Apparently, I am honey illiterate. When I first decided to make a honey cake (for my grandparent’s anniversary, no less), I had no clue about the true potential of honey. I envisioned something like a slightly spruced-up sponge cake, with a light texture and a faint undertone of molten sweetness. What I did not imagine was a moist, rich cake that combined a whole bunch of ingredients, each adding a wonderful complexity to each bite while still allowing that straight-from-a-beehive goodness to shine through.
Obviously, I did not think it through.
But thankfully, we live in an age when even extreme stupidity can be corrected through the internet. A little bit of browsing turned up this gem of a recipe, which fascinated me because of the rather odd (but surprisingly perfect) combination of flavors. Honey and orange juice? Weird. Orange juice and coffee? Even weirder. All of that drowned in whiskey? Okay, that makes sense.
The beauty of the finished product – I adapted the recipe based on personal preference – is exactly this. All the flavors come together in a sort of triumphant medley, with a boozy kick. I topped it off with a thin sheath of honey and a generous sprinkling of flaxseed, which adds a bit of crunch to the whole deal. It’s a pretty rich cake, but not cloyingly so and it’s absolutely perfect for the holiday season.
3.5 cups flour
1.5 cups brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup olive oil
1 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh brewed coffee
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup whiskey (woohoo!)
1/4 tsp salt
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground clove
2 tsp all spice
2 tbsp flaxseed
Extra honey for drizzling on top
The list of ingredients might be a little fussy but preparing this cake is a breeze – simply sift together all the dry ingredients, make a well in the centre and then pour in all the wet ones. In other words: sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, clove and all spice. Then add the olive oil, honey, eggs, vanilla, coffee, orange juice and whiskey. Pour it into a well-greased pan (I used a 9 inch circular one) and bake at 170 C for 55 minutes to an hour.
When the cake is done (you can carry out the usual rigmarole with the toothpick to check if it is), let it cool for at least half an hour before trying to tip it out. The final texture should be rich and dense, but not sickeningly so. The syrupy-sweet honey flavor is predominant, but all the other ingredients – especially the whiskey – have their own part to play.