Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Ukrainian Honey Cake

I really should call this my volcano cake (I’ll explain in a minute).

I am not good at lying. Ask my partner and family. Or my close friends. Even if I tried, my facial expression will be a dead give-away. Let me give you an example: if a friend had a new hairstyle and I did not think that it suited her, I cannot lie, so I wouldn't say, “Oh, you look great in that hairstyle”. What I do say is a comment like, “That’s a great hairstyle.” (which is true, see how I avoided lying). But of course, if my friends directly asks for my opinion, they can always count on an honest answer from me because like I said, I cannot lie.

The same goes with my baking. If I made a mistake or was in a hurry (like the time I had to make brownies from a package - *gasp* - yes, I’ve done that before), I have to confess straight away. It was the same story with this volcano cake. Why do I call it that? Well, I was trying to make 1 ½ recipe because I wanted to take a cake to work and make a small loaf for home. Although I used to get full marks (ahem!) for mathematics in primary school, all my calculation skills seems to have evaporated through the years. I basically added too much baking soda when I made this cake, hence the volcano effect. I was also tired and in a hurry and didn’t stir through the baking powder and soda well enough, hence the uneven looking crumb.

Rescue Mission: Can't waste a good cake, right? So what I did was chop off the volcano part off the top of the round cake and consumed it (yumm! so moist!) while I are prepared the cream cheese frosting. I covered my tracks by icing the cake with the frosting. I’m so clever (insert *evil grin* here).

But I did confess to my colleagues as soon as I saw them. I told you that I can’t lie. If you want to see what the cake is supposed to look like, have a look at Luisa Weiss’ (The Wednesday Chef) honey cake. See how even and lovely her crumb is. For a dairy-free version, have a look at Nic’s (Baking Bite) version.

I’m submitting this to the Blog Event: “Embarrassing Food; Skeletons in the Pantry....Dare to Share!” hosted by Katie of Thyme for Cooking. If you haven’t visited her blog before, do so because she’s got such a great sense of humour so I always get a good laugh and also learn terrific recipes whenever I visit her blog. You have till 29 Dec to 'fess up any of your own kitchen skeletons and misadventures. To find out more about this event, have a look here. Katie will do periodic round-ups to keep us all smiling, and a complete one on December 30th.

Uneven Crumb Volcano Cake

This Ukrainian Honey Cake recipe is from the beautiful book Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World by the couple, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I’ve already praised it highly here.

Ukrainian Honey Cake with Dates
Adapted from Home Baking by Alford and Duguid.

2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
½ cup honey
50g butter (salt-reduced), melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coffee (as strong as you want it!), cooled
150g dates (fresh if possible), roughly chopped

(The original recipe can be found here. I reduced the amount of sugar because the dates adds a natural sweetness to the cake.)

1. Preheat the oven to 180° C. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar til pale and smooth (about 10 minutes). Add the melted butter and honey, mix until well blended and smooth.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder & soda, and cinnamon in another bowl and stir it (to evenly distribute the baking powder and soda).

4. Add half the dry ingredients to the honey mixture and stir. Add the coffee and stir. Finally, stir in the remaining dry ingredients til smooth.

5. In a bowl (use the one that had the dry ingredients), beat the egg whites to soft (not stiff) peaks. Fold them gently into the batter together with the dates.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

7. Turn cake out of the pan onto a write rack to cool completely.

8. If you made a mistake like me and ended up with a volcano cake, chop off the required amount of cake from the top and consume it while you are preparing the cream cheese icing. Cover your tracks by icing the cake with the cream cheese frosting and make decorative patterns on top.

Cream Cheese Frosting

½ block of cream cheese (low fat is ok), softened
lemon zest from 1 lemon
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sifted powdered/confectioners’/icing sugar (to taste)

Beat all of the ingredients together till smooth.

Other recipes from the Home Baking book that has been tested by other food bloggers:
Tender Potato Bread (Daring Baker’s November Challenge, see here and here)
Russian Apple Pancakes (by The Village Vegan)
Brazilian Bolo Cake (by Murray of In My Kitchen)
Banana-Coconut Bread (by Molly of Orangette)
Vietnamese Mini Baguettes (by L of Cook and Eat)
Independent (Orange Choc) Brownies (by Murray of In My Kitchen)
Ciabatta by (Louise of Pâté chinois et Cie)

More date-centric recipes that I've blogged (I LOVE dates):


Eva said...

Hey, another great low-fat cake! And as I've recently bought dates..;-) Your decoration makes it look so christmassy!

Anh said...

Lovely cake. You covered it very well. I would'nt mind that it had some volcano effects ;)

kathryn said...

I love the volcano cake! But you made a good recovery!

Paola said...

