Elaine Folberg's "Killer" Honey Cake

With Erev Rosh Hashanah on September 9, we will welcome 5779 with all of its wonderful themes, symbols, and traditions. As we celebrate the heralding of the New Year with family and friends, we also remember dear ones who are no longer with us. Many special holiday recipes make the memories of loved ones even sweeter—literally! 


In that regard, I thought it fitting to "reprint" (with permission from the author, CBI member Andrea Abel) the article below with a very special "killer" Honey Cake recipe by Elaine Folberg, z"l, the beloved mother of our own Senior Rabbi Steven Folberg

Here's wishing you and yours the sweetest of New Years!

L'Shanah Tovah Umetukah,
-Allison Welch

Honey cake is no longer just the Jewish version of fruitcake

A traditional Jewish honey cake. (2009 photo by Larry Kolvoord / American-Statesman)

A traditional Jewish honey cake. (2009 photo by Larry Kolvoord / American-Statesman)

By Andrea Abel
Originally published: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I’m a Jewish woman on a mission, stopping nothing short of returning honey cake – a traditional sweet quick bread served during the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – to its rightful place of honor.

Honey cake has gotten a bum rap. It’s become the Jewish equivalent of the Christmas fruitcake, the “treat” at every holiday spread that everyone avoids. And for the most part I agree. The majority of honey cakes turn out dry, tough and cloyingly sweet.

This might not always have been the case. I am convinced that somewhere along the way, we simply have lost the craft of baking good honey cakes. It’s no wonder. Many of our mothers and grandmothers never wrote down their recipes and certainly didn’t use measuring cups. They just baked from experience and used their senses, and they baked often.

The key to recapturing the honey-cake tradition is to find a good basic recipe and learn some baking techniques. It’s actually a simple cake to make. But the same ingredients can achieve a sweet symphony of flavors or a dreadful dirge of sugary toughness.

Here are some pointers for (nearly) foolproof results:

• Grease and flour the pan, getting into every corner.
• Use a good quality honey and fresh spices.
• Very strong coffee or brewed espresso balances the cake’s sweetness without a hint of coffee flavor in the finished cake.
• Be sure to sift the dry ingredients. If you do not have a sifter, use a mesh kitchen sieve. Do not skip this step.
• Fold the nuts and raisins into the dry ingredients to keep them suspended while baking, and be sure to finely chop the walnuts.
• Beat the eggs on high until they are very frothy. Do the same when adding the sugar, honey and oil. This aerates the batter for a lighter cake and thoroughly incorporates the honey.
• Do not overbeat once the flour mixture is added or the cake will be tough. Mix on low speed or by hand just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients, putting in one-quarter to one-third of each at a time.
• Do not overbake. Keep an eye on the cake, because different ovens cook different ways.
• Do not underbake, or the center of the cake might fall in.
• The cake is best when it’s served the day after it’s made.

While I found some delightful recipes through the years – including my own grandmother’s – and these techniques definitely help, I still was hungry for more.

Enter Elaine Folberg. Her son Rabbi Steve Folberg and his wife, Saundra Goldman, told me Elaine had a “killer” honey cake recipe. At 86, Elaine is a pistol but doesn’t bake anymore. Family legend holds that she was a terrific baker with a recipe for prune roll so dear that she and her husband, Joe, carried the pastry from Philadelphia to Israel for Steve when he was studying there.

I had to try her recipe. On my first attempt, I knew this recipe was a winner. I tinkered a bit with it, adding more preparation instructions, a bit more spice and more nuts, but the recipe is all Elaine and filled with love. “It gives me such joy to pass this recipe down,” she told me as she watched me bake.

Though my family and I loved the cake, I figured I couldn’t consider it a success until I converted some longtime honey cake haters. A friend of mine with a sharp and sophisticated palate reluctantly tasted a slice. She thoughtfully chewed a bite, paused, and said in a surprised tone, “Nice. I like the citrus and spices, and it’s moist.” Later, another friend, Donna Schmidt, called. The day before, she had told me, “You know, honey, I don’t like honey cake.” She now laughed into the phone and said, “Phil and I are fighting over the last slice. This is a winner.”

For those who must have chocolate, try the cinnamon and chocolate-infused Chocolate Lovers’ Honey Cake (recipe below).

Eureka! A fabulous, simple honey cake that deserves a place of honor at the High Holiday table. Thank you, Elaine!

Elaine Folberg’s Honey Cake

Elaine Folberg and Andrea Abel

Elaine Folberg and Andrea Abel

3 cups flour
3/4 tsp. ground allspice
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup yellow raisins
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
1 medium lemon, rind grated and juiced
1 cup brewed strong black coffee or espresso, cooled

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10- to 15-cup Bundt pan or two loaf pans.

Into a large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Stir in chopped nuts and raisins, if using, and set aside.

Beat eggs on high speed until frothy and light-colored. Add sugar and honey and beat until whipped and creamy-looking, about 1 minute. It should look like a rich cake batter. Add oil, lemon juice and rind and mix thoroughly.

Alternate adding dry ingredients and coffee, beating on low speed only enough to incorporate, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With a rubber spatula, gently mix all the way to the bottom of the bowl to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour into the prepared Bundt or loaf pans.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour on the middle rack. Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean, top springs back slightly to touch and cake begins to pull away from the pan. Do not overbake.

Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. When cool enough to touch, invert onto the wire rack. When cooled completely, wrap tightly in foil or in an airtight container.

To allow the flavors to develop, do not serve for 24 hours. The cake will actually be moister the next day.

