November 17, 2010

Lavender Honey Spice Cake

This is my kind of cake, but sadly, I can't take any credit for the unique mix of flavors that make it a stand out.  I found the recipe on Serious Eats and kept it pretty much as is because making major changes just didn't seem right.  So, instead of inserting my adaptations into the recipe, I noted my minor tweaks on the side, because I think you deserve to have the recipe in it's original form.

The flavors are complex, but subtle, and the cake pairs oh so perfectly with a mug of hot tea.   

The first word that came to my mind after just one bite was "delightful."  And it really, really is.  I was so happy with how it turned out that I even brought some to a few of my friends and their families.  Some of them commented on the moistness, others on the notes of fennel and cinnamon.  Everyone asked what was in it and everyone was impressed.  This is a recipe for the archives if there ever was one.

Lavender Honey Spice Cake
From Gina DePalma on Serious Eats

1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour [I used 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon]
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour [I used 1 cup]
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground ginger 
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed 
1/2 cup packed dark muscovado sugar or dark brown sugar [I used 1/3 cup packed]
1/2 cup lavender honey*
2 large eggs 
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
Freshly grated zest and juice of 1 orange 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt [I used Fage 0%]
2 Tablespoons hot water

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9-by-3 inch loaf pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder and soda, and spices, and set aside.

Place the sugar, lavender honey, and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat them together on medium speed until the mixture is creamy and light, about a minute. Beat in the melted, cooled butter, followed by the orange juice and zest and vanilla.

In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt and hot water. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the sugar and butter mixture, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in 1/2 of the yogurt mixture. Follow with another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by the rest of the yogurt, and ending with the last of the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat the batter well for 20 seconds to fully emulsify it.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing and evening the top. Bake the cake on the center rack for 40 minutes [mine took about 50 minutes], rotating it halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning [Warning: I attempted to to this halfway through baking and the cake was FAR from set... if I would have moved it to rotate, it would have turned into a cake wreck.  I would wait longer if you're going to rotate]. The cake is done when it is cracked and firm to the touch, and slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan; a cake center inserted in the center should come out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before removing it to a rack to cool completely. To serve, cut into even slices.  The cake may be stored for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

*I used to buy lavender honey from a brand called "Palette." Unfortunately, I think they went out of business so I bought lavender herb (the dried buds would probably work too) and infused it into the honey by heating it on the stove.  See this website for more specifics on infusing honey.

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