Dutch Honey Cake
by eat in my kitchen
This cake was one of my childhood’s culinary highlights. Whenever I visited the Netherlands I had to get a large loaf of this juiciest, spongiest and stickiest of all spice cakes. You can buy this sweet treat all over the country, from artisan bakeries or simple supermarkets, which I did most of the time. The long square tightly wrapped in foil is stuffed with the wintery aroma of honey, ginger, cloves, aniseed, nutmeg and cinnamon. I’ll never forget the moments when I opened the package, sitting on a long and lonely beach, the sand in my shoes and the cold wind blowing against my face, my fingers touched the sticky golden cake to break it into chunks. Fantastic!
I never dug too deep into the Dutch cuisine, although the country is quite close to my hometown. My appetite focused more on the culinary pleasures coming out of France and Italy, or England when it comes to pies. I’m a big fan of milky Gouda cheese from the flat meadows of the Netherlands but apart from my beloved honey cake I’m not too familiar with the country’s cooking and baking traditions, I’d love to learn more about it.
To bake my first Dutch honey cake in my kitchen was only the start. I did some research and learned that the dough needs some strong black tea (or coffee), most of the sweetness – and the particular taste – comes from the honey and the spices, and a little sugar beet molasses is responsible for the cake’s dark warm tone. It was much easier than I expected, taste and texture left no doubt that this is a real Dutch honey cake – baked in Berlin.
Dutch Honey Cake
Makes a 24 x 10cm / 9 1/2 x 4″ cake
plain flour 260g / 2 cups
a pinch of salt
baking powder 1 1/2 teaspoons
baking soda 1 teaspoon
butter 45g / 3 tablespoons
honey 170g / 6 ounces
sugar beet molasses 45g / 1 1/2 ounces
milk 120ml / 1/2 cup
organic eggs, lightly beaten, 2
strong black tea 60ml / 1/4 cup
Demerara sugar 55g / 2 ounces
ginger, freshly grated, 1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons
aniseed, ground in a mortar, 1/3 teaspoon
cloves, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
nutmeg, freshly grated, 1/4 teaspoon
For the topping
pearl sugar (optional)
Set the oven to 160°C / 320°F. Lightly butter a 24 x 10cm / 9 1/2 x 4″ cake pan and line it with baking paper.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and soda.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, let it cool for a few minutes and add the honey, molasses, milk, eggs, tea, sugar, ginger and spices to the warm pan. Whisk well, stir into the bowl with the dry mixture and mix with an electric mixer until well combined. The dough will be quite liquid. Scrape the dough into the lined cake pan and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until the cake is done. Check with a skewer, it should come out clean. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before you take it out of the pan.
Keep the cake wrapped in paper and cling film to keep its moisture.