When we were on the farm in South Africa, our friends the Nolans were honey farmers. I remember Pat Nolan, the dad, dressed up in his bee gear : I thought he looked like a rather sinister fencing instructor. The whole process of keeping hives, the bees, the yellow combs of honey, and the other-worldly get-up Pat wore was utterly fascinating to me. However, when visiting the Nolans, what we all looked forward to more than anything else was Di Nolan’s Honey Cake with Cream. I don’t have Di’s recipe: but I dream of her cake, warm, and drenched with honey, served with ladlefuls of lightly whipped cream. This recipe uses almonds, orange juice and orange blossom water: it produces a substantial, syruped, scented cake. Great to make at the beginning of the week, as it keeps so well. Try to serve it warm, with lots of cream.
Makes one large loaf cake
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Make sure that the parchment comes up the long sides of the loaf tin, which will make it easier to lift the cake out of the tin after baking.
175g butter, at room temperature
80g soft light brown sugar
150g Plain flour (I use Dove’s gluten free)
140g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp xanthan gum
Zest of one large orange
100ml natural yoghurt
For the syrup:
3 tablespoons honey
Juice of one large orange
1 and ½ teaspoons orange blossom water
In an electric mixer, beat the butter, honey, zest and sugar for about 5 minutes. Sift the flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and bicarb, and then gently stir through the almonds. Add the almond and flour mixture to the electric mixer, a few spoons at a time, alternating with the eggs. Finally, add the yoghurt and beat gently just to incorporate it all. Pour into a loaf tin, flatten with a spatula, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes- or until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven, and let cool for about 10 minutes. While the cake is cooling, warm the honey, orange juice and orange blossom water over a low heat until it is runny and well mixed. Make holes all over the top of the loaf, while it is still in the tin, and pour the syrup over the cake. Leave in the tin for a further 10 minutes, and then gently, using the sides of the parchment, lift the cake out. Serve while still warm, with the cream.
The cake will keep well in a tin for about 4 days.