Honey Cake, revisited

The Honey Cake we made the other week screamed Easter to me.  It was also the perfect excuse to try to revamp it a bit.  This time around I nixed the pineapple and macerated just strawberries, and used the juice they made to pour over the finished cake instead of using orange juice.   I also took out the nuts and replaced that with 1/4 cup sour cream mixed in with about 1 Tbs of white grits.  The end result was a more even flavor, and JGL even said he liked this one better.  It’s certainly a keeper!

Honey Cake with Berries and Cream, Take Two
Adapted from BHG, April 2012 pg 180
 
2 Tbsp honey, divided
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2 pints strawberries sliced
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 
1 TBS white hominy grits
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp honey, divided
 
Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour a 9 by 1 1/2 round cake pan.
 
Combine strawberries in a bowl and stir in the 2 Tbsp of honey and balsamic vinegar. Set aside and let macerate while you make the cake.
 
In a medium bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sour cream/grits mixture, baking powder and salt; put to one side. In a large bowl beat butter for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the honey and beat into butter until nice and fluffy. Slowly beat in eggs, one at a time. Add 3/4 of the flour mixture and mix until it just barely comes together. Add milk and remaining flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until combined (being careful not to over mix). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (in my oven it took more like 45-50 minutes to get it to set).
 
When cake is finished and has cooled in the pan for about 5 minutes, remove from pan and place on your cake plate. Poke cake with a toothpick to create multiple holes on the top, then brush on the juice from your strawberries so it absorbs into the cake. Set cake aside to cool completely.
 
Just before serving, create topping. Combine cream cheese and 2 Tbps of honey, beat on high for 30 seconds. Add whipping cream and beat until soft mounds form. Spoon cream onto cake, and then top with fruit.
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Honey Cake and Spring

We turned the heat off in the house over a week ago. The windows have been letting the perfect 75 degree air flow through our house taking any stale winter blues that were left lingering. In essence, it not only feels like spring, but it feels absolutely invigorating and inspiring!

Nothing says spring to me more than the return of fresh fruit to the grocery store and markets. Our strawberry plants are starting to bloom, and the strawberries in the store are a good second best while we wait for our own crop to develop. We love macerating berries in honey, and as soon as I saw the below recipe I knew we would have to try it. It is just about as perfect as Spring 2012 is shaping up to be–a dense cake with added texture from the cornmeal topped with folds of whipped cream and beautiful berries.

I say take one below because I want to try a few things with it, such as omitting the nuts and playing around with the glaze. It’s amazing to start with, but I think it can be improved. Plus we have two willing taste testers at the L. Homestead–anything for culinary research 😉

Happy Noshing!

 

Pecan-Honey Cake with Berries and Cream, Take One
Adapted from BHG, April 2012 pg 180
2 Tbsp honey, divided
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 pint strawberries sliced
1/2 pineapple, sliced into pieces about the same size as your strawberry slices
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup pecans, ground
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp honey, divided
Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour a 9 by 1 1/2 round cake pan.
Combine strawberries and pineapple (or whatever fruit is fresh and tastes good to you) in a bowl and stir in the 2 Tbsp of honey and balsamic vinegar. Set aside and let macerate while you make the cake.
In a medium bowl combine flour, cornmeal, nuts, baking powder and salt; put to one side. In a large bowl beat butter for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the honey and beat into butter until nice and fluffy. Slowly beat in eggs, one at a time. Add 3/4 of the flour mixture and mix until it just barely comes together. Add milk and remaining flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until combined (being careful not to over mix). Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes (in my oven it took more like 45-50 minutes to get it to set).
Meanwhile combine 1/4 cup honey and orange juice in a small saucepan and set on stove on low to heat through (if combining just before cake comes out, you can turn up the heat to warm it through quicker). When cake is finished and has cooled in the pan for about 5 minutes, remove from pan and place on your cake plate. Poke cake with a toothpick to create multiple holes on the top, then brush on the honey-orange juice so it absorbs into the cake. Set cake aside to cool completely.
Just before serving, create topping. Combine cream cheese and 2 Tbps of honey, beat on high for 30 seconds. Add whipping cream and beat until soft mounds form. Spoon cream onto cake, and then top with fruit.

