When my brother first started doing Cake Club at his work about three years ago, he talked up this traditional Russian cake that a guy at his work brought in. Honeycake. He said it was lots of layers and one of the best cakes he'd ever had. I googled Russian Honeycake and had a recipe sitting in my "to-try" folder for years. It is a little fiddly, as it's basically a bunch of honey biscuit layers, softened into a more traditional cake texture by a cream filling that soaks into the cake. Before the cream is added, the layers are sort of the texture of gingerbread cookies. Being fiddly, it was pushed to the back of the pile when deciding on what cake to make.
But honeycake started popping up in my Instagram feeds as The Honeycake market stall became more and more popular. People in Perth were becoming obsessed with it. I was tempted to try it at last year's Taste festival, but I'd eaten so much by that point, I knew I wouldn't be doing it justice. Come the Good Food and Wine Festival this year, I finally got my chance. And it was good. Really good. But much more caramelly than I was expecting a Honeycake to taste. Especially as I knew the basic recipe for it.
Enter Google once more for answers! According to The Honeycake folk, they use a traditional Czech Recipe. The recipe I originally sourced was for a traditional Russian cake. So, what's the difference? Essentially, it is the caramel that I wasn't expecting. The Russian cake uses a sweetened sour cream filling. The Czech version uses two fillings, one a caramel cream, one a condensed milk cream. Given I'm less partial to super sweetness, It's still a sweet cake, but the honey is the much more dominant flavour.
I decided to stick to the original Russian version, with a few tweaks. Being Russian, a lot of recipes use vodka, I decided to switch to rum because I think the spicy flavour profile combines with the honey perfectly. Make sure you use a good dark rum, such as Angostura or Captain Morgan and not Bundaberg. The rest of the recipe is mixed and matched from around 7 different "traditional family recipes", and I think it is perfect. Which makes this now my traditional family recipe. Because I am definitely making this again. It is a little time-consuming, rolling and baking all the layers, but it needs to be made ahead of time for the cream filling to soak into the cake layers and soften them which makes it perfect for parties. And the effort is totally worth it. Definitely one of my favourite cakes ever, too!
The caramel shards are made by melting together 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 tbsp lemon juice, heated over low temperature until the sugar dissolves, then turns caramel in flavour, drizzled onto baking paper to set into hard shards. Add these just before serving, otherwise they will soften too.
Cake75g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp dark rum (optional, but delicious)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups flour
Syrup3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp water (room temperature or slightly warm)
2 tbsp dark rum (optional, but delicious)
Filling500g sour cream
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup icing sugar
125g walnuts, toasted in a pan and processed until fine
Preheat your oven to 170C
Set up a double boiler situation using a large saucepan of water over a low simmer with a large metal or glass bowl in the top - ensuring the bottom doesn't touch the water.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs,and vanilla.
Melt the butter, sugar and honey in the double-boiler. Stir, until the sugar dissolves.Very slowly, add the egg mixture to the butter, whisking as you add it so it incorporates and doesn't scramble. Then whisk in the rum, baking soda and salt.
Switch to a wooden spoon and add about a quarter of the flour, mixing in fully before adding more. It'll turn into a rollable biscuit-type dough and give your mixing arm a good work out. When all of the the flour is added, take the bowl off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Get together your tools for making the cake. You need to decide what plate you are going to serve it on and then find a plate or cake ring just smaller than that so you cut all of the layers the same size and that it fits on the serving plate. Grab as many baking trays as possible, and line them with baking paper. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces, covering the ones you aren't working on with a clean tea towel so it doesn't dry out. Roll the dough to 2mm thick and slightly larger than the cutter plate. Bake for around 4-5 minutes or golden, then remove from the oven and cut around the cake layer while it's still warm, then leave to cool and crisp up. Keep the offcuts.
Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
For the syrup, mix all of the ingredients together with a pastry brush.
For the filling, whip the sour cream, sugar and honey together with an electric handbeater until soft and fluffy - it fluffs up almost like normal cream. Mix in the toasted crushed walnuts.
To assemble, place a layer on your serving plate, then brush with the syrup. Top with a few dollops of sour cream filling, spread right to the edges. Repeat the process, then cover the top and sides with the remaining sour cream filling and smooth.
Process the biscuit offcuts into crumbs and gently coat the sour cream layer, pressing in to cover completely. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off.
Decorate with caramel shards if desired.