Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Chocolate Honey Cake
It's Spring, although you wouldn't know it where I live. It's so cold and foggy, and I have the heat on today. June 2. Brrr... Anyway, it was warmer before, and I've been thinking about bees and honey, and I love the Nordic Ware Beehive Bundt Pan. It's the perfect pan for this Chocolate Honey Cake. It's available at Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma and online. Sadly, it's sold out at Signals that had it for less.
Bees and honey play an important part in my life--almost as much as chocolate and mystery. First, the bees are so important to my garden. I have over 100 rose bushes (down by 15 or so this year because of gophers), and I depend on these guys for pollination. And, I've been using honey, a tsp. a day in my tea, for many years for my allergies, and it really works. Of course it takes several years to build up an immunity.
I only use local honey, and I'm so lucky to live in an area where there are so many different honeys. I buy honey at farmers' markets and where ever I find it, but mostly I make several trips a year to Beekind in Sebastopol (CA) and stock up. Sonoma county is the U.S. test location for pollen allergies, and I know why, having suffered in Petaluma (every month has its own pollen problem and there are many microclimates/many pollens). Eating honey is much better than getting shots. The Beekind honey store sells pure, raw, natural and pesticide free honey. There's a tasting bar, and even though I know the locations and types of honeys I want, I always come away with new ones. Flavor changes with seasons as well as locale and plants. There were over 75 different varietals last summer, not as many recently, but the new honeys are coming in. I buy honey that comes from all over the Bay Area, although mostly from Sonoma county: wildflower, buckwheat, eucalyptus, blackberry, honeydew, apple, early Spring wildflower, sage, and so many others. It's a fun shop, and you can also order on line.
So I decided to look for my grandmother's honey cake recipe that I make a few times a year. As I've mentioned before, my grandmother was a baker who used a little bit of this, a little of that, and I tend to follow that model. She didn't add chocolate, but I usually add cocoa to her recipe, and it's turned out great. When I can't find her recipe (I'm not all that organized), I've adapted Marcy Goldman's from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking (not the recipe on the website) which is meant to be a chocolate honey cake. Honey cakes can be dry, and adding more oil can prevent that. Of course, it also matters when you take it out of the oven. Be sure and give your cake the toothpick test, but don't overbake. In making any honey cake--chocolate or not, be sure to get the very best flavorful local honey. It will make a real difference in your cake. Skip the clover honey unless it's local.
Chocolate Honey Cake
Adapted from Marcy Goldman's A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup of white sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup good quality local honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg whites, plus 2 eggs (or 4 whole eggs)
½ cup cocoa powder, sifted (I would use a bit more, and, of course, good quality-can be unsweetened, there's a lot of sweetness in this recipe)
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup coca cola or brewed coffee, at room temperature (which you choose makes a difference also in sweetness)
½ cup (or a bit more) coarsely chopped dark chocolate (70% or higher)
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease the bottom only of a 9- or 10-inch angel food or tube pan--or the Beehive Bundt Pan (grease the whole thing). Cut out a circle of parchment paper and line the bottom if it's an angel food or tube pan.
In a medium bowl, blend the oil with the sugar, honey, and vanilla. Blend in the eggs. Mix well. In a larger bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, slowly adding the coke or coffee. Blend well to make a smooth batter.
Pour the batter into the pan.
Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 and bake another hour, or until the cake springs back when touched.
Sprinkle on the chopped chocolate. Shake the pan to loosen the cake from the bottom, but do not remove it. Refrigerate the cake to set the chocolate. Once the chocolate is set, invert and remove the cake from the pan. If you're using a traditional pan (not the Beehive pan), you can just serve it with the chocolate on top.
When I use this cool new Beehive Bundt Pan, I'll let you know how it works. I think the ingredients look just about right for this pan since it holds 10 cups.
Later... want to know more about honeybees and how they swarm? Check out this site.
Bethany Chamberlain, Napa Valley beekeeper. writes about Honeybees: Eye of the Swarm.
Article begins with this Old English Saying: “A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.”