Herb Butter (or how I started to roast a turkey)

When we moved here to our little homestead, there was an under utilized deep freezer hanging out on the car port.  The previous owners claimed it didn’t work, but after a deep clean (that sadly did include bleach….) and the realization that one must plug it in to work, I was elated to have extra freezer storage.  And let me tell you, a well stocked freezer will get you through the best of times, and the worst of times.

About a year ago our local Kroger had an amazing sale on turkeys, and as Mom always says, for $5 it never hurts to have an extra turkey on hand.  And she’s right–at 39 cents a pound, that bird could have saved the day if I needed a big fancy meal or just needed to serve a crowd.  But a fancy crowd never came, and something had to be done about the bird.  This week seemed like the right time to tackle to project (and subsequent culinary projects) since I have a few more days off before I have to head back to work.

I like to start my turkey off by stuffing herb butter just under the skin on the breast.  It’s not glamorous work, but what it does is both season the meat and keep the bird from drying out.  I used a mixture of lemon zest, rosemary, thyme and local honey because I like those flavors with poultry, and I have a plethora of rosemary and thyme on my hands thanks to our little herb garden.  I finely chopped about 3-4 long stems worth of rosemary and thyme leaves, grated the zest of one lemon, and mashed them all together with a fork in with the softened butter.  After the initial mashing, I added about a tablespoon of honey to add a bit of sweetness and also give the turkey a little something more to caramelize while it was in the oven.  I saved the stems of the herbs to use with the zested lemon to stuff the bird (waste not want not!).

But herb butter isn’t just for moisturizing meats–I save about two tablespoons of it because it is a great way to jazz up a slice of bread, add flavor to a soup, or a fun way to add flavor to most anything that you would add butter to.  The flavor combinations are endless as well–sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil would be outstanding, or anything that you have on hand that you like together.

Plus it’s just pretty.  Look at it, all festive and delicious–takes any old day and makes it a little fancy. And let’s be honest–with the inevitable post-Christmas slump and a New Year creeping up on us, putting a little fancy on your table never hurt anyone.

And stay tuned–the turkey has been picked clean, and we’ve got homemade stock and pot pies coming our way!

Banana Nut Muffins

I was going to blog about these last week, but then I think every single food blog I follow blogged about banana bread in every variation you could imagine within days of each other.  So I waited until this morning to jump on the banana nut bandwagon.  I even added one muffin just for JGL with a strawberry banana combo, just like one of my favorite food bloggers, Joy the Baker, did.  It stayed in the mix long enough to snap this picture, and then it was ostracized to the other end of the kitchen until JGL ate it.  Sadly, I’ve never been able to stomach the strawberry banana combo–don’t even get me started on that one time when my banana contaminated my cashew butter and strawberry jam sandwich….

But I digress…this recipe is one I’ve been tweaking for about four years now.  I found the skeleton of it when trying to find a recipe for a friend who couldn’t eat refined sugar, and from that point on I’ve been slowly tweaking, adding, and improving the recipe bit by bit, year by year. If you’re really watching your figure, you can replace the oil with more plain yogurt, but I think a little bit of veggie oil helps these guys have an incredibly luscious texture.

One of my favorite aspects of this recipe is the use of honey, and I have found that local honey really brightens the flavor, texture, and just basically everything about these baked goods.  One of my favorite ways to serve is fresh out of the oven, cracked open with a little bit of butter and then more honey drizzled over the melting butter.

Serve generously, serve often, and the exprience is heightened with a fresh cup of coffee and a warm puppy curled up by your feet.

Ain't she precious when she's sleeping?

GAL’s Banana Nut Muffins
Makes 24 muffins, or 2 loaves of bread
 
1 cup honey
1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups mashed bananas
1/2-1 cup pecans, walnuts or whatever your favorite nut is (optional)
3 cups white wheat or whole wheat flour
3 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp salt
 
Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine flour, BP, BS and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl combine honey, oil, yogurt, eggs, and bananas–mix well.  Add nuts to wet ingredients, and then carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet.  Mix until just blended.  Pour into greased muffin tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through.
 
This also makes great banana bread–use bread pan and cook for 1 hour.