As I write this, a honey cake bakes in the oven. The air is sweet, fragrant with notes of syrup, spice and ginger.
This cake is more than just the do-over of my last, rather disastrous and entertaining, attempt at baking a honey cake a few years back (fondly known by friends and family as the “Hippo Cake” or the “Georgia O’Keefe cake – see picture below.)
This cake is my tenuous, perhaps feeble, nod to my heritage. Traditionally baked by Jewish mothers around the world at Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – the honey cake represents the sweetness that we wish for one another for the new year ahead.
I do not celebrate Rosh Hashanah in any other way; I have not attended High Holiday services at shul (temple) for almost 20 years now, a personal choice I made with conviction and a heavy dose of guilt. Ah yes, the guilt. At this very moment, my far-flung family is together, with their loved ones, marking this special day. They are not a particularly religious bunch – in London, in Philadelphia, in Australia – but they take the time to be together to celebrate the New Year. For them, I think it’s less about the prescribed prayers and more about stepping out of the routine and business of the every day, to embrace being together, to recognize the passing of a year and to welcome in the next with optimism and honey cake.
If I was with them at this time of year, as maybe I should be, I’d also be celebrating.
But I am not with them. So instead, I bake honey cake – my mother’s recipe – and say hello again to feelings of hypocrisy and homesickness.
The Infamous Hippo Cake
Honey Cake 2012 – better, right?