Essen Bakery’s Honey Cake

Photos by Tina Garceau

Owner Tova du Plessis

In preparing to open Essen Bakery, 1437 E. Passyunk Ave., Tova du Plessis researched Jewish history in South Philly, finding that her people once comprised “a modest yet vibrant community” here. The environs are no longer teeming with Jewish individuals, but, thanks to positive reactions in the location’s first two weeks, those who are happy to call this expanse home, as well as every other figure with tempted taste buds, will likely lodge her establishment in their culinary annals.

“It feels completely natural to serve foods from my upbringing,” the 30-year-old said inside the compact brainchild. “These items are quite personal to me, so I love to share them with our customers as a cultural nod to my Jewish ancestry.”

The inhabitant of the 1100 block of Tree Street tabbed as “a dream come true” the chance to helm a spot within walking distance of her residence. Having acquired the space from Jessie Prawlucki, who ran Belle Cakery at the address and who oversees Fond, 1537 S. 11th St., with husband Lee Styer, in “a stroke of luck,” du Plessis is enjoying her second major interaction with novelty since July, when she and beau Brad welcomed their daughter, Lily. With an immense amount of admirable experience gained through her maturation in South Africa, education at the Culinary Institute of America, and affiliation with Citron + Rose, Le Bec Fin, Avance, and the Rittenhouse Hotel, she loves having actualized the goal of business ownership and has reveled in becoming a newcomer to the thoroughfare, with the April 7 opening fulfilling a desire she had nourished for at least three years.

“I like putting our name out there because I take pride in our preparation and execution,” du Plessis said of the Passyunk Square haven that gives homage to her pastry arts proclivity.

Particular reverence for Essen’s Honey Cake led her to share its recipe with residents. Noting it as a “very traditional” item that finds its way onto tables around Rosh Hashanah, du Plessis added that it serves as a symbolic wish for samplers to have “a sweet upcoming year.”

“It’s one of my favorites, too,” she said. “We’ve have great responses so far, so I’m happy to have it featured for your readers.”


350 grams of all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of baking soda

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

4 eggs

1 cup of sugar

360 grams of honey

160 grams of oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

200 grams of black beer

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure the honey, oil, vanilla, and eggs into a large bowl, and whisk until combined. Add the dry ingredients, and repeat the whisking. Add the beer and the apples, and whisk yet again. Split between two loaf pans, and bake for about 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. ■

Essen Bakery

Owner: Tova du Plessis

Opened: April 7

1437 E. Passyunk Ave.

215-271-2299 (Coming soon.)