Friday, January 15, 2010

Whole Wheat Honey Cake

It’s back to basics. Although I’ve been reading various predictions about the latest food trends for the coming year, lately I’ve been more in the mood to keep things pretty basic. It’s been great to see a resurgence of wholesome ingredients over the last decade and I think as we begin a new one, it would be especially nice to start off with a rather simple but extraordinary Whole Wheat Cake. And in keeping with the theme, I’ve sweetened it with honey. Nothing could be more simply satisfying.

Whole wheat pastries of the past have often suffered from being too dense or dry, but I think recipe development using whole wheat flours has improved dramatically. For this cake, I use King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour for its superb flavor and easy availability. It’s milled from the hard red spring wheat of the northern Great Plains and uses 100% of the wheat berry, which provides the full flavor and nutrients of the bran and germ. I think it’s the best of its kind out there and I highly recommend it.

I also use honey to sweeten the cake. There are over 300 types of honey produced in the United States and it’s a great pleasure to explore so many distinctive varieties. One of my favorite indulgences is sourwood honey, which is widely regarded as the queen bee of honey. Tupelo, lavender, sage and eucalyptus are also favorites. Use your own favorite in this recipe.

If you’re in the mood to return back to the basics, I think you’ll find this pastry a beautiful reminder of the delicious goodness of quality whole wheat flour.

Bench Notes:

- I think this cake is very nice on its own. Once you try it, you’ll find it could also serve as a great basic palette for other natural complements. I think it would be really delicious with a fresh blackberry coulis or fresh fig compote in spring and summer or sautéed apples or pears or bananas in winter. You can top with sliced almonds for extra texture or add a pinch of spice to the batter. But do try it plain to see how it strikes you.
- The ground wheat germ in whole wheat flour contains oil that can become rancid over a long period of time. Whole wheat flour will keep 1 to 3 months at room temperature. For longer storage, place it in an airtight container or freezer bag in your refrigerator. It will maintain good quality for about 6 months in the refrigerator and up to 12 months in the freezer. If you place it in the freezer, be sure to bring it to room temperature before using it. The very cold temperature of frozen flour will discourage the baking properties of yeast or baking powder.

Whole Wheat Honey Cake

1 1/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
4 oz (1 stick) butter @ room temperature
1/4 C sugar
1/2 C honey
1 t vanilla
2 eggs @ room temperature
1/2 C buttermilk @ room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8” x 2 ” cake pan.
Sift flours, baking powder and salt together.

Cream butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add honey and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and blend.

Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Add a third of the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl to be sure everything is incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour into prepared pan and spread into an even surface with a spatula.

Bake for about 35-37 minutes until a toothpick tests clean. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Invert cake, turn right side up and place on the rack until completely cool.

Honey Glaze

1/4 C honey
2 T water
pinch salt
1/2 T butter
1 C confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 T fresh lemon juice, to taste

Place the honey, water and salt in a saucepan and warm over low heat until dissolved and blended. Whisk in the butter. Remove from heat and whisk in the confectioner’s sugar. Add lemon juice to taste. Place cake on platter and top with the glaze.


Dawn said...

sometimes the most basic is the most flavorful. wouldn't this be good w/ a rasp coulis?

Anonymous said...

I'm very fond of plain, old-fashioned cakes like this, but can't remember ever having had a "honey cake" before. I'm making this tonight and very much appreciate your sharing of the recipe.

Mimi said...

Yum. I haven't made a whole wheat honey cake in a long time. Mollie Katzen had some good recipes in her Moosewood books. I used to make her chocolate honey cake all of the time.

Diana H said...

I agree that whole wheat flours can come out dry ,and also I love King Arthur whole wheat flour. This basic cake sounds delicious.

dining room table said...

It looks plain and simple but I bet this tastes so good! I have tasted a lot of simple and plain foods but they are more delicious than those over decorated.

Pink Panda said...

Nothing wrong with keeping it basic. Makes it easier for us novices! Looks delicious.

Anonymous said...
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OhEss said...

And if you don't have buttermilk, remember you can add 1T lemon juice to 1/2 cup whole milk, wait 15 minutes or so and voila, curdled milk....and yummy cake.

pastry studio said...

Thanks for all your sweet comments! Dawn, this would probably be good with any fruit, but I was thinking blackberries because they are more earthy tasting for me. Mimi, that Moosewood cake sounds very interesting. I used to use her first cookbook years ago.

And hello dear OhEss! Hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog; it's beautiful and I can't wait to try the whole wheat honey cake. Thanks for your lovely creations.

