Old World Honey Cake

Author: Meera, November 28, 2012



Preparing ingredients for honey cake




Honey cake has been called the world’s “oldest-known cake.” Versions of the cake date to biblical times, although food historians will tell you that it wasn’t really called cake back then. The English term “cake” dates to the thirteenth century and derives from the old Norse word, “kaka.”



Modern pastry chefs have the ancient Egyptians to thank for pioneering the culinary process of baking. The ancients’ version of  honey cake was most likely an old-world type of flat bread drizzled or lashed with honey, the sweetener of choice during ancient times. In fact, bread and cake (even today) are not too different. Think of pumpkin bread or banana nut bread. A slice of either at breakfast is like having dessert in the morning.



The Romans added eggs and butter to get a lighter dough. Cooks began to add nuts and dried fruits such as dates, figs, and raisins to make their honey “cake” even more mouth-watering and special.



Although that round shape that we associate with cake today didn’t emerge until the seventeenth century, medieval bakers in Europe had for centuries continued to create new versions of the honey cake with spices such as ginger. In fact, the taste for ginger resulted in gingerbread. The addition of dried fruits, nuts, spices, and (later) rum and brandy yielded the cake we know today as fruitcake.


The following recipe is more of a medieval style honey cake, although during the medieval period cakes tended to be smaller than we think of them today.


Old World Honey Cake


1 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey (preferrably dark)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 eggs (separate yolks from whites)
1/2 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
10 dates, stoned and chopped
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
Preheat the ove to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a ten-inch tube pan.

Combine honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Add baking soda, stir in, and remove from heat and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with brown sugar. Beat in one egg yolk at a time. Add this to the honey/spice mixture.

In a bowl, mix yogurt, cottage cheese, and orange zest.

Sift half the flour and the salt into the honey/spice mixture (that now also contains the creamed butter, sugar, and eggs). Combine remaining flour with raisins, dates, and walnuts. Mix this into the bowl of batter.

Pour the batter into the greased tube pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cake. The toothpick, when pulled out, should have no batter on it.

Cool the cake for 15 minutes before inverting. Brush with 1 Tablespoon of honey.


Optional: Sprinkle with slivered almonds. After the cake is completely cooled, store in an airtight container for 24 to 48 hours before serving.


Copyright Meera Lester 11-28-2012



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