“She still remembered the innkeep, a fat woman named Masha Heddle who chewed sourleaf night and day and seemed to have an endless supply of smiles and sweet cakes for the children. The sweet cakes had been soaked with honey, rich and heavy on the tongue…” -A Game of Thrones
Modern Honey-ginger cakes
We had initially intended to make two versions of this dessert, but after some trouble tracking down a suitable old one, and after tasting the modern version, we couldn’t wait to share.
While the Elizabethan version is very light, fluffy, and ohsotasty, it is more of a bun than a cake. As such, it didn’t respond well to my initial attempts to soak it in honey. It would accept a honey glaze once it had cooled down, but still lacked that really over the top sweet honey kick. So I went a step further, and filled them with honey. YES.
The modern cakes are also wonderful. They make these dense, doughy little cakes bursting with honey flavor and the subtlest of spices. We finished ours with lavender icing, and can’t imagine a better pairing. We thought they couldn’t get any better until we tried soaking a few in about 1/4″ of honey overnight. Result? Sheer decadence. The honey hits the tongue, the lavender hits the palate, and the whole thing is amazing. Our batch lasted about 5 whole minutes…
If anyone has a solid recipe for an older honeycake, we’d love to see it. In the meantime, we’ll be in the kitchen, eating these cakes until we run out, or can’t fit through the door.
Elizabethan Honeycake Recipe
Elizabethan Almond Cakes- Take one peck of flower, one pound of sugar, one pound of almons, beaten & strained with as much ale as will stiffen your paste, put theirto three spoonfulls of barme, & a few annisseds, then woork it well together, then make it in little cakes, prick them thick for rising & bake them. Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, 1604
Makes about 12 buns
Prep: 10 minutes Rising: 1.5 hour, minimum Baking: 15 minutes
Our changes: No aniseseeds, don’t like ‘em. You are more than welcome to include them if you do, however. We basically used the original recipe, but added honey to the batter, as well as soaking the cakes in honey for a while.
- up to 3 1/2 cups flour
- 3 Tbs. honey
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 3 Tbs. ground almonds
- 1 packet yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp.
- 1/2 pint ale (1 bottle)
- pinch of salt
- honey for soaking, probably around 1/2 cup at least
Modern Honeycake Recipe
Makes: never enough
Prep: 15 minutes Bake: ~30 minutes
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 egg
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup buttermilk
Sift together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and beat thoroughly, followed by the honey. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk in alternating turns, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour into paper lined cupcake tins, or a greased muffin pan, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until the cakes are a golden brown.
Martha Stewart’s lavender icing recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/340910/lavender-icing