GooberNgrape said...

it's interesting making a batter with honey in it. never tried that before.
and that King Arthur flour is pretty hard @ 14%.
i got a grain mill for xmas and finely ground some hard wheat to try this recipe.
the flavor is very wheaty (of course), but with orange blossom honey and added vanilla it's kinda wonderful. soft, moist texture. the glaze is about perfect for a cake like this, but maybe next time i'd try a milder wildflower honey.
and next time i should sift the larger unmilled pieces of bran out of the flour to see if it might lighten the texture. or maybe even grind softer wheat.

nice cake!

pastry studio said...

Hello GooberNgrape - What a wonderful gift! There is nothing like freshly ground wheat. It's just got an amazing flavor and freshness. I'm not sure I'd use it in a cake but now I'm really curious about the texture. Thanks so much for your comments.

saturday mike said...

I made this last night and it was really nice. Not at all cloying, but had a nice balance between the nuttiness of the wheat and the sweet honey. Sadly, I made it in a 9" pan and it was only about an inch tall. Didn't realize an inch could make such a difference the height!
I also wondered how this would be if you poked holes and let the glaze soak into the cake while it was still warm. Will definitely try some almonds on top next time, too. Extra crunch could be quite good!

pastry studio said...

Hi saturday mike, I'm so glad you enjoyed the cake! Yes, pan sizes really do make a difference. There can be as much as 2 cups difference in volume between an 8" and 9" cake pan. Also, the cake is likely to bake faster in a 9" pan.

If you decide to poke holes into the cake and pour the glaze, it may affect the texture, which is already pretty moist. But that may not be of concern for you. I do like the idea of adding some almonds to the top to enhance the texture and accentuate the nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour. Thanks so much for your feedback.

southern male democrat said...

We made this in our class yesterday. I shared the recipe to the class and we decided to give it a try. It was fun. Thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

I just baked this cake today! It is in the oven as I type this. However, when the batter was fully prepared, It was quite a bit! It fit in a 9x13 rectangle pan! I am not sure why that is, because I used this exact recipe. The batter tasted great (yes... I tasted a bit) and I am sure it will be a great cake! Thank you so much for this recipe!

Mary said...

I just found your blog and this recipe after searching for "whole wheat cake". I got a bunch of whole wheat flour from my CSA that I'm trying to use up.
I was completely lazy about the recipe - I didn't butter the pan (mistake) and I didn't wait for the cake to cool before pouring on the glaze and devouring a piece (not a mistake). This was SO much more delicious than I expected. I'll be making this again!

pastry studio said...

Hey, Mary, so glad you found my blog! Thanks so much for your feedback. I love this cake. It's so simple but sometimes that is just what we desire. I bet your flour was perfect.


saturday mike said...

This is probably the fourth time I've made this cake. I just love it - something about that simple, single-layer cake with simple flavors really appeals to me. I once again toasted some slivered almonds to sprinkle on the top. I also glazed the cake twice - once when the glaze was warm and spread over the cake and down the sides, then again after the glaze was cooler and tended to sit on the top.
But I had a question to ask about using honey. Do you normally measure honey in a wet (pyrex) measuring cup or use a dry measure? I always wonder when measuring things like honey, cream cheese, sour cream... things that are liquid, but also very thick. Thanks!

pastry studio said...

saturday mike, I see you and I are on the same page about how wonderful simplicity can be. Glad you appreciate the basic goodness of this cake. Love your garnish of toasted nuts and the double glaze idea is brilliant.

Very good question! Honey is measured as a liquid, so do use a wet pyrex measuring cup. Think of sour cream and cream cheese as solids and measure them in dry measuring cups.

You probably already know this but for others, very lightly oil or spray the measuring cup before pouring in the honey and it will slide out beautifully without a lot of scraping.


saturday mike said...

Ha! I didn't know about spraying the measuring cup ahead of time.. that's brilliant! I measured the honey for this in a dry measure, then had SUCH a hard time getting out that last bit! Thanks for the wisdom!!
Also (and I should've mentioned this in my first post), congratulations on the book! I don't have a tablet (yet), but when I get one, or upgrade to Maverick, yours will be the first one I download!

pastry studio said...

Thanks for the congrats and hope you can enjoy my cookbook in the fall!

shrutik said...

Will it still be great if the quantity of all purpose flour is increased?I need to make it for someone who doesnt like the taste of whole wheat flour

pastry studio said...

Hi shrutik - I haven't tried that but it should work, although I'm not sure what the final flavor would be. I think it'd probably be best if you chose another recipe since the central ingredient profile in this cake is whole wheat. If you're looking for a plain white cake, you might try this one:

Hope this helps!