Recipe: Spiced Chocolate Honeycake

I may have mentioned once or twice that my workplace takes its cake very seriously.  Indeed, for about a year, we even had a weekly cake roster, so that even in months without many birthday, we could be assured of plenty of cake.  Of course, this rendered months like April, with ten lab birthdays, more than slightly insane, but sometimes you just have to make these sacrifices.

One of our PhD students was half-Japanese, and when it was her turn, she brought in this amazing honeycake.  It was the softest cake I’ve ever eaten – entirely crustless and pillow-like and perfect.  She said it was the only cake she knew how to make, but I’d have happily eaten it all year round.  I asked for the recipe, which she duly gave me, though it was missing one or two details like cooking times and such, but my own versions, while good, have never been so delectably tender.  Still, I keep trying, because it’s an amazing cake.

I’m sure you will have noticed a certain key word in this recipe title – honey!  As someone who is now invested in finding every possible use for honey, this recipe is clearly just what the doctor ordered.  Looking into my pantry, I also spied a container of ‘chocolate spice‘, a mixture of dutch cocoa with winter spices like cassia and nutmeg and allspice. 

(And now I have become totally distracted by the discovery that Gewürzhaus does cooking classes, including one in conversational German on making traditional cookies, and it’s on the one day I can’t go!  Not fair!)

(Oops, no, actually it’s on a day when I am very much free.  Though it is at an ungodly hour of the morning.  Never mind, German conversation and cooking classes are not to be missed…)

cakeWow, I really did get side-tracked, didn’t I?  I’m actually now sitting here with Gewürzhaus open in the other browser, trying to figure out whether I can justify any of their other classes.  Bad Catherine!  Get back to the recipe!

Anyway, here I was with this honey and this spiced cocoa mix, and I thought, actually, that’s rather a nice combination.  So I put it in a cake.  The result is a lovely, moist afternoon-tea sort of cake that tastes a bit like Lebküchen.  I could probably have skipped straight to that part, couldn’t I?

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4 eggs
130 g caster sugar
60 ml canola oil
60 ml orange juice
80 ml honey
120 g plain flour
30 g spiced cocoa mix, or go with about 20-25g cocoa, and make up the rest with all your favourite sweet spices

Now what will you do with it?

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C, and line a medium loaf tin (the base should be 20cm x 10 cm) with baking paper.

Beat your eggs and sugar in a bowl with electric beaters for quite a while until they are pale and thick (precision is the essence of recipes, don’t you think?).  I’m not sure how thick one is aiming for – my informant didn’t say – but I’d say the volume was about double what it was before beating, and while I didn’t get to the fabled (and, I suspect, actually fictitious) ribbon stage, what dripped from the beaters was somewhere between crepe and pancake batter in consistency.



Once you’ve achieved this, you are going to spoil the entire effect by adding all the liquid ingredients, and taking the whole shebang back to a very liquid state.  Incidentally, if you are cunning, you can get out a (metric) liquid cup measure, pour in 1/4 cup of oil, then 1/4 cup of juice, and then fill with honey up to 200ml.  This is handy both for measuring and for making the honey come out of the measuring jug without leaving any of itself behind.


Beat everything for another minute or so, wondering what happened to that lovely consistency you had before, and whether the eggs are going to be able to do anything with a batter this thin.

Add in the flour and spiced cocoa mix, preferably in two batches, though I’m not entirely sure why this is, and beat together well.


Pour your now very liquid batter into the loaf tin, and bake for about half an hour, until it is mostly set, and getting golden around the edges.


Remove from the oven, cover tightly with foil, and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the cake passes the skewer test.

Foiled again!

Foiled again!

Remove the cake from the oven, take off the foil, and then wrap the hot cake – tin and all – in cling-wrap.  The cling wrap will ripple and make odd shapes, as though possessed by a Dr Who gas-based alien.  Actually, it is just possessed by steam.  Don’t let it scare you (and whatever you do, don’t blink!).

glad wrap

Then wrap the glad-wrapped cake tin in a plastic bag, and leave to cool.  Incidentally, if you ever read Anne of Windy Willows and wondered about that famous sponge cake with twelve eggs in it, and why it had to sweat, I rather suspect that it was something like this one, and the reason was to trap the steam in the cake, giving it a fabulously soft texture.

Possibly the classiest photo on any cooking blog, ever.

Possibly the classiest photo on any cooking blog, ever.

(actually, mine is *still* not as soft as I want it to be, drat it!  I suspect someone who was better at sponge cakes would do a better job at this.  Mind you, if I hadn’t been aiming for that specific cake style, I’d have been really happy with both flavour and texture of this cake, so I really shouldn’t complain…)

Cut the cake when cool, and serve with strawberries, if you have them.  Though it is perfectly lovely plain, with a glass of dairy or almond milk.



This cake is dairy-free and nut-free, but not vegan, because it’s pretty much the eggs that hold the whole thing together.  I’d also be wary of making this gluten-free without a bit of experimenting first, either, because the batter is so very liquid, and most gluten-free flours take up liquid quite differently to wheat.  But fear not – I have a pantry full of gluten-free flours and of honey.  The odds are I’ll be trying a gluten-free honeycake soon.  Possibly using chestnut flour as the base.  Yum.

You can make this recipe plain, in which case use 150g of flour, and replace the orange juice with milk or soy milk, or, actually, almond milk would be lovely.

If you were feeling daring, it might be rather fun to use almond milk and heat it with a pinch or two of saffron, because saffron has such a lush, honeyed flavour already that it would complement these flavours beautifully.  Also, you’d get the most yellow cake ever, and who doesn’t want that?

If you don’t like honey, why are you reading this recipe you could probably replace it with another liquid sweetener like maple syrup or pear juice concentrate, but I do think that is defeating the purpose in this case.


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2 comments for “Recipe: Spiced Chocolate Honeycake

  1. May 4, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    What an excellent cake! I have been meaning to try a chocolate-honey baking combination since seeing Johanna’s chocolate chip honey scones last month. You’ve given me another recipe to get to making 🙂

    • Catherine
      May 4, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      Thanks, Kari! I rather like it – it isn’t ridiculously sweet, and it goes beautifully with a glass of milk for afternoon tea (says she, licking her lips).

      Your split pea soup inspired me to make a related soup for my own lunch today… I do love the way we all go around reading each others’ recipes and going, yes, I’ll try that, only I think I’m going to change it just a little…

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