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.
Image 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!
HONNINGKAKE (HONEY CAKE)
1 qt buttermilk
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!