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Holiday Honey Cake

Just because the cookbook cover says "James Beard Award" doesn't mean every recipe's a winner.

Some recipes aren't reprinted correctly. Sometimes you'll be mixing ingredients and realize the authors missed a step. Yup, there it is in the ingredient list, "butter," but nowhere do they tell you when or how to add it. (Is it creamed? Is it melted then cooled? Do I mash it into the flour with my cold, bare fingers? What? What? What?)

This cake was suggested for Rosh Hashana, but why stop there? With the spices, it looked like it a great cake for Thanksgiving, too. But it was utterly bland. It tasted like dried honey bread, though it was advertised as a "moist, aromatic cake richly flavored with spices, orange and hint of Cognac." A case of mistaken identity, I suspected. In my James Beard Award winning cookbook, I wrote: "Bad, bad, BAD cake -- use revised directions."

The re-cake was a big hit.

1 tablespoon freeze-dried or instant coffee

2/3 cup boiling water

3/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

1 tablespoon dark molasses

2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon powdered cloves

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon freshly grated navel orange rind

2 large egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch tube pan or use a vegetable oil spray. (I like pan baking spray with flour.)

Place coffee in small bowl. Add the boiling water and stir until dissolved. In another small bowl, combine the honey, Grand Marnier and molasses. Add the hot coffee, stir well and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and spices into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Break out that electric mixer. Cream butter, sugar and eggs together. Add oil and orange rind. Blend until smooth.

Add flour to cream mixture, alternating with honey mixture.

In small bowl, beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating until white peaks form. Fold half the whites into batter, taking about 10 turns. Crush toasted almonds into small pieces and sprinkle over batter while folding in remaining egg whites, taking about 40 turns to incorporate.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until knife or toothpick comes out clean. Set aside and cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert cake onto rack and allow to cool at room temperature. Let cake "mature" for 24 hours before serving.

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