Category: passover

Grandma Dotty’s mini honey cakes.

Each year I do a lot of Easter recipes for you guys. Tons of cute little cupcakes & muffins & stuff. But this year, I wasn’t really feeling it. I know for Sunday’s dinner I’ll probably make little bunny cupcakes or flowery cupcakes or something… but in the weeks leading up to it this year, I didn’t have it in me.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe.

It’s probably because of the passing of Grandma Dotty. Its had us pretty down lately. And we’ve been spending a lot of time looking through her photos, going through her things, and reading those hand-written recipes.

So I figured why not make one of her recipes?

The one that immediately jumped out at me with Passover being here was the honey cake. Honey cake is a very popular & beloved item in Jewish cooking. Usually it’s made for Rosh Hashanah, sometimes Purim. Here’s a little more about the honey cake tradition:

Luckily, honey cake is dripping with tradition. Variations of honey-sweetened desserts have existed for thousands of centuries and in far-flung locales, from Ancient Egypt and Rome to China. Recent archaeological discoveries of beehives in Tel Rehov, Israel, also suggest that biblical Israel was indeed a land of milk and honey. According to Stephen Buchmann’s book, “Letters From the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” (Bantam, 2005), German-Christian pilgrims developed a taste for honey cake on their trips to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. They enjoyed the dish enough to take it home, where it developed over time into its contemporary form.

Not surprisingly, the first Jewish honey cakes (or lekach, which comes from the German word lecke, meaning “lick”) originated in Germany around this time. During this period, the dessert was primarily eaten on Purim and Shavuot and sometimes served as a treat for young yeshiva students. As Gil Marks notes in “The World of Jewish Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, 1996):

“Honey was smeared on a slate containing the letters of the alphabet and the child licked them off so that the ‘words of the Torah may be sweet as honey.’ Afterward, the aspiring scholar was presented with honey cakes, apples and hard-boiled eggs.”

From Germany, the dish traveled to Eastern Europe, where Jews celebrated with honey cakes at simkhot (happy occasions) and holidays alike. According to Marks, the overall use of honey as an ingredient declined in Eastern European cooking during the 17th century but remained popular in Jewish cuisine.

-Source

Now, the fact that it’s leavened & includes wheat flour & confectioner’s sugar (among other “chametz“) would generally rule this cake out for Passover enjoyment. But since I’m not Jewish by birth nor am I (or Jay) religious in any capacity, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing this as a tribute to Dotty, not a religious symbol.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe turned into mini cakes.

If you’re Jewish & you’re obeying the laws of Judaism, you know whether or not it’s okay to eat. Maybe wait until after Passover to try it? Or flex your culinary muscles by altering the recipe to use almond flour or matzoh meal? Alternately, they also make delicious little Easter cupcakes. Honestly they’re really great for any occasion. Even just an average Friday.

I used Langnese, an imported German honey in them, but Golden Blossom would taste great too ’cause of the orange. Just be sure to use a REAL honey. A lot of the honey you find in stores today is just high fructose corn syrup mixed with a little honey.

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Ra-ra-rugelach.

Thank you all for your kind words & sympathy. While I’m back posting recipes, they’re recipes I had made and written up last week before my uncle’s passing. So my heart still hurts, and of course none of us are “over it”…  but yes, I’m “back” to posting. My uncle loved to cook and loved desserts, even though he was on a strict diet, so he wouldn’t want me to stop posting or hold off on anything. So here’s a new delicious recipe I want to share with you all, and I also really wanted to share the photos of my friend John’s beautiful little baby girl, Angelina, in her Cupcake Rehab bib. So freakin’ cute!

Look at her, all ready to beat someone with her whisk! Or make cupcakes, whatever!

If you want cuteness like that, and by cuteness I mean the bib not the baby- I don’t think John is willing to share her… then you can go to my Cupcake Rehab webstore and buy stuff. I have an assload of things for sale from hoodies to bibs (duh) to coffee mugs to dog bowls! Seriously. Buy some stuff, take pictures, and send me the pics. I’ll add ‘em to the C.R.my page & you’ll be (quasi-) famous. But I can’t promise it’ll make you as cute as Angelina.

Back to the eats. What’s fair is fair, and while it’s Easter time for Christians, it’s Passover for the Jewish people. Each holiday & religion hold to their own traditional foods & desserts, as do the specific ethnicities and races within each religion, just as they hold to the traditions of the religions themselves. I myself am neither Christian nor Jew, but I certainly don’t discriminate against delicious food items. I embrace them all!

Hamentashen is more traditional around this time of year, but honestly, since when have I been traditional? Actually that’s not true, I’m very old-fashioned. At any rate, I don’t happen to like hamentashen at all, so rugelach it is!

