Magic Class 101: The Dietary Habits of Characters of Fantasy Literature (Honey Cake.)
“At the signal to begin, they fell to with their chopsticks, like a whirlwind scattering wisps of cloud.”
-The Scholars, Wu Ching Tzu
I first heard of honey cake during my middle school years, when I became epically interested in the fantasy epics of Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time. Amidst the grand journeys and magic and wise women and men, warriors with swords and color-shifting cloaks, the wild, untouched scenery of fantastical locations of river and mountain and untouched grasslands hiding secret creatures, there was–wouldn’t you know it–food.
And lots of it. Simple, plain fare romanticized: rabbits roasted over an open fire or, for example, “the tang of cheese”, which I remember reading in The Eye of the World, and which was my cue to promptly afterward begin trying cheeses (I didn’t eat cheese growing up). So yes, I have fantasy novels to thank for my cheese predilection. But also–and more importantly–honeycakes.
I remember Gimli saying that the lembas of the Elves were better than the honeycakes back home, and the protagonists of the Wheel of Time juggling hot honeycakes as they did chores in their simple farming village. Honey cakes? Honey cakes. I wanted to try honey cakes. I never had honey with anything, because as far as I know traditional Asian households use honey pretty much never, but my fantasy reading made me really, really want to try these intriguing desserts of the fantasy realm.
And that first honey cake–I made it with orange juice and honey and it was ridiculously easy, I remember–was really good.
So I still never have honey by itself. But now honey cake–whether or not it’s what fantasy authors envisioned as they penned the food of their worlds–is a much loved recipe of my baking repertoire. And with autumn’s warm fire dwindling and the air growing snappy, the wind ominously strong, and the atmosphere around me wetter and colder, the soft and mellow sweetness of honey really hits the spot, in a way that all the butter and granulated sugar in the world can’t.
As with most of my baked goods, this cake is very easy and quick to assemble, with easy-to-find ingredients. I still don’t have any sort of mixer at my apartment, so it’s been old fashioned baking with a bowl and a sturdy spoon. While this can get frustrating and lead to under-mixing or butter and sugar that aren’t creamed properly, here it didn’t make a difference. I’d been having a lot of trouble with my baked goods not rising, but this cake rose absolutely beautifully, and the inside was a coarse crumb the perfect balance between dense and airy.
recipe taken from here.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup honey
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup warm black tea
Put the oven rack in middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter an 8 or 9 inch square cake pan. In a large bowl, gently whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Mix the softened butter and brown sugar together with a wooden spoon until fluffy. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the honey, yogurt, and tea and mix until combined.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until everything is combined. Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before attempting to remove the cake.
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