Let Them Eat Cake

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Honeycomb pull-apart cake pan from Williams-Sonoma

Occasionally I purchase something on an impulse.  Um…okay, so it happens more than occasionally.  Around this time last year, I was strolling through my beloved Williams-Sonoma and spied something interesting.  Yes, it was a honeycomb cake, displayed on a pedestal, surrounded by honeycomb cake pans and honey almond cake mixes.  I had already received the e-mail about this pan and perused it online.  And there it stood, adjacent to this cake taunting me with its delicious smell and striking presentation.  My friend, who was shopping off someone’s bridal registry, exclaimed, “Oh, that is so cuuuuuuute!”  Indeed it was.  Since I had purchased and was schlepping around a 12″ Lodge cast iron skillet and there was still more damage to be done at Sephora, I had to refrain and think about this honeycomb pan purchase.  It took two whole days before the pan and cake set made its debut at the homestead.  The waiting was pure torture.  I made the cake from the mix that came in the set.  Parts of cake got stuck in the pan and the cake was just so-so.  To be honest, I was a little lazy and didn’t bother with the glaze so I take some of the blame for the ho-hum results.

I set the pan aside and didn’t think about it until recently as I was reorganizing the kitchen cupboards.  As my eyes fell upon it, I felt a slight twinge of buyer’s remorse.  Dammit, I wanted to make a good honey cake.  I thought about revisiting the idea of honey and almonds, contemplated honey and bourbon, and then mulled over several other ideas (bear with me, I’m a fickle Libra).  Alas, nothing made me excited.  While on a more recent Williams-Sonoma visit for a package of cheesecloth, I made another impulse purchase: dried French lavender from their spice collection.  The fact that I bought a container of lavender while in the process of planning a summer trip to its country of origin is downright comical but it had to be done.  I couldn’t just leave with the cheesecloth, could I?  Oh hell to the no!  I had visions of making a lavender simple syrup for cocktails similar to this one.  I could sip on said cocktails while visions of the Côte d’Azur, the French countryside, French food, art museums, and perfume shops in Paris danced in my head.   

And then it hit me –  I could make a dessert out of perfume!  No, not literally. I could make a cake out of honey and lavender and I could use that honeycomb pan!  I scoured the internet and found four recipes and in true Libra fashion, could commit to none of them.  So I took the elements that I liked from each and came up with my very own recipe:

Lady Sensory’s Bee’s Knees Coffee Cake

This is a lavender, honey and lemon coffee cake.  For quirky perfume-lovers like myself,  I’d describe it as the dessert equivalent of Guerlain’s Jicky.  So you can go ahead call it Jicky Cake if you like.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated or vanilla sugar

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

Zest and juice of two lemons (a little more than 1/3 cup juice and about 1 tbsp – 1 1/2 tbsp zest, 1/3 cup of juice will be for the glaze below)

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal, finely ground (use blue cornmeal if you can find it – I did and it adds a little more color to the cake)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp Saigon cinnamon

1 tsp dried lavender

1 6-oz container of fat-free or low-fat plain Greek yogurt

Glaze:

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup lemon juice (from above)

1/2 tsp dried lavender (you can add more or less, depending on your preference)

Set rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour the Williams-Sonoma Honeycomb cake pan or 8-9″ springform pan.  Zest and juice lemon.  Set aside zest and 1/3 cup of juice for glaze.  Any remaining juice can be tossed in the cake batter.  Add dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, lemon zest and lavender) in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined.  Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, and honey together until fluffy, then add vanilla, and any remaining lemon juice.  Add the eggs, a little at a time until all ingredients are combined.  Then add dry ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the addition of the yogurt (dry, yogurt, dry, yogurt) until batter is incorporated.  Pour batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth with a spatula. If you are using the honeycomb pan, make sure each well is full.  The cake will take about 40-50 minutes to cook, depending on what style pan you use.  Mine took about 40, but a springform might result in a thicker cake so it may take longer.

While the cake is in the oven put 1/4 cup of honey, 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 1/2 tsp of dried lavender in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce and stir until honey is dissolved and remove from the heat.  When the cake is done (insert a toothpick in the center and make sure it comes out clean), remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes have passed, poke holes in the surface of the cake with a toothpick or skewer and brush with glaze, being careful not to let it get down the insides of the pan.  Allow to rest for about five minutes, then invert the pan onto a serving plate and brush the top and sides of the cake with glaze and allow to rest for 10-15  minutes.

Stare at your pretty culinary creation for a minute.  Then take a chunk of that cake to your face and savor it as the bright, aromatic, and indulgent flavors of Provence explode in your mouth.

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