Rugelach is one of my absolute favorite “cookies.” I like the chocolate ones, and I like the filling to have a touch of cinnamon. I also like the cinnamon sugar. I’m not into the fruit filled version. I used to love the ones from the 2nd Avenue Deli… Jay used to work right near it, but that was before the two of us got together (unfortunately). And back when my dad was still working, he’d randomly pick up a bunch in a 2nd Avenue Deli tin and I’d eat all the chocolate. Once he got them as a gift for someone, and I finagled it open, ate two chocolate ones and resealed it. Shh, don’t tell.

Rugelach aren’t difficult to make. It’s similar to rolling a croissant, or a chocolate croissant. This particular dough is made with cream cheese, although there are many different varieties.

Rugelach (Yiddish: רוגעלך) (other spellings: rugelakh, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach (all plural), rugalah, rugala (singular)) is a Jewish pastry of Ashkenazic origin.

Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling.[1][2] Some sources state that the rugelach and the French croissant share a common Viennese ancestor, crescent-shaped pastries commemorating the lifting of the Turkish siege in 1793[3] (this could be a reference to the Battle of Vienna in 1683). This appears to be an urban legend however, as both the rugelach and its supposed ancestor (the Kipfel or Kipferl) pre-date the Early Modern era, and the croissant in its modern form did not originate earlier than the 19th century (see viennoiserie).

An alternative form is constructed much like a strudel or nut roll, but unlike those, the rolled dough and filling is cut into slices before baking.[4]

The name is Yiddish, the Jewish language of eastern Europe. The ach ending (ך) indicates plural, while the el (ל) can be a diminutive, as, for example, shtetlekh (שטעטלעך, villages) is the plural of shtetl (שטעטל, village), the diminutive of shtot (שטאָט, town). In this case, the root means something like “twist” so the translation would be “little twists,” a reference to the shape of this cookie.[3] In this context, note that rog (ראָג) means corner in Yiddish,[5] so it is possible that a more accurate translation would be “little corners.”

Alternatively, some assert that the root is rugel, meaning royal, possibly a reference to the taste.[6] This explanation is in conflict with Yiddish usage, where the word keniglich (קעניגליךּ) is the dominant word meaning royal.[7]

Finally, in modern Hebrew, they are known as roglìt (רוֹגְלִית), a postbiblical Hebrew word meaning “trailing vines”.[8] The Yiddish word ruglach probably came first. The modern Hebrew is probably a neologism, chosen for its similarity to the Yiddish and its descriptive meaning.

Rugelach can be made with sour cream or cream cheese[1][2][3] doughs, but there are also pareve variants with no dairy ingredients,[9] so that it can be eaten with or after a meat meal and still be kosher. Cream cheese doughs are the most recent, probably American innovations, while yeast leavened[9][10] and sour cream doughs[11][12] are much older.

The different fillings can include raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, chocolate, marzipan, poppy seed, or fruit preserves which are rolled up inside.

I’ve been wanting to make rugelach for a long time. I sort of combined 4 or 5 recipes I found to make one of my own. I think it turned out fantastic! Except one word of advice: if you don’t have a stand mixer, this dough is not going to happen for you. It’s so thick that it slowed Lola down and she made all kinds of “Rrrrrr” noises. But she can handle it. And there’s no way you can mix it by hand, you need to cream the butter and cream cheese together and even using a hand mixer isn’t gonna work out well for that. You know how cream cheese is… many a mixer has broken under it’s wrath.

Chocolate rugelach

CHOCOLATE RUGELACH

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted bittersweet chocolate, cooled but still “liquidy”
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

  1. Beat softened butter and cream cheese in large bowl on medium speed of mixer until blended and smooth. Gradually add flour and ¼ cup sugar and vanilla, beating on low speed until well blended. Divide dough into 3 equal parts; wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate anywhere from 1 to 4 hours or until firm enough to roll.
  2. Heat oven to 375°F. On lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into 9-inch circle (keep remaining dough in refrigerator). Cut circle into 12 wedges. Place about 1 teaspoon melted chocolate at wide end of each wedge; spread about three-fourths of the way up wedge. Stir together 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder; sprinkle over melted chocolate, sprinkle over melted chocolate. Starting at wide end, roll toward the point. Place cookies, point sides down, about 1 inch apart on a sheet of parchment paper covering an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg.
  3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and filling.
Cinnamon sugar rugelach

The dough I made is a sweet dough, if you’d like a not-sweet version just remove the sugar and vanilla. If you’d like to add a little something extra, sprinkle with some sugar after brushing the dough with the beaten egg. Other options for fillings are apricot (1 cup apricot preserves plus ¾ cup chopped walnuts), cinnamon sugar (4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, ½ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon) or raspberry-raisin (1 cup of raspberry jam and ½ cup raisins).  Or you can be totally rebellious and come up with your own filling!

