Sunday, March 31, 2019

Honeybee Bundt Cake

Hey, honey. 
Spring has sprung! In the spirit of starting things anew, I'm going to be trying something different this week.

A lot of food bloggers give you a really long anecdote or big history before the recipe when a lot of people just want to read the recipe. While I understand the reasoning behind all of this (nobody is going to want to read your writing unless you force them) I'm going to flip the narrative and give you the backstory of the ingredients and the reasoning for things after the recipe. Hopefully, this means you'll appreciate it so much that you'll continue to read all the way to the bottom. So, let's get on with it!

Honeybee Bundt Cake
yields 1 large bundt pan or 2 loaves
Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

Cake
  • 11.25 oz AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 fat pinch kosher salt
  • 7 oz vegan butter substitute, room temperature
  • 5.25 oz cane sugar
  • 4 oz pure honey ( Try Gerard'z Honeybees Star Thistle Honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 c almond milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp local bee pollen (available at most health food stores)
Glaze
  • 6 oz pure honey
  • 2 oz coconut sugar
  • 2 oz vegan butter
  • A fat pinch kosher salt
  • A big fat handful of walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds...whatever you have lying around, crushed
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and prep a large bundt pan with pan spray. I like the kind that already has flour in it, but if you don't have that then feel free to dust your pan with a little bit of flour, just so the cake has somewhere to climb and stick to without collapsing. That being said, this is a cake you can make the batter for in advance, let rest in the fridge, and then bake from cold when you're ready. Please plan accordingly, as this cake is best served just a little warm, with some homemade (n)ice cream (Try this one.).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Combine the almond milk and vinegar and allow to sit while you make the rest of the cake. Meanwhile, whip up the cane sugar, honey, and vegan butter with the whisk attachment of your standing mixer until really tall, light, fluffy, and homogeneous, which shouldn't take more than 2 minutes. It's quite important that everything is creamed and that the sugar is not visibly present. Whip in the vanilla paste for another 30 seconds, scrape, and add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, making sure to stop and scrape between this addition. This recipe is pretty high in fat, so it's important to make sure the eggs get in slowly. It also is imperative that everything is at room temperature for this one, otherwise the risk of the batter curdling is higher. I know it's annoying, but I assure you that it's worth it.

Are the eggs all in? Great! Scrape down and get ready. Spoon in about a third of the flour, and stir on low speed for 3 or 4 turns around the bowl. Add in half the milk and stir a little more, another 4 turns or so. Add in the second third of the flour, stir, and add the rest of the milk. Stir, add the final bit of the flour, and stir the rest of it by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping well, especially the bottom. Swirl in the bee pollen.



Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and spread it evenly all around. If your oven is not already hot, you may store it in the fridge until it has sufficiently reached its desired temperature. This particular cake actually does get a gorgeous crackly ridge if you do this, even moreso than if you bake it from room temperature, which is what you want. Either way, only stick this cake in the center rack of the oven to bake when it's sufficiently hot, and not a moment before.

Turn the heat down to 350 and bake for 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake is solid and springs back when gently touched. Meanwhile, make your glaze/syrup by combining the honey, vegan butter, coconut sugar, and a little salt, in a small saucepot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a light simmer and stir. It's going to take about 2 minutes for the sugar to fully dissolve once simmering, but please don't pull it off the heat until it's all done! Trust me on this. Take the time now to crush your nuts in a mortar and pestle, but only enough so that they're broken up into irregular pieces. Walnuts work great for this because they're so soft and fatty, but you can use any kind of nut you like. Pistachios look visually stunning, with their bright green!

Remove your cake from the oven, but keep the oven turned on. Poke your cake with either a wooden skewer or a chopstick, all the way down to the bottom. Please be generous, but don't put your holes too close together. Be sure to get a lot of them, as they'll be essential for this cake's flavor later! I use the metal chopsticks because there's a 100% guarantee of no bamboo skewer shavings getting into the cake.

Take your time with this step, and please make sure your glaze is warm and quite runny!
If your syrup/glaze has gone a little cool, heat it up again to where it's quite runny, and then pour about half of the glaze, slowly, into surface of the cake. Try to get it in the crags and holes as much as possible, so it's quite important that your cake and glaze are still warm. Take your crushed nuts and sprinkle them all over. Pop your cake in the oven for another 5 minutes, and then remove from the oven and cool on a rack, while still in the pan. This is the reason I didn't have you turn the oven off just now, and also the reason I didn't have you toast the nuts, so they won't burn.



