Recipe: Suffolk honey cake

EAT COOP Honey Cake. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

EAT COOP Honey Cake. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Make our sweet honey cake for Chanukah.

Chanukah falls on December 12 this year. I'm not in any way, shape or form religious, but without fail The Festival of Lights is something we always observe in our house.

No, I'm not some nutter trying to blag a few celebratory days before Christmas - my mother's side of the family is Jewish. And I think there's something truly wonderful and magical about this holiday.

The ceremony of lighting a candle each day is something the children look forward to as December looms.

We read The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket (just as we sit down and read Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve).

The kids are given gelt (golden chocolate coins). And we have friends over for cake, wine and latkes with smoked salmon.

The whole affair is about being together, breaking bread with the people you love, and eating. Lots of eating.

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At the centre of Chanukah has to be a really good honey cake. I'm afraid mine isn't in any way Kosher because I use butter, but it tastes absolutely gorgeous.

Honey cake should be filled to the brim with the liquid gold, and has a firmer texture than a sponge cake, almost like gingerbread, so it can be kept for a few days and served to guests as they arrive at your door, alongside a little nip of sweet wine or brandy.

Honey cake, for me, is home. Its smell fills the kitchen with a nostalgic lingering sweetness.

I tried to bring a bit of summer brightness into the house with this one, decorating it with marzipan bumblebees and fresh flowers, but you might want to top it with candles, or layer over a simple sheet of plain marzipan. It's also really rather good warm, drizzled with a spoonful of runny honey.

As a general rule the type of honey you use for the cake will distinguish how strong it is. So acacia or heather honey will be milder, while a deep, dark forest honey will yield a more intriguing, dark honey taste.

I used Michael Coe's Suffolk honey, as sold in East of England Co-ops. It's one of the best I've ever tried, and has a truly floral flavour.

Suffolk honey cake

(serves 10-12)

Ingredients

500g self-raising flour

100g caster sugar

100g light brown sugar

3tsps bicarbonate of soda

1tsp mixed spice

2 large eggs, beaten

250g unsalted butter

Pinch salt

300ml Suffolk honey

300ml fresh brewed coffee, warm

Handful raisins or sultanas roughly chopped

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 190C and grease and line a 23cm loose-bottomed, deep cake tin.

Soak the raisins in a bowl with the coffee for 10 minutes.

Melt the butter with the honey and sugars. Add the coffee and raisins. Stir and allow to cool until warm.

Whisk the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into the liquid mixture, followed by the eggs. Mix to make sure there are no lumps and pour into your prepared tin.

Bake for about 50 minutes. A skewer should come out clean. If the cake needs longer cover it in foil and give it another five to 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before removing and decorating as you like.

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