(Psst… wanna know a sweet shortcut to the chocolate filling? Bosco chocolate syrup plus a sprinkling of cinnamon. Trust me, it works and it’s delicious. Just don’t use too much syrup, you’ll end up with a gooey mess.)

To me, they’re perfectly sweet, not too sweet, plus the cream cheese adds a little something special. I devoured way more  in one sitting than I should’ve. A little basket of these is a perfect hostess gift.

Spring has sprung.

Not 100% of course, but for the most part anyway.

I’ve done one of these little compilation posts for Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas, Valentine’s Day & St. Patrick’s Day, so here’s my springtime/Easter version. I don’t really do “Easter”, I like bunnies, baby chicks, lilies & chocolate… so I celebrate those things & call it Easter. I’m not one of those Wiccans or “Pagans” either. I’m Agnostic, but I do love me some holidays. I can’t help it. I love to decorate and bake and cook and that’s the best part of life, in my opinion. So why not celebrate everything!?

The real meaning of Easter:

Easter (Old English: Ēostre; Greek: Πάσχα, Paskha; Hebrew: פֶּסַח‎, Pesakh, “Passover“) is the central religious feast in the Christian liturgical year.[1] According to Christian scripture, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Some Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday[2] (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Friday and three days after Maundy Thursday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between AD 26 and 36, traditionally 33. Easter also refers to the season of the church year called Eastertide or the Easter Season. Traditionally the Easter Season lasted for the forty days from Easter Day until Ascension Day. The first week of the Easter Season is known as Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.[3] Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21 (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on March 20 in most years), and the “Full Moon” is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the 21st century, to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.[4][5]

Relatively newer[citation needed] elements such as the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts have become part of the holiday’s modern celebrations, and those aspects are often celebrated by many Christians and non-Christians alike. There are also some Christian denominations who do not celebrate Easter.

Yeah so that last part applies to me. Delicious chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs filled with creamy fondant? Yes please. I guess, though, I more celebrate just the coming of spring itself, which is more like Ostara:

Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the festival of Easter. Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honour during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the “Paschal month“. The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn- was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.

Linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, *Hausos, some scholars have debated whether or not Eostre is an invention of Bede’s, and theories connecting Eostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.

Notice the spelling similarities between Eostre and Easter? Hmm. Food for thought. I’ll let ya chew on that one.

So in short, I like to eat and make stuff, and that’s what holidays are all about, really. I don’t think you have to believe in a God to celebrate the coming of spring, especially after a winter where here in New York we got a whopping 60.9″ of snow total. At any rate… here are some delectable cupcake confections that celebrate this time of year, and can be adapted/used whether your celebrations are referred to as Ostara, Easter, Passover or just plain spring.

One of my favorite Easter cupcakes; lemon-vanilla cakes with a lemon-vanilla buttercream, topped with toasted coconut “nests” and Cadbury mini-eggs. Super cute and so easy! These were a humongous hit with everyone who ate them, I highly recommend trying them. Recipe here: Nest Eggs.

I grouped these two together because they’re in the same post from last Easter. The top ones are Creamsicle mini-cupcakes topped with a thick marshmallow Fluff buttercream, and the bottom ones are carrot cupcakes topped with a lavender-tinted cream cheese frosting. Check both recipes out here: Easter?
I didn’t actually make these for Easter, I made them for my grandmother’s 92nd birthday… however they’re a perfect springtime cupcake idea. A light chocolate cake topped with an Earl Grey/lemon icing and candied lemon peel garnish (which is deceptively easy). Very sophisticated & delicious. Find the recipes for the cake, icing and lemon peel here: Earl Grey with lemon “tea party” cupcakes.
Another one I didn’t make for Easter, I made them for Cupcake Rehab’s 1st birthday, but yet they would be totally appropriate for spring. Neapolitan cupcakes- vanilla cake, strawberry Kool-Aid frosting and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Extremely delicious. Recipes: Neapolitan “happy 1st birthday Cupcake Rehab” cupcakes.
These I definitely didn’t make for Easter. But being that they’re almond cupcakes with a white chocolate buttercream, they’d be so cute with marzipan fruits or hand-rolled marzipan Easter eggs on top for Easter, wouldn’t they? This is one of my favorite cupcakes ever. Try them yourself: Frau Marilla’s Alpenblume Weiße Schokolade Kleine Kuchen!


So that’s that. If you’re not drooling by now, there’s something wrong with you. Also, I also have a recipe for chocolate hi-hat cupcakes that I made for Easter a few years back that I didn’t include above. So knock yourself out!  And If you’re looking for something more Passover-y, I have a recipe for sweet noodle kugel. I also have TONS of other cupcake and cookie recipes that can be adapted or used for this time of year, with just a little creativity.

As usual, I’ll be posting more spring-y things in the weeks to come so stay tuned... and tomorrow I’ll be guest posting over at Frosting 4 the Cause, so please come and check that out. I promise you’ll like it.