As a food writer who is also a Jewish baker and pastry chef, I naturally find myself hard at work every year as Rosh Hashanah approaches. While others are making peach cobbler and putting up tomatoes in mid-August, I am embroiled in preseason testing for Jewish New Year recipes. And still, for all that preparation, Rosh Hashanah appears before I can blink. One minute I am picking corn and raspberries; suddenly, I am knee deep in buckets of honey and bushels of apples.

The pleasant upshot of this testing is I get a whole new batch of special desserts to serve at my own high holiday table this weekend. Is it possible to find new spins on the same old, same old? Yes. I admit I cannot leave well enough alone. I am always learning and experimenting.

Unlike Passover, which restricts the ingredients I can use, Rosh Hashanah offers countless possibilities. And while there are no restraints on New Year's baking ingredients, I inevitably find myself drawn to tradition: honey and apples.

I like baking with honey because I think it keeps cakes and tarts moist, and it often imparts a rich amber color. So before I start my Rosh Hashanah baking I visit my local beekeeper (doesn't everyone have one?). The man I know only as Elmer has a stall at a farmer's market near my home in Montreal. Formerly a stockbroker, Elmer didn't like the stress so he left that world to work with the birds and the bees.

Elmer is beyond mellow--some days he is downright bucolic. He stocks so many honeys that I am mesmerized: raspberry, clover, buckwheat, orange blossom, linden, field berry, dandelion. Usually I buy 15 pounds or so of clover honey, because it is a great mild baking honey.

But a short while ago, I bought several different jars, beguiled by their names, thinking I was going to experience traces of raspberries or orange accents in the various samples. I blindfolded myself and found no difference except for one. Kosher honey, necessarily a pasteurized honey, does not have much taste, but you might opt for it when preparing traditional Jewish desserts.

"Do they taste different to you?" I asked Elmer, despite my own findings. "Lighter honeys are milder in flavor, more subtle," he said. "I often move my hives around over the summer, installing them in clover orchards, then apple ones (if my farmer neighbor permits) allowing my bees to feast on a new plat du jour," he said. "Truth? Only the darkest ones--like buckwheat--taste different to me. Gamey, almost yeasty."

After buying and testing all of Elmer's varieties, I was inspired to invent new ways to use them. Some of these new recipes have a lot of honey; others were simply inspired by honey. But the results of all my August baking provide a nice assortment of big and little, pastry and cake and confections. Each will give you a special way to wish someone a happy, sweet new year or simply pass on the bounty of the bees.

Definitive Honey Cake

(16 servings)

There are honey cakes and then there are honey cakes. Some are low-slung and somewhat dry. Some are dramatically high and moist. This cake falls into the latter category.

Nonstick cooking spray

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup honey

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup warm coffee

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup shredded, peeled apples (optional)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a 9- or 10-inch bundt or angel food cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil, honey, both sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee and orange juice.

Using a strong wire whisk or an electric mixer on slow speed, mix the ingredients until thoroughly combined, making certain that the dry ingredients are not stuck at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be thick but pourable. Fold in the shredded apples, if using.

Spoon or pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the almonds. Place the cake on a baking sheet and bake until done, about 60 to 75 minutes. The cake is done when it springs back when gently pressed with your fingertips. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving plate.

Per serving: 415 calories, 5 gm protein, 64 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 254 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Honey-Apple Baklava

(16 servings)

Two holiday favorites in one: honey and apples. Bake this in a deep, 10-inch tart pan for a nice change.

12 ounces walnuts

3 cups coarsely chopped, cored, unpeeled apples (about 3 medium)

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

16-ounce package frozen phyllo dough (20 sheets), thawed*

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup honey

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, finely chop the walnuts (you will have about 3 cups); remove to a large bowl. Add the apples to the food processor (no need to clean the container first) and chop until the apple pieces are pea-size. Add the apples to the walnuts and toss together with the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Brush the bottom of a 10-inch tart pan (with sides at least 2 inches high) with some of the melted butter. Center 1 sheet of phyllo dough in the pan and brush with some butter. Repeat this process, making layers of 8 sheets, smoothing the phyllo across the bottom of the pan and pressing it into the sides. Allow the excess phyllo dough to extend beyond the edge of the pan.