Now, glaze the cake with the remainder or your syrup and let cool in the pan for an hour or so. This means that this cake is the absolute perfect cake to finish just before dinner so you can eat and then have dessert. It's only folksy in name but is quite impressive for a dinner party, especially with the right accompaniment.

To turn out, flip your cake upside down on a plate (not your presentation plate) and then flip your cake back over on your serving plate. You can garnish with fresh mint, if you like, or dust with powdered sugar...but I really like this cake exactly as it is.You can even reserve a couple of spoonfuls of glaze for your plating and drizzle it all over, letting it drip over the sides, creating a deliciously inviting presentation.

Did you like that recipe? Are you ready for the fun facts? Are you still with me? Great.

Put honey in your tea all spring instead of sugar. Trust me. 
Honey is a superfood and a dang miracle of nature. First, it never goes bad, not ever. There's honey in pots that are from ancient Egypt in sarcophagi that are still perfictly good and edible and haven't rotted or gone rancid. It captures, like a photograph or a painting, the taste of the earth, or terroir, of that region or season. It's an antiseptic (in survival-mode, you can use either pine sap or honey on small cuts in a pinch while you're running from zombies) and a great medicine for a sore throat or allergies. I could go on and on about honey and how important it is to get some in your diet. Yes, it's expensive, but you're going to use less of it than you're going to use sugar in many applications. Per one cup of sugar, you can use 2/3 c of honey when it comes to baking cakes and breads. Honey has complexities that sugar does not, and the fact that it's sustainable to boot doesn't hurt its argument by any means.

You'll notice that I put real honey in the recipe. A fair bit of honey on the cheaper side is made by thinning it out with karo or corn syrup. Unless you get it from a local farm/apiary, there's a good chance you might have a thinned out honey product, so make sure you look at your labels.

Do they look the same? Looks can be deceiving!
Gerard'z Honeybees is a really cool company with whom I partnered with for this post. I want to raise awareness on honey and the proper husbandry of bees. This is an ancient trade and we've been doing it since pretty much the dawn of civilization, unlike the manufacture of and the illegal trade and cartels of cane sugar. A lot of folks of the vegan persuasion - while well-intended - believe that taking honey from bees is harmful. There's a lot of evidence as to why this is untrue, but here are the bulletpoints you need to know:
  • Apiaries house hives and keep them healthy
  • Apiaries only take extra honey
    • If apiaries don't take the excess honey, there's a chance the colony will overcrowd or begin to swarm, and that's not what you want
  • When you have healthy bees, you have lots of food around as bees are pollinators
  • Farmers often have apiary plots rent-free for migrating beekeepers since they know they need the bees to pollinate their crops, which is good for everybody involved
  • Beeswax, a byproduct of most apiaries, can be used as a better alternative in candles, cosmetics, natural lip balms and lotions than say animal fat would be 
Taking honey from bees isn't harming these animals. The amount of agave we're all consuming, however, is harmful to a very specific kind of long-nosed bat that lives in the Southwest. We're taking their food supply, which sucks, because they're the pollinators out there, so please think twice before you buy agave. If you still have reservations with honey, please buy maple syrup, sorghum, or molasses instead. 

Let's touch on allergy relief one final time. A good reason to try local honey is that it not only supports your community, but also will help with your allergies. Since I live in Kansas City, I need to get honey that's from Kansas City, or at least within 100 miles of it. That means the bees are collecting pollen and nectar from flowers that are growing all around me, be they from trees or bushes or grasses or flowers. The point is that it's from the air that exists in the area that's making me sneeze, which is also why it's important to grab some local bee pollen while you're getting that.

You'll note that I called for an ingredient known as bee pollen, which some of you might not be aware of as a product you can buy. In short, bee pollen is the little yellow balls that you see on bees legs sometimes when you find one flying around. You can put it in cakes, sprinkle it on your cereal, stir it in your coffee, and more - but the reason that I personally want it around in spring is because it's the only allergy relief I can get without being put into a freaking coma. (Looking at you, benedryl.) Bee pollen is crunchy, tastes really floral, and dissolves into a powder if you crush it. They come in small bags and from most local herbal or healthfood shops. I am fortunate enough to get mine at the local organic grocery store! The reason I added bee pollen into this recipe was because the honey I got was not from around Kansas City, but from California.




