My childhood honey cake
This is the honey cake of my childhood. It was the first cake I ever baked. I cried as I baked this cake for the first time when I was 10, because I insisted on doing everything myself. I remember announcing to my parents that I would prepare the cake for Christmas and that by no means was anyone allowed to help me. I was quite categorical about this (it seems that I have an offspring who is quite similar).
I baked and baked, and finally understood that it was too difficult. I went to the family room where everyone was watching TV and opened the door with tears in my eyes. My mother asked if everything was OK, and then turned her attention back to the TV. I closed the door, and with hurt feelings, returned to the kitchen thinking how terrible it was that no one was paying any attention to me and didn’t care to find out why I was crying. But my spite got the better of me (it still does), and I continued to bake. I went to bed feeling completely exhausted, because I finished baking the cake at 11 at night; the kitchen looked like a war zone. The next day was easier – just spread the cream and decorate. At that time, the only available decoration was those small silver beads – no canned fruit or cherry jam. I finished everything, cleaned up the disaster area, and set the cake aside for the flavours to combine. Evening came and it was time to serve the cake. This was the moment I had waited for, and I was so scared – did it turn out well, as it should? We ate the cake, and my family sang my praises because everything had turned out perfectly. I was so proud (that pride kids get when a job is well done) about the fact that I, a ten-year-old child, with my own hands, had created the most beautiful and delicious cake in the world. And I think that it was because of this cake that I found in me the soul of a kitchen fanatic.
This cake was made every Christmas in our house – from my first conscious recollections right through my teen years. Perhaps that is why this cake is so special, because it is so ingrained in my most wonderful childhood memories. In addition, this is a truly Latvian cake: in contrast to those you can buy in the store or that are baked by others, this one has lots and lots of honey.
320 g soft honey (250 ml/1 cup)*
240 g light brown sugar (250 ml/1 cup)*
3 eggs, lightly beaten
410 g highest quality wheat flour (875 ml/3.5 cups)*
110 g wholegrain flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 l 25% sour cream
1 tbsp vanilla sugar or extract
400 g various coloured jellied candies (yellow, red, green), finely chopped**
Heat the oven to 190°.
Mix all the ingredients for the cake in a bowl. Draw several 24 cm diametre circles on parchment paper – that will be the size of the cake. I use several cake or tart bases (it’s easier to judge the size of the cake and place the layers in the oven), but you can also just put them on baking sheets. “Eyeball” the dough into 8-9 parts.
Place one piece of the dough in the centre of the parchment paper. Using a spoon dipped in hot water, spread the dough around the circle (any extra that goes over the sides will be cut off and used for crumbs when assembling the cake). You may have to dip the spoon into hot water several times for easier spreading. Try and spread as thin a layer as possible. You should be able to make 8-9 layers.
When the dough is prepared, cook it in the centre of the oven for 10‒13 minutes until the cake is golden and just turning brown. If you remove it too quickly, it will be difficult to remove from the paper and it won’t have the fullest taste. Remove from the oven and transfer the cake (with the paper) to a cooling rack. Repeat with the other layers.
Cool all the cake layers completely (will take about 1.5 h). Then peel off the paper, stack them, and trim the edges – this is easiest if you place a cake or tart bottom on top of the stack as a template. Put the cut off cake bits to the side.
Prepare the cream. Pour half the sour cream in a bowl and add the vanilla powder and jelly pieces and stir. Let sit for 30 minutes. During this time the cream will get thinner and sweeter, thanks the sugared edges of the jellies. With a mixer, whip the remaining sour cream for a minute, add to the jelly cream, and mix.
Place the first cake layer on a serving plate and spread some cream evenly across the top (make sure you don’t put too much in the centre so the finished cake doesn’t bulge in the middle). Place the next cake layer on top, and cover with cream. Repeat for the remaining layers. Spread cream on the top layer and the sides.
In a food processor or meat grinder, process the cake cut offs and sprinkle on the top and the sides of the case to cover completely. Let the cake rest in the fridge for at least 12 hours, but 24 is also good. Serve cold.
Recipe from my book "Time to cook"
Photo: Armands Meirans