Honey Cupcakes

honey cupcakesIt’s Rosh Hashanah! Tonight in the interfaith Kozusko-Marcus household we are celebrating with sweet foods, including these honey cupcakes with honey cream cheese frosting.

Many of the recipes I’ve seen for Rosh Hashanah desserts involve apples, or honey, or both; most celebrations tonight will feature apples dipped in honey in the hope of a “sweet new year,” and you can learn about this fun tradition from the fine folks here at aish.com. To me, honey cake is the Rosh Hashanah dessert…but a whole cake for just Mike and me seemed like a bit much. Are there honey cupcakes, I wondered? Indeed, there are. And why I’ve never baked them before is truly one of life’s great mysteries.

As many of you know, honey cake was my baking nemesis until a few years ago, when I found this great honey cake recipe. The cupcake version uses a completely different recipe, and is absolutely delicious, with a great aromatic twist from the cinnamon and lemon zest. I doctored up a frosting recipe that I found online to include vanilla extract to cut some of the sweetness and it worked very well.

Happy New Year, all! Leshanah tovah tikateiv veteichateim!

Honey Cupcakes


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch yielded 16 cupcakes when cups were filled about half to three-quarters full.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and beat until well-combined, then add honey and beat until well-combined.

With the mixer running on its lowest speed, gradually add flour until the mixture is just combined, then add milk and mix until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl frequently to fully incorporate all ingredients.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake pans, filling about half to three-quarters full. Bake for at least 17 minutes, then check cupcakes for doneness; if cupcakes are not done, continue baking for 1-2 minutes and checking after each interval to be sure they don’t burn. My cupcakes baked for about 21 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for just a moment in the pans, then cool complete on wire racks.

Honey Cream Cheese Frosting


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar


In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until well-combined and fluffy. Add honey and vanilla extract and beat until very well-combined. Add powdered sugar, one half-cup at a time, beating well after each addition.

Scoop frosting into a piping bag fitted with an open star or large plain tip; I used Wilton #199. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes; you will have more than enough, so reserve any unsued frosting in an airtight container in the fridge; I had about a cup left over because I didn’t pipe a ton onto each cupcake. Various web sources claim that you can store cream cheese frosting in the fridge for a few weeks, but I’d use it quickly…maybe bake a one-layer cake and use the rest on that.

Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.


Honey Cake

honey cakeSometimes, you encounter a treat that becomes your nemesis. Until last year, honey cake was mine.

I first read about honey cake in Miriam’s Kitchen, an excellent book by Elizabeth Ehrlich that explores the connection between food and family, history, and tradition. The author described her Great-Aunt Dora’s honey cake as a rich, aromatic confection that was baked to celebrate Rosh Hoshannah in the hope of a sweet new year, and it sounded exactly like something I’d love to add to our holiday table.

Great-Aunt Dora’s recipe was included in the book, but when I baked it the outside burned, while the inside remained gooey and inedible. Years of honey cake experiments ensued, during which I tried different recipes each time, all with similar results. Last year, I scoured the internet for a new recipe, and I found this one, which yields a very successful, spicy orange honey cake.

Honey cake is still a bit tricky because of the amount of liquid and sugar (from both the honey and the white sugar in the recipe), so I recommend the following tips for baking:

  • Bake your cake at 340 degrees; the slightly lower temperature allows the cake to bake through without burning.
  • Check your cake for the first time at 33 minutes; the center will likely still look very wobbly, so continue baking for 3 minutes at a time, checking frequently, until a cake tester comes out clean. My cake bakes for about 43-45 minutes.


  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of 1 medium orange
  • 1 cup orange juice


Preheat oven to 340 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9 x 13 sheet cake pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, honey, vegetable oil, eggs, and orange zest. Beat until combined.

Add flour mixture and orange juice alternatively, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until just combined. Batter will be very runny.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 33-43 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before serving. This cake can be served as-is or dressed up with whipped cream, powdered sugar, or my favorite, a drizzly icing made of powdered sugar and orange juice.