We’ve probably all tried various versions of lekach AKA honey cake over the years. And while this iconic Rosh Hashanah treat has, for many, dictated dessert for generations, it’s often a disappointment: dry, crumbly and/or underwhelming. I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve met a couple of lekachs I’ve liked, but never one I’ve loved.
This Rosh Hashanah, why not side shuffle from tradition and explore other — more delicious — honey-based desserts? From Nigella Lawson’s salted honey pie to honey and cardamom baklava, these treats will set your New Year off on the sweetest of notes.
This four-ingredient confection balances the nutty savoriness of tahini with the sweetness of honey. Homemade halvah is the perfect way to show off that fancy jar of honey you received as a hostess gift three years ago and, with the help of a candy thermometer, is not as intimidating as it sounds. If you think you don’t like halvah because you’ve only tried the dry, crumbly stuff in individually packaging, think again. It’s an entirely different (and infinitely more delicious) treat when you taste it fresh. Get the recipe here.
2. Nigella Lawson’s Salted Honey Pie
Adapted from the “Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book,” olive oil-based pastry houses a buttery, honey-heavy filling that’s sprinkled with flaky salt as soon as the pie comes out — bronze and burnished — from the oven. The salt helps offset the pie’s sweetness, though this is definitely a “just a sliver” situation, unless you have a seriously sweet tooth. Get the recipe here.
3. Taygalach (Ashkenazi Soaked Dough Balls)
Sweeten up your year with this old-world treat, which, according to Jewish food historians, dates back to Roman times. Crunchy dough balls (often knotted) are boiled in honeyed syrup until soaked through and sticky. The dough is often mixed with walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds and/or candied cherries. Taygalach are sweet, indulgent and a true treat. Get the recipe here.
4. Ina Garten’s Honey Vanilla Poundcake
While this is a cake with honey, it sure ain’t your classic honey cake — and it’s all the better for it. This is a straightforward poundcake with a subtle touch of honey for a little extra something. It’s as good after a meal as it is for breakfast the next day, and everyone will love it. The Barefoot Contessa does it again. Get the recipe here.
5. Honey and Cardamom Baklava
A spiced nut mixture encased in crisp phyllo dough soaked in a fragrant honey syrup, this showstopper dessert is surprisingly easy to put together. You’d have to be a masochist to make your own phyllo dough, and luckily there are great versions available in most supermarket freezers. This store-bought step saves tons of time. Get the recipe here.
6. Melomakarona (Greek Spiced Cookies)
These honey-soaked cookies are spiced with warm cinnamon and cloves, and brightened by lemon and orange zest. They’re the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee as you linger with your loved ones around the holiday table. This recipe makes a big batch — freeze some cookies for a later date or drop them on doorsteps to wish people a Shana Tova. Get the recipe here.
7. Ottolenghi’s Honey and Yogurt Cheesecake
This simple cheesecake can be made two days ahead — a handy recipe to have in your back pocket when Rosh Hashanah preparations amp up. Greek yogurt’s tang tempers the sweetness of white chocolate in the filling, and thyme leaves emphasize honey’s herbal notes as they’re paired together in a runny topping for the final touch. A real crowd pleaser. Get the recipe here.