Spread half of the apple-nut mixture over the phyllo layer. Repeat the process, buttering each of 8 sheets of phyllo, stacking them and then adding the remaining half of the apple-nut mixture. Top the layers with 4 more sheets of phyllo dough, again buttering each layer.

Brush the top layer with more butter. Roll the excess phyllo around the sides of the pan into a tight border around the tart.

Using a very sharp paring knife, cut the pastry into 8 wedges. Then cut across the cake twice, making one cut above the center cut and one cut below the center cut to make smaller portions.

Bake the baklava in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 more minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the water, honey, sugar and cinnamon and simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Pour the sauce over the baklava and refrigerate for 2 hours or as long as overnight before serving.

* NOTE: Phyllo (or filo) dough, found in the frozen food section of many supermarkets, needs to thaw in the box at room temperature--it takes about 4 hours. Do not open the box until all other ingredients are assembled and you are ready to work. Carefully unroll the phyllo sheets onto a smooth dry surface. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and then a damp towel. Work with 1 sheet at a time, keeping the remaining sheets covered.

Per serving: 346 calories, 5 gm protein, 40 gm carbohydrates, 19 gm fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 118 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Bee Sting Honey Cakes

(8 servings)

Nothing dark and spicy here. These cakes, inspired by a recipe in "Honey: From Hive to Honeypot," by Sue Style (Diane Publishing, 1998), are a tradition in Switzerland and Alsace. This recipe will make eight little cakes that are yeasty but delicate and do not require any kneading.

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for working the dough

3/8 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons finely minced lemon zest

1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest

2 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1 cup milk, warmed 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

Nonstick cooking spray

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) sliced almonds

Confectioners' sugar or white chocolate for topping

In a food processor, combine the flour, salt, sugar, lemon and orange zests and yeast. Cut 4 tablespoons of the butter into pieces and add to the processor. Pulse to form coarse crumbs.

To the ingredients in the food processor, add the warm milk, vanilla extract and egg; process until the mixture forms a thick, batterlike dough. Carefully remove the blade of the food processor and slide the bowl into a plastic bag. Set aside at room temperature to rise for 2 hours.

Generously grease eight 4-inch tart pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper.

Gently punch down the dough with a lightly floured fist and divide it into 8 equal portions. The dough will be very sticky. On a lightly floured surface, flatten the balls and spread the dough into the prepared pans.

In a medium bowl, cream together the honey and the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Place a small dollop of the honey butter on top of each tart and sprinkle each tart with some of the almonds.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the tart pans to a baking sheet; set aside to rise until the oven is thoroughly preheated, about 20 minutes.

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven, reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake until golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool and dust with the confectioners' sugar or, if you want a beehive look, drizzle melted white chocolate over the top of the tart in concentric circles.

Per serving: 373 calories, 7 gm protein, 49 gm carbohydrates, 17 gm fat, 64 mg cholesterol, 9 gm saturated fat, 143 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Bubbie-Style Yellow Cake

(16 servings)

What could be more welcome at any holiday than this lovely vanilla and cinnamon rippled cake? It pleases everyone. Although oil-based, the cake still tastes rich and buttery. A touch of honey helps it brown nicely.

Nonstick cooking spray

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup honey

6 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon orange extract (optional)

2 teaspoons finely minced orange zest (optional)

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup warm milk or orange juice

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons coarse or granulated sugar

1/4 cup shredded or grated semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9- or 10-inch bundt or angel food cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the oil, sugar, honey and eggs. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts and orange extract and zest (if using). Fold in the flour, salt, baking powder and milk or orange juice until blended.

Spoon one-third of the batter into the prepared pan and dust with 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Repeat this process, using another third of the batter and the remaining cinnamon. Then spoon on the remaining batter and sprinkle the top with the sugar. Top it all with the chocolate.

Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes.