Ooh! This looks so good and festive, too! That frosting looks especially awesome and creamy!


Magic Cochin said...

This has made me feel so hungry (haven't had breakfast yet). And you did the professional thing with rescuing the volcano cake - I remember the catering students at college were given loads of tips for getting out of a disaster in the kitchen. one was: If the top of the cake burns or is uneven, trim it flat and cover it with cream! And call it something exotic!


Gloria said...

Nora, this looks beatiful, to die for!! nice recipe. Gloria

Lydia said...

Great volcano cake! I think I would have left the volcano, maybe hollowed out a hole in the top, and stuck something in it that would look like a volcano erupting! Your solution, to disguise it, is a lot prettier.

Bellini Valli said...

Thanks for 'fessing up Nora and sharing your secrets. I'm not much of a baker will be a real challenge to have joined the Daring Bakers considering what they are making for Christmas!!! Your "volcano cake" still looks delicious and probably tastes just as good!!!PS. Love the new photo of you!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I cannot tell a lie either--your cake looks fabulous! And aren't you pretty in that picture. :)

winedeb said...

What a great little story Nora! But that photo of the cake with those cute cheeries on top looks sooo yum! I love any type of cake with dates in them. My grandma used to use lots of dates in baking and that is why I enjoy so. I am going to check out your other date recipes now!
Your new photo of you on your side bar is wonderful! Fun to put a face to a name. One of these days I will get around to doing the same!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Nora, I had a laugh with you - wonderful post!
The cake looks delicious and I love how you handle the situation.

And that event sounds so much fun!

Em said...

Yes, I really enjoyed reading this story. It makes you sound 'normal' all of the sudden hehe ;)
Seriously, I love these disaster stories... Especially when there is a picture to illustrate them. Perhaps you should think about posting more of them :-) But by the look of things, if you had been able to lie, no one would have known about your volcano cake. You did such a great job covering it...

bee said...

i actually like that volcano look. it looks like a cake with attitude. lol.

Kevin said...

A cake with honey and dates! ...mmm... and cream cheese frosting! Bookmarked

Susan said...

The Dutch have a very similar cake, virtually no fat, honey sweet and made with rye flour. Thanks for this recipe, Nora. While I'm gearing up to bake with all the largesse of holiday calories, I'm looking for something I can keep for myself without the guilt.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Excellent volcano cake, I think it looks great. I can't tell a lie either, always try and make a joke of my failures though.

Wendy said...

Though it may not be obvious by my recent posts, I'm cutting down my food intake at the moment in preparation for the gluttony that accompanies Christmas. You aren't making it easy, Nora! This looks wonderful!
PS You have a new picture. Aren't you just lovely!

Aimée said...

Ah, Nora, you are so honest! You did a good job with the cake I think. Thanks for sharing all there recipes from the Home Baking cookbook. I don't have that one yet, but love the authors.

Antonia said...

Nora - I am exactly the same. When things go wrong in the kitchen I always end up telling my guests, even it the end product is as perfect as yours! This looks scrumptious.

Big Boys Oven said...

Looks so lovely!

katiez said...

Ah, yes, the math involved in increasing recipes...or converting from cups to grams..
I kept waiting for it to explode!
Great recovery, though, but can't you just, you know, pretend?!?

Veron said...

Nora I must say you are too honest! I have had those things happen to me before -measuring things's all part of cooking? But Julia Child did say...never apologize for a mistake in the kitchen. I still have not taken that advice though...

Cynthia said...

:D :D :D - I'm laughing with you not at you.

Thanks for thinking of me for that award.

Nora B. said...

Eva - Yes, it is low-fat, I forgot to mention that. With the honey and dates, you won't miss the fat at all. And Quikong liked it very much too. I made the cake Christmassy because it was the last meeting where our "big boss" was around for before she heads to Europe for Christmas.

Anh - Thanks. Frostings are great for cover-up jobs :-)

Kathryn - Thanks, its good to have cream cheese in the fringe for such emergencies.

Paola - Thanks. Since it was Christmas, i thought why not make it festive, I'm glad it worked!

Celia - I like that: call it something exotic! I have a few tricks in my pantry for such emergency cases ;-)

Gloria - Thanks. Yes, it actually tasted good so nobody cared that I messed up the recipe.

Lydia - You know what, you idea would have been a fun one. Why didn't I think of that.... Or maybe I could have had a mini Santa figurine trying to scale the mountain & I can call it a Christmas Mountain cake. I might just start a new trend...!!

Valli - Yes, the new DB challenge will be an interesting one, but I know that you will be able to rise to the challenge. I'll leave my e-mail address on your blog so that we can discuss that further if you need any help.

Susan - hee hee... thank you, Susan.

