Honey, Cake {Honey Cake}

First, let me just say that we’re not big on terms of endearment in our house.  We don’t call each other Sweetheart or Babycakes or Darlin’.  Or, god forbid, Lover (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little). Sometimes I’ll call my husband stinky, but that’s mostly a descriptor and not so much a term of endearment.

But today’s his birthday, so I’m throwing caution to the wind.

Honey, this cake’s for you.

Happy Birthday, Loverboy.

I married a man whose ideal dessert is yellow cake with white icing, so sometimes I like to change things up a bit in the flavor department.  This year’s cake is a variation on a basic buttermilk cake, but it uses honey granules in place of granulated sugar, and raw honey and honey granules in the cream cheese frosting.  It’s a honey cake.  For my honey.

I think what I like most about honey is that it has a sort of savory quality.  It’s sweet, but also a little salty.  Or musky.  Or earthy.  Or something. It has a complex flavor profile is what I’m getting at.  It works well in this cake, playing against the sour tang of the buttermilk and the cream cheese, and adding a slightly salty note to the whole thing.  It’s almost like a salted caramel, without the caramel or the salt.

It’s tasty, and I think you’ll like it.

Honey Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
prep time: 30 minutes (total, cake and frosting)
bake time: 25 minutes
yields: 2 eight or nine-inch layers

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered honey granules
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 2 1/3 cups sifted whole-wheat pastry flour (I used freshly milled here)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon real salt
  • 1 cup cultured buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup raw honey honey
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 16 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered honey granules

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease and flour two eight-inch round cake pans
  2. Sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside
  3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat 3/4 cups room temperature butter on high speed until light and fluffy
  4. Slowly add 1 1/2 cups of honey granules, beating on high speed for 3-5 minutes
  5. Beat the eggs together and slowly add, taking about 2 minutes
  6. Add 1/2 a scraped vanilla bean and mix to incorporate.
  7. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts – begin and end with flour.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes (mine were actually quite dark at the 24 minute mark).
  9. While cake is baking: combine 1/2 cup honey and scraped vanilla bean in a small saucepan.  Add a tablespoon of water and stir to combine.  Heat over low heat until it comes to a simmer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool
  10. Remove cake layers from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5-1o minutes.  Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.
  11. Brush the tops of your cake layers with honey/vanilla mixture.  Reserve the remainder to add to the frosting.
  12. For the frosting: place the cream cheese and 4 oz. of butter in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  13. On medium speed, slowly add the honey/vanilla mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
  14. Add powdered honey granules with mixer running.  Scrape down sides of bowl as necessary.
  15. Frost cake layers as desired.
  16. Enjoy.

Vanilla Sour Cream Cake with Strawberry Jam

It’s easy these days to become bogged down in the day to day – worried about school schedules and job applications and how we’re going to ever afford to go on vacation again.  Sometimes it’s nice to throw myself into a project, shift my focus to something else for a change.  As I set out the ingredients for this cake yesterday, listening to the whine of the grain mill as it ground the flour, I was completely immersed in creating this celebratory gateau.  Nothing else mattered for a few hours, except making the perfect birthday cake.

You see, yesterday was my husband’s 37th birthday.

I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and he told me yellow cake with white frosting.  It’s his favorite.  In fact, I shouldn’t have even had to ask, but I always feel compelled to do so.  Like maybe one year, he’ll choose something different.  But no, yellow cake with white frosting it was.  I chose to shake things up a bit by adding some strawberry jam to the mix, but ultimately it was still a yellow cake.  With white frosting.

There’s something sort of magical about taking raw ingredients and creating something beautiful and delicious.  Whole grains get ground into flour, then combined with leveners, fat, sugar, eggs and liquid, and suddenly you have cake.  It’s really an amazing process.  And then you take it a step further and layer it with homemade strawberry jam and thick and creamy cream cheese frosting, and you’ve got a masterpiece on your hands.

This cake comes together fairly quickly and easily, with little effort.  It does require you to separate your eggs, and whip the whites to soft peaks with cream of tartar, but for the most part, it doesn’t require much in the way of baking prowess.  It helps to have a stand mixer, but you could do it with a hand mixer and a couple of bowls.  I used freshly ground soft white wheat flour, so I imagine you could do this with a conventional white whole wheat, or even all-purpose and achieve the same results.

You’ll end up with a moist, rustic cake that soaks up all of the wonderful strawberry flavor from the jam and stands up nicely to the weight of the cream cheese frosting.  The tang from the yogurt and sour cream provide a nice balance for what could be an overly sweet cake, with all of the sugar in the frosting and the jam.  I imagine if you wanted something even more simple, you could leave the frosting off all together, and just give it a light dusting of powdered sugar.  Or, you could use fresh seasonal fruit in place of the jam (ooh, wouldn’t figs be lovely here?) and keep the frosting for some sweetness.  The possibilities are really limitless here.

Vanilla Sour Cream Cake
prep time: 10 minutes
bake time: 20 minutes
yields: 2 8-inch layers

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup sifted flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons butter
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (I used 4 oz. of yogurt and 4 oz. of sour cream)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup good quality strawberry jam
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 oz. softened butter
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and grease and flour two 8-inch cake pans
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and vanilla seeds until creamy
  4. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy
  5. Beat in the egg yolks
  6. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the yogurt or sour cream in two parts, beating until smooth.
  7. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks.
  8. Fold one third of the egg whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites, taking care to deflate them as little as possible.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  10. Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly
  11. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely
  12. Once cooled, carefully cut each of the layers in half, creating a total of four layers
  13. to make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, softened butter and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on high to combine.
  14. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add the powdered sugar until completely combined.
  15. To construct the cake, place one layer on a cardboard cake round or cake plate.  Spread half the jam evenly across the layer.
  16. Add a second layer of cake, and spread frosting evenly across layer.
  17. Add a third layer, and add remaining strawberry jam, spreading evenly.
  18. Add the final layer, and frost with remaining cream cheese frosting.
  19. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
  20. Enjoy!