Tuesday 24 December 2013

Polish honey cake

Last week, I flew halfway around the world to make a cake with my friend Linus. Linus is four and the son of my extremely talented and very dear friend Dorka, who I was at film school with in Brisbane what seems both a long time ago and just yesterday. She and Linus and his dad Kevin now live in New Orleans, which is a long way from Sydney, which means I can't see them as much as I'd like to. This is the case with so many of my good friends who are scattered all over. Many of them have kids now and it's hard not to be more a part of their lives, to be there for things like birthdays and growth spurts and school concerts. So when I do get to hang out with them, I like to bake. It gives us something to do together, a way to get to know each other, and something for us both to remember. I know every time I make this cake, I'll think of Linus, and hopefully when he (and his mum or dad) make it again, he'll think of me. 

Linus is American, of Hungarian-Chinese heritage. I'm Australian, of Scottish-Irish stock. We came together in New Orleans, a Southern US city with distinctly French Creole influences. So naturally, we made a Polish cake. It's a melting pot this city, what can I tell you? Only about streets lined with grand timber houses and long-limbed, leafy trees, thunderstorms that go on all day (and all night), catfish po'boys in bars in back streets, slow-moving streetcars, the bottom of a bag of beignets filled with (I swear) about a pound of powdered sugar, fork lightening on the Mississippi, and, of course, jazz - on street corners, in bars, in the very rhythms of this place... 

But back to Linus' cake. That's what I'm going to call it anyway. Just like its namesake, it's a keeper. Lightly sweetened with honey (and very little additional sugar), its flavour is rich and deep, its top crunchy with almonds and its exterior deliciously sticky. If you can't make it with a friend, at least share it with some... or be warned: you may eat the whole thing yourself.

Polish honey cake
Adapted from a Big Oven recipe, and inspired by my friend Heather's hearty recommendation

This is truly an all-ages cake. It goes equally well with a glass of milk or something a bit more caffeinated.

7 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup honey
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almonds, slivered or sliced 

1 3/4 cups flour, plus extra for tin
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature, plus extra for greasing tin
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Place oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a cake or loaf tin with butter, line with parchment paper and dust with flour.

For the topping: melt 7 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup honey and salt, stir until blended, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and almonds and set aside to cool.

For the cake: in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or by hand, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Gradually drizzle in the honey, continuing to beat, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla and beat to combine. Add small amounts of the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, mixing until just blended after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan, distributing evenly, and smooth the top. Pour and spread the topping mixture evenly over the cake. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cake should spring back when gently touched in the centre. When the cake is done, let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto the wire rack to finish cooling completely. Cut into wedges or slices.


  1. Alice! The cake was divine. It was so lovely to have you visit with us. Your wrote beautifully about the city. Thanks for it all.

  2. THAT looks very yummy and a perfect thing to cook with Eva and Simon.

  3. Great photos Dorka! x