Food is my favourite way to remember people. This week it's my grandmother's birthday. My father's mother Irene was a huge figure in my life growing up. For good reason. She was glamorous, she was indulgent (as all good grandmothers are meant to be), and she was a wonderful cook. As a kid, I spent most Saturday nights at her house, which, as a bonus, meant I was often there on Sunday for her morning tea, a weekly spread attended by her immediate family - her brother and his wife, her sister and her husband - as well as my grandfather. And frequently, my brother and I. By necessity, it was a big table and each week it was laden with delicious food and steaming cups of tea. My grandmother was famous for her fruitcake, but I used to like helping put bits of gherkin or corn relish atop cheese on Jatz crackers, and fancied myself quite talented at arranging them pleasingly on any one of her many decorative platters. The real golden age of morning tea however, was before my time. A time before cholesterol (and the more beige era of oat bran and polyunsaturated oil). My dad remembers fondly the treats his mother routinely turned out when he was a boy: homemade Monte Carlo biscuits, pineapple meringue pies (she was a Queenslander, after all) and these, his favourite: honey cakes.
These predate cupcakes, and muffins, and other such airy, modern tea-time fare. They're nicely dense, which is these days, a rather unexpected texture in a baked good. And the honey imparts a lovely flavour and a beautiful fragrance to both cake and icing. As it's my Dad's birthday this month too, I thought I'd make these to remember my grandmother, and celebrate my dad. I love them both. And take my tea exactly as they did and do: weak, black, no sugar. The legacy of morning tea lives on, just a little further south.
From a recipe by my grandmother, Irene Addison
This recipe makes about 10 cakes if you're using a muffin tin, 30 if you're lucky enough to have inherited an old-fashioned patty pan. I was needlessly impatient in icing the cakes seen in the photos above - if you want less of an oozy effect, make sure you wait for the cakes to cool completely before icing. Almost certainly my grandmother would have.
8 oz flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 oz butter
6 oz sugar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
4 oz icing sugar, sifted
1 oz melted butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon water
shredded/dessicated coconut, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 400 deg F.
Cream butter and sugar together til smooth, either by hand or in a food processor/stand mixer. Add honey, then eggs, one at a time.
Fold in flour, baking powder and salt.
Bake in paper containers for 15 minutes or until tops are golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
While they're cooling on a wire rack, prepare icing by mixing icing sugar, butter, honey and water together and beating til smooth.
Once cakes are cooled, top them with a teaspoonful of icing and a sprinkling of coconut.