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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Monday, October 17, 2005

Beekeepers' Honey Cake

Last week, I went back to my market honey-man, from whom I recently bought the spectacular unrefined Yellow Mallee Gum honey. I've nearly finished the tub and was looking to buy some more. I noticed he had a few different varieties there that day, and he recommended the Ironbark to me, as being a strongly flavoured, intense honey. I love strong, dark, honeys; Tasmanian Leatherwood is my favourite.
However, when I tasted his Ironbark I was a bit disappointed. It didn't have the same smell of the trees and flowers as the Mallee gum, which clings to your fingers for hours if you so happen to dip your finger in for a taste. It also had a thin, almost runny quality; whereas I had fallen for the crunchy, granular texture of the Mallee gum.
But, Mr Market Honey-Man's honey is very affordable, so I wasn't upset. I decided to make a cake with this honey, and go back next week for my favourite.

A few months ago I embarked on a mini research project to find a good Dutch honigkoek recipe. Because I'd ticked that off my list, I was left wondering what to make. A Google search revealed an inspiring-looking recipe for a Beekeepers' Honey Cake, named, no doubt, for the copious amount of honey it includes. It was loaded with the same spices as the Dutch versions, but indicated it would be much more moist, as it had not only 1.5 cups of honey (which is a full half a kilo! Honey is dense stuff), but sour cream and butter. The spices make this cake taste very wintery and Christmassy, so it'd be perfect for those of you heading into the cold months. However, the inclusion of walnuts and dried cranberries give it an unexpected lift. I do like dried cranberries. I just wish they weren't so expensive.
The recipe recommends leaving the cake for a few days to ripen in flavour and texture; I did this, but didn't really observe any increase in flavour or texture. It was tasty and moist when it was just baked, and it stayed that way. Apparently it has excellent keeping powers, so it would be a good thing to make ahead of time.

In my mind, this was an tasty, interesting variation on a Dutch honigkoek, but with butter and sour cream adding to the moist texture...and the calories. So if you are looking for a lower-fat version of this sort of warm, spicy honey-cake, I'd recommend you go for
this instead: yes, it will have a slightly drier, breadier consistency, but it also doesn't contain any butter or oil, so is lower in the calorie-stakes.
Read on for the recipe:

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Beekeepers' Honey Cake - Recipe
Adapted from All American Desserts,

Spices, dried cranberries, and walnuts added to moist honey-kissed cake make this a festive and delicious treat. Beekeeper’s Honey Cake is a keeper in more ways than one, since it will stay fresh and tender for weeks.

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or corn oil
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups wildflower or other medium-colored honey
1 cup sour cream
1 cup dried cranberries or sour cherries
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Sliced almonds for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt or 10-inch tube pan, tapping out the excess flour, and set aside.

2. Sift together the flour, spices, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat together the melted butter, oil, and both sugars in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the honey and sour cream all and once and beat until you have a smooth batter. Beat in the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the cranberries and walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.

3. Bake the cake until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack and let cool. As soon as the cake is cool enough to handle, press the flaked almonds into the top. Place the cooled cake in an airtight container to ripen for 2 days before serving.

Copyright: Adapted from All American Desserts, by Judith M. Fertig (Harvard Common Press, 2003). Copyright (c) 2003 by Judith M. Fertig.


  • Beautiful, Niki. I think that cakes that keep well are vital for the holidays. The texture of this one looks just superb.

    By Blogger Nic, at 10/17/2005 02:41:00 pm  

  • What a beautiful looking cake. It is on my list to make soon. I might replace the cranberries for raisins.

    By Blogger Ana, at 10/17/2005 09:21:00 pm  

  • What, no tinkering??! ;)

    From the looks of it, I'd say it came out perfectly, whether you followed the recipe to the letter or not!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 10/18/2005 07:01:00 am  

  • Niki, this is lovely.

    I'm wondering if you'd mind if I entered an adapted version in a local winter recipe contest? The cake sounds absolutely delightful -- and it contains 2 of the 3 required ingredients (honey, cranberries, and corn meal is the last).

    Given your permission (and citing both you and your source, of course!), I'd love to try it. And to tinker and see what the sponginess of cornmeal would add to the mix.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/18/2005 07:12:00 am  

  • I quite like cooking with honey also. It always ends up smelling wonderful - the baked goods and the house :)

    By Blogger deborah, at 10/18/2005 03:34:00 pm  

  • Nic - yes, this would be perfect to make ahead, before the chaos of family arriving etc.

    Ana - I quite appreciated the tartness of the cranberries in this, but raisins could definitely work too!

    Cathy - Yes! No tinkering! Amazing, isn't it?

    Lisa Marie - feel free! I just found the recipe on the internet, so I imagine it is freely available for everyone to enjoy. I would be very interested to know how it turns out and how you go in the competition. Please do report back and let me know.
    A variation on a rhubarb cornmeal cake might also work; with fresh cranberries soaked in honey folded through a sour cream & cornmeal cake could also be a good entry, if this variation doesn't turn out so well.

    Saffron - I think it's the spices that are often added to honey that also add to that gorgeous, festive smell. In my mind the smell of ground cloves just smells like Christmas!

    By Blogger Niki, at 10/19/2005 11:29:00 pm  

  • Niki --

    Okay -- the cake is in the oven. I consider myself quite an amateur chef, but I've never used a bundt pan before. Well, I take that back. When I was just a snip of a girl, Duncan Hines had fancy froo-froo cakes that came with a bundt pan.

    Here's my terror: the cake is all splitty-uppy on top! Bwa!

    Ought I to panic?

    PS -- Lovely skewers today. I didn't want to post about the Honey Cake there, though. Such a savory post....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/21/2005 12:42:00 pm  

  • Lis Marie - It might not matter so much, because the bit at the top becomes the base with a cake baked in a bundt tin. Actually, my top rose and created such a hump that I couldn't sit it down evenly, and had to take to it with a knife to make it level! I justified it by reckoning that nobody would see that...and that crunchy bits would be nice to snack on at work.....

    By Blogger Niki, at 10/21/2005 01:00:00 pm  

  • Thank you, Niki -- you're right. It looks lovely.

    I'm a bit concerned at how dry it is, though. Breadier and crustier than I had imagined it would be. I think it needs to be iced in some way -- a simple dollop of orange zest-infused cream, perhaps.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/21/2005 11:43:00 pm  

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