kosher kitchen

Hadassah ladies saved the Bundt. Let’s eat cake!


The history of Jews and cake is a long one. Jews made sweet pastries as far back as is traceable. Coffee cakes, sponge cakes for Pesach, tarts and tortes have been part of the Jewish menu for almost as long as Jews have been eating. We love our sweets, and we love cake.

Our connection to cakes of all kinds is so strong that even one of America’s most popular cakes is a result of a request by a Jewish cook. A member of a Hadassah group in Minneapolis asked H. David Dalquist, a local metallurgist, to make a replica of a cake pan she loved back in Germany. She wanted to make the cake for her family, but could never find the strangely shaped pan.

Dalquist was intrigued, so he spoke to several of the Hadassah women who also wanted the pan and modeled a design after their description. Dalquist’s Nordic Ware created an acceptable prototype, and the pan went into production in 1950.

And then? Nothing. For the next 15 years, the most frequent buyer of the old world-style pan were Jewish housewives from Minneapolis who had parents from the old country.

Then, 15 years later, a woman in Texas made a cake that changed the history of the Bundt pan forever and saved it from being sent to the scrap heap. This women made a cake called the “Tunnel of Fudge Cake.” It won the Pillsbury Bake-off and people went crazy. The demand for the Bundt pan increased so much that the factory could barely keep up! By the early 2000s, more than 60 million Bundt pans had been sold by Nordic Ware in North America.

So Bundt pan was saved, and now comes in over a dozen shapes and more sizes, ensuring that Jewish women and women everywhere could have their Bundt pan apple cakes, coffee cakes, honey cakes and more. 

Cake is so frequently a part of holiday dinners that we rarely think about it. Rosh Hashanah is closely connected with honey cake and apple cake. My mother always made a coffee cake for a bris, a bar mitzvah or a shiva house. From birth and beyond, there was always a cake. Birthday cakes were always wonderful, even in the days before Duncan Hines and homemade cakes are easy to make and are delicious.

Make a cake today, relax with a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy the comfort of this delicious, home-baked dessert no matter what the occasion.  

Best Dairy Birthday Cake Ever (Dairy) 

2-1/2 cups cake flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

7 oz. butter, softened for several hours at room temperature

1-1/3 cups sugar

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

In a large bowl, place the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk to blend. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs and vanilla together with the scraped seeds from the vanilla bean. You may need to use a fork to break apart any clumps. Set aside. 

Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add the sugar and scrape the bowl as needed. Beat for about 3 minutes. 

Very slowly add the egg mixture while beating on medium. This should take about 2 minutes. Make sure to scrape the bowl as needed. Beat for another minute.

Add the flour and the buttermilk, alternating in thirds, ending with the milk. Scrape bowl often and beat for another minute on medium.

Scrape the batter evenly into the two pans. Shake the pan a bit to even and smooth the batter and remove any air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the center rack for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden and a tester come out clean.

Cool for 15 minutes and then invert one cake layer onto a platter and the other one onto a parchment lined rack to cool.

Frost as desired and then invert the second layer over the first. Makes one 2-layer cake. Serves 10 to 12.

NOTE:  To make this pareve, substitute trans-fat free margarine or shortening for the butter and use almond, cashew, soy or rice milk for the buttermilk. Add 1 tsp. vinegar to the mix.

Best Pareve Chocolate Birthday Cake  (Pareve)

1 cup water

3/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup canned coconut milk, well mixed

3 large eggs, warmed in a bowl of very warm water for 5 minutes before breaking.

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 1 generous tbsp. cocoa powder, not Dutch processed

2 cups unbleached flour

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. finely grated semi-sweet pareve chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment and dust the pans with cocoa. It will stick to the sides and fall off the bottom. Pour out the excess. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the water, oil, coconut milk, eggs and vanilla until blended as much as possible. Set aside.

Place the cocoa powder and flour in a strainer over a large bowl. Add the baking soda, baking powder and salt and sift the mixture through the strainer, pressing through any lumps. 

Strain the sugars into the same bowl and whisk to blend. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk until smooth. Add the grated chocolate and whisk to blend. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake in the center rack for 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pans. 

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Invert one layer onto the serving platter, and the other onto a parchment lined cake rack. Let cool before frosting. Serves 10 to 12.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Apricots and Prunes (Dairy) 


3/4 cup chopped walnuts

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbsp. white sugar

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. melted butter


1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup vegetable shortening (You can use all butter and omit this)

1 cup sugar

3 extra-large eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream (generous) 

2-1/4 cups unbleached flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

pinch salt

3/4 cup finely snipped dried apricots (packed)

3/4 cup finely snipped pitted prunes (packed)

2 Tbsp. flour

Grease and flour a tube pan with a removable center, line the sides with waxed paper and grease the waxed paper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the topping ingredients and set aside.

Combine the snipped (I use a pair of small kitchen scissors for this and snip each apricot and prune into about 5 to 7 pieces) apricots and prunes. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp. flour. Toss to coat evenly and set aside.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and soda in a large bowl and set aside.

Place the butter, the shortening, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Add the vanilla and beat well. Add the flour mixture alternating with the sour cream beginning and ending with the flour. Remove the bowl from the stand and fold in the fruit. 

Pour half the batter into the pan. Spoon half the crumb mixture onto the batter and spoon the remaining batter over the crumbs. Spoon the rest of the crumbs over the batter and gently press into place. Bake for 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. 

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the tube insert and cake to a plate. Let cool completely and, either loosen the cake from the tube and place on a serving platter or serve as is. Serves 10 to 15.