It is likely impossible that my sweet tooth could ever be lost, but it has definitely been tamed. After working in a bakery for some time, testing very sweet pastries over-and-over, I no longer rich pastries (read: creme brûlée, eclairs, cupcakes) or fancy layer cakes dressed in buttercream.
What will never get old is a treat that I can enjoy when my pang for second breakfast hits and goes well with coffee.
Oh yes…second breakfast.
I knew I was in the right place once I realized that, like me, the guys I work with at the bakery pretty much follow the feeding schedule of hobbits. Just swap the tea and pints with coffee and…yup…pretty much hobbits.
Second breakfast and elevenses are for real and very serious. To avoid early-, mid-, and late-morning grumblings (and to stay on the guys’ good sides), inevitably we must all take a break for coffee and a not-so-sweet baked good. Be it cornbread, croissants, muffins, or some form of coffee cake, we all feel much better after we have taken a moment to re-energize and re-caffeinate (and I am no longer afraid to ask one of them to open that pesky bucket of honey).
Speaking of honey… One of my favorite cookbooks from 2012 is Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. Full of beautiful recipes and photographs, this book really cover the gamut from decadent special occasion cakes to whip-it-together-during-naptime treats.
And, I absolutely cannot get enough of the honey cake recipe. It fits all my requirements for cake: not too sweet, super moist, naturally beautiful (no fussy decoration required), it is perfect at 9am (second breakfast) or 9pm (because if I were a hobbit I definitely wouldn’t stop at supper), it is easy to make using ingredients you likely already have on hand, and it can sit happily on your counter for several days.
Makes 1 9-inch Cake
Adapted slightly from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson
Heaping 1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds evenly on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Set aside and keep oven on.
Grease a 9 by 3-inch springform pan and line bottom with parchment paper. In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla on low speed until blended; increase the speed to high and beat until very light and fluffy 5-7 minutes. Stop mixer frequently and scrape the paddle and sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in eggs and egg yolk one at a time until well incorporated. With mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts, beginning and ending with the flour. After each addition, mix until just barely blended and stop and scrape the bowl. Stop them mixer before the last of the flour has been incorporated and complete the blending with a rubber spatula to ensure you do not overbeat the batter.
Spread the batter evenly into prepared pan. Rap the pan firmly on the counter to release any air bubbles. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes. The cake will turn a deep golden color and be firm on the top, and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle will have moist crumbs attached. The cake may crack on the top, this is okay because it will be covered by almonds and will allow more of the glaze to be absorbed into the cake.
While the cake is baking, make the glaze in a small saucepan by stirring the honey, sugar, and butter over medium heat until combined. Bring the mixture just barely to a simmer. Turn off heat, but leave saucepan on the burner to keep glaze warm.
Remove the cake from the oven and poke holes all over the top of the cake with a wooden skewer or fork. Pour half of the glaze over the cake, evenly sprinkle the cake with the almonds, and then pour the rest of the glaze over the almonds.
Place back in the center of the oven and bake for 5 more minutes.
Cool cake on a wire rack for about an hour. Remove the sides of the pan and transfer cake to a serving plate. Serve warm or room temperature.
Cake will stay fresh up to five days, stored well wrapped at room temperature.