Star Thistle Honey from Gerard'Z Honeybees 🐝 So I'm obsessed with honey. One of my favorite things about it is that no two batches will ever taste exactly the same, nor should they! This particular honey has a wonderfully bitter quality, almost medicinal, but it's fragrant, pungent and so unbelievably deep with a sour finish... it takes you on a wild ride! And before my #vegan friends get mad, let me assure you that taking honey from bees is hundo P okay 👌 . Beekeepers do everything they can to make sure that their babies are healthy and happy and always have enough food. The honey that they take is excess, and they never take so much honey that it would harm the hive. 🍯 besides, if we didn't have beekeepers, our bees would have a lot more trouble than they're already having. . . Honey it is a perfect food, that never goes bad, and is a really good antiseptic. 🙏🏻 Seriously! My mom puts honey over our minor cuts after washing them 😅 and nothing is better than hot tea with honey when you have a sore throat. 🍵 The best part? It helps with your allergies. Gerardz's is a feature for tomorrow's blog post! Stay tuned 😉 . . . . . #lfthx #gerardzhoneybees #honeytasting #gerardz #foodiechats #dairyfree #pareve #kosher #naturalfoods #KansasCity #california #honey #video #wannabgourmande #organicaid #savethebees #bees #nature @gerardzhoneybees
A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

For this particular honeybee cake, I used the Star Thistle Honey. I'm partnering with Gerard'z this week and they gave me the exclusive on this soon-to-be-available product. Of course, I had to get a jar of their wildflower, too. The Wildflower honey was mild and floral, but had a bright and pleasantly sour finish. The Star Thistle, however, might be my favorite honey, because of how incredibly complex it is. It starts off with a bitter taste, almost medicinal, before you get into the sweetness. It's got quite a lot of depth, like a good dark roast coffee, and then finishes bright and sweet. I thought it was perfect for this cake, so of course I had to use it. Message the site to get some for yourself!

You saw me use the term terroir earlier in this post. This term is usually found when describing wine. Terroir is "the taste of the land." This means that the grapes are affected by the land they're grown in, say if the earth the vines grow in are heavy with either clay or lime or something else. In truth, it's quite the same for bees, depending on what they can feed upon that year. This is why you can get such flavors as 'Wildflower honey', which have been harvested from bees that get their stuff from wildflowers. You can get 'Orange blossom honey' from bees that have their hive situated in a citrus grove. Gerard'z Honeybees, based in California, have a variety of flavors, such as raspberry, alfalfa, and more. I invite you to try them all!

I also invite you to plant local wildflowers and fall bulbs, to feed your local bees. Just think, you're helping shape 'wildflower honey' in your area! But please check with your local extension office to make sure you're not introducing an invasive species of flower to your region. Otherwise, you might do more harm than good!
Some seasons the honey will be a deep amber color. Sometimes the honey will turn purple, if the bees get into a blackberry farm. Honey can be a very light gold color, or in some cases can be almost clear and be tangy and sour. The beautiful thing about honey is how incredibly seasonal it is. You can quite literally taste the years go by or monitor how the years went if you were to look at it over time. My good friend David, whose mother is a beekeeper, remembers a single summer in which it was the best honey harvest of their lives in which the honey was especially perfect.

Please plant as many flowers as you can this year! And every year! All of these bees need food and so does your soul!
One more reason that I'm in love with honey is because it's a very old world way of eating. Ancient Egyptians were keeping bees and consuming honey, and the Aztecs have been keeping bees for a very long time as well. The wandering Jews of the tribes of Moses are promised "a land of milk and honey." You can find evidence of ancient apiaries in China, and even the indigenous peoples of Northern Americas got in on the party. You won't find cane sugar in traditional Russian or Lithuanian sweets, as honey reigns supreme. If you think about it, cane sugar as a concept is no older than a heartbeat in terms of how civilization came to be. So, really, let's look at going back to our roots in the culinary world and regain a taste for honey. It's fully sustainable, will be excellent for your health and for the environment in the long run, and is incredibly tasty!

Thanks so much for enduring this new format of posting. I'm trying to be conscious of my readers' experience and I hope you enjoyed learning, especially if you got this far. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Share this cake with a loved one. 

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