I developed this recipe (as well as these lemon cardamom cookies) to showcase the honey from my friend Bob’s hives at Urban Bee Company. having grown up with a 'honey bear,' I never really thought about honey as a flavoring agent in and of itself. it was always just a sweetener that I added to my tea (or my whiskey) when I was feeling a bit under the weather. but when I subscribed to Bob’s honey CSA, I discovered that each month’s honey had a distinct flavor profile depending on where the hives were situated in the city. if the bees have been foraging on wild fennel, there was an anise-seed finish to the honey. the honey from south Seattle had a citrusy start, but ended with an almost piney finish, as there were evergreens near the hives.
I immediately set about creating a cake that would let the flavor of the honey shine through. many of our local honeys are bright with citrus and have a lovely background warmth. a little orange zest and cardamon in the batter play up those flavors without dominating. the nuances of your honey will really come through in this cake, and impart their unique goodness, so find a honey that you would eat out of the jar (just like Winnie the Pooh!)
the cake is delicious as an afternoon snack with a cup of tea, or you can tart it up with an optional glaze and serve it for dessert. I recently did this for a dinner party and served it with roasted fig ice cream, which was divine.
it can be a little tricky baking with honey, because it is much sweeter, and has a higher moisture content than granulated sugar. I account for that in this recipe by using a combination of sweeteners, and reducing the temperature for baking after fifteen minutes or so, so that the sugars in the honey don’t caramelize before the cake is actually finished baking. this recipe makes two cakes, which may be more than you’d like. you can halve the recipe, or bake the full recipe and then freeze one for later. because who doesn’t need a tasty cake in the freezer, just in case?
3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup honey (darker honeys are delicious here)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of half an orange
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom or ground cinnamon
2 cups plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
- preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. grease and flour two 9x5 loaf pans. set aside.
- in a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and baking powder, salt, and spice. zest the orange into the flour mixture and set aside.
- in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle cream the butter and the granulated sugar together. once the sugar has begun to dissolve into the butter, add the honey and continue creaming the mixture together.
- add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time. wait for each egg to be incorporated before adding the next. add the vanilla and mix. the batter will break a little bit, but don’t worry, it’ll come together soon.
- with the mixer running on the lowest speed, add about one third of the dry ingredients to the batter.
- as the dry ingredients blend into the batter, add about half of the yogurt (or sour cream) to the batter and continue mixing.
- add another third of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix. add the second half of the yogurt and after it’s incorporated, add the last third of the dry ingredients and mix.
- turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
- using the spatula, gently fold in any remaining dry ingredients that haven’t been incorporated.
- spoon the batter into the two prepared pans and smoothing the the top of the batter.
- place the filled pans on a rimmed baking sheet and move the cakes to the preheated oven.
- bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. reduce the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for another 30 minutes, rotating the rimmed baking sheet about half-way through to ensure the cakes brown evenly.
- to check if the cakes are done, use a toothpick or skewer to pierce the cake toward the center. it should come out clean, with little or no drag as you pull it out of the cake.
- the finished cakes will be golden brown with a lovely, crackly domed top. cool the cakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- you can serve them lightly dusted with powdered sugar or you can add a glaze if you’d like them to be a bit fancier.
lemony glaze (optional)
my husband suggested that a little lemon in the glaze would offset the sweetness of the cake nicely. I think that he’s right!
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon orange flower water (optional—if you don’t have this, you could use a drop of orange juice from the one you zested into the cake)
juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons or so)
in a small bowl, mix together the ingredients until smooth and glossy. if you glaze the cake while it’s still slightly warm, the glaze will be sheer on the cake. if you wait until the cake is cool, the glaze will sit on top and be a bit thicker and more opaque. I prefer the sheer version, but it’s really up to your preference. either way, wait for the glaze to dry a little bit before slicing the cake. serve with whipped cream or ice cream for an elegant dessert.