Five desserts good enough to enter in a contest

Make these treats for your family to savor on Hanukkah


The following recipes competed for the top prize in The Temple Beth-El’s World Series of Jewish Desserts. (See the November 8 issue of The Jewish Voice.)

Robin Homonoff’s Sour Cream Walnut Cake

This recipe belonged toHomonoff’s grandmother, who advised that the most important ingredient was to bake with love. The cake received a special mention at the contest.


2 sticks butter or margarine

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 pint sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

Mix separately:

2 cups coarse walnuts

1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

8 full teaspoons sugar


Sift together the dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar, then add one egg at a time. Add vanilla. Then alternate flour mix with sour cream. Mix well. Pour half the cake mix into a greased and floured tube, then sprinkle half the nut mix. Add the rest of the cake mix. Top with the rest of the nut mix. Bake at 325°F for one hour and 15 minutes. Do a toothpick test.


Esther Heckler’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Esther Heckler was a good friend of Laura B. Levinson’s mother, Sylvia Belmarsh Levinson. According to family lore, Heckler’s coffee cake was the best around and both daughter and mother made the dessert quite often for many different occasions. Now Levinson’s daughter, Sylvia L Catania, also bakes the cake. Even though Levinson’s mother and Esther Heckler have passed away, the family remembers them each time they remove the recipe from the old metal file box.


3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup margarine or unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/4 cups sour cream

For layering:

2 squares ground chocolate (unsweetened)

1/2 cup ground nuts (pecans or walnuts)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon


Cream margarine with sugar (about 4 minutes). Add eggs one at a time. Add sour cream, alternating with the flour mixture. Add vanilla. Layer with chocolate, ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon. Bake in a Bundt pan for one hour at 350°F. Cool in pan.

Debbie Waldman’s Chocolate Banana Kugel

Waldman makes this special dessert for her family since some of her loved ones have allergies, and this kugel is gluten- and nut-free.


1 tablespoon butter

1 pound gluten-free rice pasta

6 medium eggs

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

1 cup cottage cheese

11 ounces evaporated milk

8 ripe bananas, partially mashed

3 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips


Holding the butter with a paper napkin, rub it on all the inside surfaces of a 9” by 15’’ dish. Boil 10 quarts water with 1 tablespoon canola oil. Cook the pasta for 10-15 minutes until it’s a little softer than chewy, but not mushy. Drain and don’t rinse. Set aside. The pasta should still be hot when added to the main mixture.

In the largest bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk, then whisk in the ingredients in the following order: sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, sour cream, cottage cheese, evaporated milk. Stir well.

Pour half of the mixture into the baking dish, then pour the remaining chocolate chips gently over the mixture, taking care to cover all edges. Sprinkle the rest of the chips evenly on the rest of the surface and pour in the remaining mixture.

Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes until the top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature. Top with whipped cream, sour cream, or banana yogurt.

Passover Chocolate Mandelbrot

Cantor Judy Seplowin and her daughter, Jessica Kalish, make this dessert on Passover since the recipe calls for matzo meal instead of flour.


2 cups white sugar

1 cup margarine

6 eggs

2 ¾ cups matzo meal

¾ cup potato starch

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


2 teaspoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a large cookie sheet. In a large bowl, cream together the two cups sugar and margarine until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Combine the cake meal, potato starch and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in walnuts and chocolate chips (the mixture will be heavy). Form into two long oval loaves. Place onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the top with a mixture of two teaspoons sugar and cinnamon. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes (until the toothpick comes out clean).

Tip: you can slice the loaves into half-inch slices, put back on the baking sheet, sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar and bake for 20-30 minutes at 250°F to dry them out. Tastes like biscotti!



Chocolate Caramel Matzo Crunch (aka Matzo Crack)

Ruby Shalansky competed against her daughter-in-law, Emily Torgan-Shalansky, with this recipe.


4 to 5 pieces of matzo

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (or semisweet chocolate chips)

toppings (as desired)


Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and/or parchment paper. Place the matzo in one layer on the baking sheet, breaking it when necessary to fill the pan completely. Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture reaches a boil, continue to cook for an additional three minutes, still stirring, until thickened and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and pour over the matzo, spreading an even layer with a heatproof spatula.

Put the pan in the oven, then immediately turn the heat down to 350°F. Bake for 15 minutes, watching to make sure it doesn’t burn. If it looks like it’s starting to burn, turn the heat down to 325°F. While it’s cooking, resist all urges to scrape the pan with extra pieces of matzo. You will burn yourself. Trust us.

After 15 minutes, the toffee should have bubbled up and turned a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate over the pan. Let sit for five minutes, then spread the melted chocolate with a spatula. If you wish, you can add your favorite toppings while the chocolate is still warm.

Let cool completely, then break into smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.