Per serving: 465 calories, 6 gm protein, 58 gm carbohydrates, 24 gm fat, 81 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 254 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Halvah 'n' Honey Phyllo Cheesecake

(16 servings)

This very smooth cheesecake with a Middle Eastern accent takes the award as the Most Dramatic.

For the phyllo crust:

12 frozen phyllo pastry sheets, thawed*

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

4 eggs

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 cup flour

1/3 cup pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

3/4 cup vanilla halvah, coarsely chopped**

For the garnish:

2 to 3 tablespoons honey, slightly warmed

1/4 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted

1/2 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts

Have ready a 9- or 10-inch springform pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the phyllo crust: Brush 1 sheet of phyllo lightly with the melted butter. Line the pan with the phyllo sheet, starting from the center of pan and pressing it into pan. Allow the excess to drape over sides. Repeat, brushing each sheet with melted butter, to create 4 more layers of phyllo sheets, 1 on top of another. (If your brand of phyllo has sheets of small dimension, follow the same procedure but arrange overlapped sheets to achieve at little excess draping or overhang.) Reserve and refrigerate remaining sheets.

For the filling: In a medium bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, honey, vanilla, yogurt, sesame oil and flour until smooth. Stir in the nuts and halvah. Pour the batter into the prepared phyllo shell. Trim the phyllo overhang to just rest on rim of pan. Bake until cake is set, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the 7 reserved refrigerated phyllo sheets into quarters and brush with butter.

Remove the cake from the oven and increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Arrange the buttered phyllo sheets on top of cake in an irregular patchwork. The cake's surface should be covered. Return the cake to the oven to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and chill the cake until set, about 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, warm the honey, drizzle it over the cake then garnish with toasted sesame seeds and pistachios.

* NOTE: Phyllo (or filo) dough, found in the frozen food section of many supermarkets, needs to thaw in the box at room temperature--it takes about 4 hours. Do not open the box until all other ingredients are assembled and you are ready to work. Then carefully unroll phyllo sheets onto a smooth dry surface. Immediately cover phyllo with plastic wrap, then a damp towel. Work with 1 sheet at a time, keeping the remaining sheets covered.

** NOTE: Halvah, a Middle Eastern confection made from ground sesame seeds and honey, is found in most supermarkets.

Per serving: 397 calories, 9 gm protein, 27 gm carbohydrates, 29 gm fat, 126 mg cholesterol, 14 gm saturated fat, 237 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Honey-Spice Chocolate Marble Cake

(16 servings)

Chocolate swirls its way through this decadent, moist, marbleized honey cake.

Nonstick cooking spray

For the honey-spice batter:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup honey

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup brewed tea

1/4 cup orange juice

For the chocolate batter:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cocoa powder, measured then sifted

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flat cola

For the garnish:

1/2 cup grated semisweet chocolate (about 2 ounces)

Confectioners' sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously spray a 9- or 10-inch bundt or angel food cake pan with nonstick cooking spray.

For the honey-spice batter: In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center and stir in oil, honey, both sugars, eggs, vanilla, tea and orange juice. Blend well to make a smooth batter. Set aside.

For the chocolate batter: In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the oil, both sugars, eggs, vanilla and cola. Blend well until the liquid ingredients are incorporated into the dry to form a smooth batter.

Pour the honey-spice batter into the prepared pan and then top with the chocolate batter. (The heavier chocolate batter will sink into the honey batter and marbleize during baking.) Place the cake on a baking sheet and bake until done, 55 to 65 minutes, or until cake springs back when gently touched.

Cool for 10 minutes then unmold and place on a serving platter.

While cake is still warm, sprinkle on grated chocolate and allow it to melt. If you like, chill the cake to set the chocolate and then dust with confectioners' sugar.

Per serving: 404 calories, 5 gm protein, 61 gm carbohydrates, 16 gm fat, 53 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 260 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Marcy Goldman, author of "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking," is at work on her second cookbook, "The Coffee Bistro Baking Book" (Doubleday). She can be reached at www.betterbaking.com.