instant read thermometer is a good thing to have if you plan to make a lot of bread. Good luck!

      • Virginia Ellen Perkins says:

        Thank you for all of your help and your patience. In the honey cake recipe, what is spectrum vegetable shortening? You call for oat flour also. What is a brand of kosher oat flour? I have seen Bob’s Red Mill, but I am not familiar with the kosher symbol it uses, K underlined with a slash. I cannot have caffeine either. Could I use decaffeinated coffee instead of espresso? Also, what about using another flavor besides rum? Do you have a suggestion?
        It seems I am really modifying your recipe a lot. I will see about that “Axo” scale. I believe one of the articles you referred me to said it could be found at Bed,Bath, and Beyond. I will be out and about tomorrow. I will look for it.
        I have so little time. Rosh Hashonah begins sunday night.
        Oh, one other thing! When I get an email asking me to confirm that I entered a comment. I have been checking all of the ones I wish to continue. I hope I am right. I did NOT click on delete for any of them.

  6. I tried this recipe and the batter overflowed like an unending lava stream from my pan…has this ever happened to you? I followed recipe completely, and while taste was amazing, the form was in no way shaped like the vessel in which I put batter.

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Sorry the recipe didn’t turn out well for you, Jacqueline. That must have been frustrating. I hope the next time you try the recipe it goes much better because it is a tested recipe and will work. If you would like to tell me in detail what you used for ingredients and how you prepared each step, I’m happy to review it to see where you differed from the original recipe as written and hopefully we can figure out the lava flow! Feel free to pop me an email at [email protected]

    • When I followed this recipe, my cake was also totally fluid looking at 20 minutes, and had a thin crust around a gooey custard at the full 48 minutes. AFter another 34 minutes, it collapsed but a knife at least came out clean at the edges. I think the proportions must be off on one of your numbers, this definitely is a recipe that is not working as claimed! But we all agree that it smells delicious, and I still can’t wait to see what the flavor is like.

      • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

        Hi Amy – the batter should be slightly thick (directions call for scraping it into the pan). I know it’s frustrating when a recipe doesn’t work for you. If you would like to tell me in detail what you used for ingredients and how you prepared each step, I’m happy to review it to see where you differed from the original recipe as written and hopefully we can figure out why the batter was so thin! Feel free to pop me an email at [email protected]

  7. What brand of rum do you recommend? I so rarely buy rum! (I’m more of an amaretto lady) But I’ll get whatever is needed. ^_^

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      Hi Becky – I generally use Meyer’s Dark Rum which I can find almost anywhere. Captain Morgan’s should be a good choice, too. But always verify that is just rum and not flavored (which is probably not GF).

  8. faye rivkin says:

    hi- how many cups is 300 grams of GF flour? thanks!

    • GlutenFreeCanteen says:

      by volume it is 2 1/3 cups in total, but using weights is always more accurate. Scoop the flour into the cup rather than dip – to avoid adding too much flour. Check out the About Flours on the right sidebar for volume measures for oat and separate rice flours. Also, be aware that not all AP GF flour mixes are created equally so some might not give you the best results – avoid those with beans and too many starches. Happy New Year.


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