As Sweet as Honey

honey cake, gluten-free

Gluten-free honey cake provides a sweet start to the new year.

For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, we greet each other with “Shana Tovah Umetukah” – wishes for a happy and sweet new year. To symbolize sweetness, many families serve honey cake, a traditional Rosh Hashanah dessert. Which, as usual, leaves me searching for a great-tasting gluten-free alternative.

Fortunately, this year I made a moist gluten-free, dairy-free honey cake spiced with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg for my honey-child. (Cue Martha & The Vandellas’ “Honey Chile” and Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.”)

For inspiration, I started with Marcy Goldman’s vaunted “Majestic and Moist New Year’s Honey Cake” from “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking.” I used gluten-free flour, subbed some applesauce and increased the orange juice to keep the cake moist and sweet. Buckwheat flour — a dark, strong gluten-free flour that’s high in protein, fiber and magnesium — works well here, complementing the complex flavors in the cake. Interestingly, buckwheat is not related to wheat but is a member of the rhubarb family.

Have a sweet new year!

Gluten-Free Honey Cake

(gluten-free, dairy-free, pareve)
By Gluten-Free Nosh
printable recipe


  • 3½ cups gluten-free flour:
    1 cup brown rice flour
    3/4 cup sorghum flour
    3/4 cup potato starch
    ½ cup buckwheat flour
    ½ cup tapioca starch
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup black tea, slightly cooled
  • ¾ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan well and coat it well with flour, so all surfaces are well coated. Use either a 10-inch tube or bundt pan, or three 8 by 4½-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Mix in the granulated sugar and brown sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the eggs. On low speed, beat in applesauce, vegetable oil, honey, tea, orange juice, orange zest and vanilla extract. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until incorporated. The batter will be liquidy.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake until cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and the cake springs back when you touch it. For tube and bundt pans, bake for 50 to 60 minutes; loaf cakes, about 45 minutes.
  5. When ready, remove the cake pan from the oven. If you are using a bundt pan, wrap the outside of the bundt pan in a kitchen towel that has been soaked in steaming hot water; the steam will help the cake release from the pan. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. Honey cake is best made at least one day in advance, to give the flavors time to develop.

Yield: 12 servings



Filed under desserts, Jewish holidays, Recipes

10 responses to “As Sweet as Honey

  1. What would you suggest for an egg-free option? Had to go without this Rosh Hashanah. Vowed to learn enough about gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free honey cakes as I could before next year. Some have suggested a combination of apple sauce and baking soda but only up to 2 eggs. I thoroughly enjoy your Gluten Free and More magazine. Thanks for all of your efforts.


  2. Lynne

    A friend of mine made this recipe for rosh hashanah, 5774, and it was outstanding!!
    For my purposes, I’m thinking individual cupcakes. How long would the baking time be for that option?
    toda raba


    • Lynne,
      Glad it turned out well! Honey cupcakes sound fun. I would think cupcakes would take about 30 min. Maybe check them at 25 min and see how they are doing. (Although opening the oven a lot will delay their cooking.) Also, stay in the kitchen. When they start smelling fragrant, they are likely to be done or close to done. I also lightly touch the top of cakes/cupcakes. If the top is solid (not loose) and has a bit of spring to it, then they are ready. When I think they are ready, I insert a toothpick and check it. If the toothpick comes out with some moist crumbs, it is ready.
      Enjoy! Have a sweet new year.


  3. Have you tried it with nuts? The one I used to make before my celiac diagnosis has slivered almonds. Will the weight of the nuts have any effect on the rising, do you think?


    • Ruth,
      I have not tried making it with almonds, but I think it should work out fine. I would make it in the loaf pans, though, instead of the bundt pan. I don’t think the weight of the almonds would affect the rising it all.


  4. Pingback: Gluten-free Honey Cake

  5. Carin in NJ

    This was completely delicious. Thank you! I used water in place of the tea because I was in a hurry, and I had no orange zest and it still came out great. It was perfect for breaking the Yom Kippur fast…a tradition we’d given up since going GF. So we are very grateful!


    • So glad the recipe worked well for you! I’m not sure why, but all the Jewish honey cake recipes call for tea or coffee. I think it’s to lend a darker color to the cake and to lend a more complex flavor. But gluten-free flours like sorghum and buckwheat are darker anyway, so they work well in this recipe. When I made the cake, it tasted sweet and flavorful, though it was a little crumbly. I had leftovers and I made the extra cake into a gluten-free honey cake trifle, by layering cubes of cake with vanilla pudding and berries in a deep glass bowl. Yum!


  6. Doug Page

    Great post, Eve.


  7. melissa

    eve makes yummy stuff! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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