Makes one Bundt cake (its best form) or 2 standard loaves.

Chocolate Lovers’ Honey Cake

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan. Melt the unsweetened chocolate over simmering water in a double boiler or microwave for 1 minute. Set aside.

Sift into a mixing bowl the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon and set aside.

In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and add the oil and the honey. Then add the brown sugar and melted chocolate.

Alternately add the dry ingredients and the orange juice. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips over the top.

Bake on the lower rack of the oven for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for about 15 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake, then remove it from the pan.

– From Andra Tunick Karnofsky, Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

Celebrate Sukkot With These Fall Harvest Recipes

Stuffed cabbage for dinner -- yum!

Stuffed cabbage for dinner -- yum!

I love to cook. And Fall, with its brisk outdoor evening temperatures that make me want to cozy up inside a warm kitchen, is the perfect time to cook.

This is the time of year when I start pulling out my mother's recipes -- the ones she learned from her own mother. Recipes written on scraps of paper stuffed into old cookbooks, or passed along in an old e-mail chain forwarded from mother to daughter and sister to sister, or just pulled from memory and backed up by the occasional phone call.

One of my favorite recipes that my mother makes is my grandmother's Hungarian stuffed cabbage. The sauce is distinctively sweet and sour, with a mix of sauerkraut, lemon juice, and brown sugar. It takes several hours to make, but is well worth it. In case you'd like to try it, here it is.

And since my mother is a phenomenal cook, as a bonus, for you vegetarians, I've thrown in two other stuffed vegetable recipes that she used to make for my dad, who was a vegetarian -- stuffed patty pan squash, and stuffed sweet peppers with eggplant.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. Happy Fall!

Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage


1 head green cabbage, about 2 1/2 - 3 lbs


  • 1/2 of 32-oz jar sauerkraut, drained (reserve other half)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 32-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup brown sugar (to taste), packed
  • Juice of 2 lemons


  • 1 lb ground sirloin (for vegetarian version, substitute with 16 oz chopped button mushrooms)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 4 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 1-2 cups prepared sauce
  • 1/2 of 32-oz jar sauerkraut, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Steam or boil the cabbage until soft. Gently separate leaves and set aside.

To Prepare the Sauce

Prepare the sauce by sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sauerkraut, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Simmer until ready to add to cabbage rolls.

To Prepare the Filling

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Add ground sirloin and cook until browned, then drain off fat.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked beef/onions/garlic, sauerkraut, rice, eggs, salt and pepper. Add 1-2 cups of prepared sauce and mix well.

Filling the Cabbage Leaves

Scoop about 1/4-1/2 cup of filling into the center of each cabbage leaf. Roll up the leaf around the filling as if rolling a burrito. 

Place the cabbage rolls in a shallow, lightly oiled baking dish, seam side down. (Actually this recipe will probably fill 2-3 rectangular baking dishes.) 

Pour sauce evenly over the cabbage rolls.


At this point, you can either refrigerate the cabbage rolls overnight and bake them the next day, or bake them in the oven right away. Bake for about 2 hours, until the sauce has thickened and the cabbage leaves are soft.

Serve and enjoy.

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash


  • 6 medium-large patty pan squash
  • 1 small red and 1 small white onion chopped
  • 1 small red pepper cored and chopped
  • Handful of garlic, chopped
  • Leaves and tops of celery, chopped (2 stalks)
  • 1-2 cups of fresh chopped spinach
  • Lots of basil (about 1 cup)
  • Cream cheese (1/2 - 1 cup)
  • 1-2 cups of grain of choice (rice, couscous, corn, etc)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Enough bread crumbs to bind filling
  • Grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top before baking
  • Pepper, salt, paprika, and red pepper flakes to taste (chef's choice)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the insides (save for filling). Put squash halves into a baking pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.

Cook your grain of choice. Especially good if vegetable broth is used as a liquid to replace water.

Melt butter and olive oil together - enough to coat the bottom of your pan. Sauté onion until soft but not brown. Add garlic, celery, red pepper and spinach, and cook down.

Take off of the heat and add cream cheese. Blend and add grain, egg, bread crumbs, grated parmesan cheese (optional), basil, salt,  pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Fill your squash with the mixture. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese and paprika, and spray with olive oil.

Bake in a preheated 400℉ oven until cooked and the top is brown (about 30 minutes).

Stuffed Sweet Peppers with Eggplant


  • 6 peppers, assorted colors (red, yellow, orange)


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 onion, garlic to taste, finely chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of soft goat cheese
  • Italian herbs -- fresh if you have them
  • 1 egg
  • Bread crumbs as needed to bind mixture
  • Salt, pepper, paprika and red pepper flakes to taste


  • 1 - 2 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1 - 2 cups of cheese of choice cut into chunks or slices, not grated

Roast the eggplant in the oven at about 375℉ (might take up to 1 hour) until soft. Let it cool, cut in half, peel, remove the pulp and mash up with a potato masher or chop finely.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Spray a baking pan with olive oil and arrange pepper halves in the pan.

Saute onion, garlic and red pepper until soft. Add tomato and eggplant. Cook until soft and creamy. Add goat cheese and seasoning.

Take off of the heat and add beaten egg and bread crumbs until the mixture feels stiff. Fill peppers. Top with tomato sauce, chopped basil and cheese.

Make a foil tent, cover but don't let it touch the peppers and bake at 375℉ for 20 - 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until done, about 15 minutes or until soft but not overdone.