Deb - Dates are very much part of my family & culture (maternal and paternal side). They make cakes so moist and tasty. Yes, it is fun to put a face to a name. I just thought that I might put it up there for a few weeks. Waiting to see yours!

Patricia - I'm glad that you had a laugh too. Everyone at work enjoyed the story too because they think that I am such an "expert" at baking so they were happy to hear such disaster stories. :-)

Hi Em - You already know most (or maybe all) of my kitchen disaster stories. I know I could have not said anything, but you also know that I can be an annoying perfectionist in the kitchen ;-) You still haven't told me what type of cake you want for your birthday. I'll try not to mess it up (hee hee).

Bee - I like that expression: Cake with attitude, and I can even say cake with "altitude". lol!

Kevin - It is a yummy combination. :-)

Susan - Rye flour! That would be a cake that I would like. I'll have to google and find out more about this cake. I'm not doing much Christmas baking for myself but more as gifts for friends. Finding the time to do that AND buy presents and do the usual stuff is getting very tricky.

Amanda - It's good to laugh at such things. My friends enjoy my kitchen disaster stories :-)

Wendy - I can understand what you mean about cutting down on food to the lead up of Christmas feasting. Would it help if I told you that this cake is low-fat? ;-) (Re: photo - thank you. I thought that it was a summer-y photo, to match the season we're in now).

Aimée - You're welcome. I don't actually own Home Baking (can't afford to buy such books for now) but borrowed it from a friend. I would like to try more recipes from it because it all sounds so exotic to me.

Antonia - I'm glad to hear that I am not alone ;-)

BBOven - Thank you.

Katie - I guess that I could go into a white lie training camp and practice holding my tongue ;-) Glad that you like my contribution to your event.

Veron - That's good advice by Julia. I should start practicing that :-)

Cynthia - I'm glad that you and the other readers seemed to have enjoyed this post. I still laugh about it when I recalled my horror when I looked into the oven to check on the cake and I saw the volcano forming!

Tartelette said...

I'd be lying if I said I never tried to hide a kitchen flop with frosting!!! Looks and sounds delicious!

Kelly-Jane said...

I love this kind of cake, and your Christmas decoration is so simple, but so effecitve :)

Rosa said...

The hardest thing for me is keeping quiet when I invite people and am not happy with what I've prepared. Julia Child said "Never apologize for your mistakes because your guests probably won't notice," and I try to stick to that rule!

Freya and Paul said...

I think it looks like a giant Madeleine and that can't be a bad thing! I'm loving the idea of this cake!

WokandSpoon said...

Yep, the important bit is that it tasted good! Looks are only 'skin deep' remember!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Awesome rescue job! The cake looks delightful with your artistic decorating.

Half Baked said...

It looked great in the end! No one would ever know it did't go as planned:) Nice recovery!

Shaun said...

Nora, darl ~ The shackles are off! I was thinking of being a real nerd and was going to take a photo of me with my thesis, but I'm sure it is an event who significance will wither into the ether over time, so I shant blow it out of proportion. I'm not yet feeling overjoyed, but I'm sure that will come. Mostly, I'm just shattered, scatter-brained...

But your Ukranian Honey Cake (and story to go with) would keep me enveloped in folds of comfort and warmth. It looks incredibly tasty. Good on you for even attempting to do any additional calculations to any baking recipe. I, too, had not a disaster but a result I wasn't happy with (a cake that was too moist though not soggy).

Thanks for the links to other bloggers who have tried recipes from Duguid and Alford's Home Baking. I bought the book when I was in the US during their Summer this year and have not yet made anything. It might even be the first book I crack open in the kitchen post-thesis...

I hope you can take some time to enjoy the Summer, though I know you've got that March deadline ahead of you.

Oh for the love of food! said...

Lovely AND Healthy too, what can be better? Have a wonderful and safe Christmas Nora! xo Carol

Coffee & Vanilla said...

Nora this Honey Cake looks amazing!! I would love to try it... :)

I tagged you for meme but there is no obligation to participate... if you are interested here is the link:

Have a great day!


tigerfish said...

The name Ukrainian Honey cake itself sound so exotic and exquisite. The world's most harmless volcano.I don't mind building my home near this volcano :D

Just saw your profile pix. Hey, you look so much like my classmate in sec. school(eastern zone) back in "equator" location. Just a close resemblance, I think.

You should be enjoying your time in "equator" location now?

Merry Xmas!

winedeb said...

Hi Nora! Just catching up from my snowy trip up north. I missed you all and am glad to be back in the sunshine! I will be back later!

Lotta said...

Lovely cake you have on your blogg. Nice blogg to:)

I like smörgåsbord
I am from Sweden