Honningkake; a cake perfect for every day

Honningkake is just that, a honey cake. While the featured ingredient may be honey, it also gets its layers of flavors from a variety of spices, and prevents the cake from becoming too sweet.  This recipe can be baked as a loaf, a cake or even cookies.  Norwegians have even been known to pack honningkaker in their backpack when going hiking or skiing in the mountains – it’s a perfect companion to a hot cup of chocolate, tea or coffee when you’re sitting down for a much deserved break.

This is the cake you may want to turn to on a weeknight or afternoon when you are getting surprise guests over and need to entertain on a whim.  An old story goes that you would make honningkake for the one you cherished… your honey! Makes sense, doesn’t it?


What I enjoy most about Norwegian cakes is that they are easy to assemble, not cloyingly sweet, are very versatile and of course; incredibly tasty!  Our people love to entertain – no way are you going to someone’s house for just a cup of coffee! Which is why we have created so many recipes for quick, convenient, easy to make cakes and cookies, aimed to please at any occasion. It should be mentioned that “kake” in Norwegian isn’t necessarily synonymous with the English word for “cake”. Here in the U.S., cake usually means something that is glazed, iced, topped or is smeared with that godawful butter cream (sorry), while in Norway, cake can be anything from banana bread, brownies, and shortbread, among others.  We do have our ‘formal’ cakes too, usually wrapped in marzipan or covered with whipped cream (bløtkake). I will be sure to cover these too, as they can be delicious and most certainly are decadent.

kakebordImage source: tine.no
I got the idea for honey cake today as I was expecting a friend to come over, and I needed a snack for afternoon coffee. I didn’t want anything that was too formal, but also needed something more than just a regular cookie (boring).   This cake is juicy, a touch spicy and perfect for any occasion.  You can purchase hornsalt (hartshorn), a special baking powder from Norway at www.vaersaagod.com – a small online shop I recently discovered, owned by Becky Gjendem. She is married to a Norwegian and lives in Iowa. I always like to support small businesses, so please check her website and shop out!

Hornsalt, the secret to that special taste you get in Norwegian (and other Scandinavian) baked goods:


Below is a recipe I enjoy for honningkake.  Use good quality honey – I like to buy mine at the local farmer market. As for the syrup, you can substitute a light maple syrup, since the syrup we use in Scandinavia is a bit different (dare I say better?) than what is typically found in stores in this country. If you can get a hold of good, plain kefir, even better than buttermilk, but any of those will do.

Some people even top the cake with chocolate glaze or icing, which you can do if you want to dress it up for a more formal looking cake,  but I promise it’s just as delicious as is!


1 qt buttermilk

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup light syrup

1 cup good quality honey

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda or hornsalt

4 cups (or 1 kg/2.2 lbs) all purpose flour

1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare a 13 x 9 baking dish, lined with parchment paper.

In a big bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, sugar, syrup and honey until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Fold in the dry ingredients into the wet, and add the melted butter at the end. Pour the batter into the the baking dish and cook at the next to lowest rack in the oven for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on rack and cut into slices or serving pieces.  Keep the cake in an airtight container and it will stay moist/keep for several days!





3 thoughts on “Honningkake; a cake perfect for every day

  1. Alex says:

    Hi Sunny! Thanks for introducing me to a new ingredient: the horn salt. I’ve never heard of it before (and thus also learned about baker’s ammonia).

    Quick questions: Is the horn salt/hartshorn exactly the same as baker’s ammonia? Or is there a difference in how they are derived and how they “taste”? There is no horn salt here in Taiwan, but I can find baker’s ammonia/ammonium carbonate in chemical stores/specialized baking goods stores. Just wondering if there is a difference (other than similar functions in baking), and if there is, I have to put this on my shopping list while in Norway. 🙂

    Also, just curious about the use of horn salt in the honey cake, after reading about the use of baker’s ammonia mainly in thin, crisp baked goods so that the ammonia smell can escape during baking. Just wondering if the horn salt leaves a different taste and smell from the common baker’s ammonia, so it can be used here in a thicker, denser baked product? Or if it’s because there is just 1 tsp so there is no noticeable taste or smell from the ammonia? Or…?

    And since I got on the subject of shopping… any suggestions on other unique ingredients to look for while in Norway (and is the caviar in a tube worth trying)? I’m also already looking into second hand shops for cookware (can’t justify buying brand new items just to “play with occasionally”, but I’d really love to bring home a krumkake iron and the wooden rolling tool (is there a name for that?) or a Norwegian waffle iron to whip up a little taste of Norway when I miss it (yes, I’m already talking about missing Norway and I haven’t even been there!).


    • Sunny says:

      Hi Alex!
      The horn salt is very similar to bakers ammonia, and I would suggest that is the closest, as hornsalt is practically just that: Ammonia. Baking soda is the second closest to hornsalt. The difference between hornsalt and baking soda is that in hornsalt, ammonia and gas reacts with each other. Hornsalt reacts with air and dissolves if it is not kept dry and closed up. This is exactly why using hornsalt in cakes and thicker baked goods is not recommended, as anything with moisture (such as a moist cake or dessert for instance) will bind to the hornsalt, and will then taste like ammonia (not exactly pleasant), versus crackers and cookies that will be dry and the ammonia escapes after they are baked and released from the oven (hornsalt only works when exposed to heat, same as baking soda, where as baking powder starts working right as you add it to you rbatter). This raises a good question about the use of hornsalt in my honeycake – this is just a traditional recipe I had, but is probably not the best idea for a leavener. Baking powder would probably be best, as baking soda alone would not be ideal either. I haven’t noticed an ammonia flavor in the cake when using hornsalt before, but you could always experiment with both and see which one you prefer. I do believe there is a particular flavor profile in baked goods with hornsalt, and I would absolutely recommend buying a few canisters of this when you are in Norway! Also get the “vaniljesukker”- which is essentially powdered sugar flavored with vanilla. It’s very common to use this in Norwegian baked goods, and I’ve only been able to find the granulated vanilla sugar here in the U.S., which is not nearly the same. I find it so much better than vanilla extract – try it and you’ll see! I have several recipes here on my blog using vaniljesukker. Norway is also known for their food in “tubes” – so in addition to the caviar you mentioned above, get the other tubes with a variety of cheeses. They will of course be great for transporting in your suitcase. Oh, and chocolate! nobody in the world has better chocolate/ candy than Norway. A must!! Sounds great to get the krumkake iron and the heart shaped waffle irons too- there is the “Goro” iron, for the ultra old/traditional goro cookies, and it’s beautiful. You can make all kinds of recipes in it, not just goro. The wooden rolling tool as you call it is just that – a rolling pin, or in Norwegian it is called a “kjevle”. You can get some with patterns on it which I think is quite fun as it will impart pattern on your dough.
      Hope that helps!!

      • Alex says:

        Hi Sunny! Thanks for the reply, explanation, and suggestions! You are SO incredibly kind and helpful! I’m definitely going grocery shopping in Norway!!! Heading to the airport in less than 24 hours. I am SOOO excited (was a bit anxious, but now that I have a list of items for treasure hunting, I can’t wait to get to there)! Thanks so much for reaching out with your blog and for following up with such helpful, warm replies!

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