August 23rd, 2012

A (Very) Local Honey Cake


Our friend Jennifer Barrie has been almost as busy as her bees.

This is the first year that she’s had success: her hives holding frame after frame of cured-and-capped honey. Fortitude and backbone are beekeeper requirements. It takes a full cycle of the seasons–sometimes longer— for a colony to build a large enough population to create a honey surplus, fit for harvest.

Time and weather, pollen and patience all worked in Jen’s favor. She’s extracted copious quarts of light amber honey from her backyard hives–enough to sell.

I was excited to purchase a jar, and couldn’t wait to taste it: the closest to home honey I’ve ever had.


What a revelation! There was a flower garden in that spoonful of honey.

I swirled some into plain Greek yogurt.
Bill and I slathered more onto thick slices of toasted sourdough, letting it seep into that hole-riddled bread.


Next, I wanted to cook with it, bake it into a simple cake to highlight its floral sweetness.


What I came up with was a humble one-layer cake.
It incorporates the honey with restraint.
Caramel-browned butter deepens that flavor.
Fresh thyme leaves add an herbal undercurrent that seems right with Jen’s floral-forward nectar.

Not-too-sweet, it’s the sort of cake that you’d enjoy with a cup of hot tea or coffee.


Although you’d be proud to serve it to guests, sidled by a scoop of ice cream
I’m thinking Strawberry, Orange, French Vanilla,
or fresh fruit.
such as Peaches, a scatter of Blueberries,


I could have left the cake plain, or brushed it with a glaze of citrus and honey.

Instead, I whipped up a basic frosting–just butter, cream cheese, and honey. I split the single baked layer after it cooled, and spread it over the moist and fragrant crumb. I finished it with a top coat, strewn with pistachios.


Jen told me that she’s just extracted a new batch. This time, it is deep yellow-gold in color. It all depends on what is blooming in the summer cycle. I’m anxious to sample this honey, and compare the differences in taste.

Meanwhile, a piece of delectable, very local honey cake awaits—I’d love it if you’d stop by for a slice.



1 cup Brown Butter (slowly cook butter in a skillet on medium heat, occasionally stirring, until solids becomes toasty brown)
1 T. fresh Thyme leaves
1 cup Honey
2 1/2 c. All Purpose Flour
2 t. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt
1 cup Milk
Juice from 1 Lemon (about 2 T.)
1 T. Vanilla
3 Eggs

equipment: stand or hand-held mixer, 9″ cake pan

Toss thyme leaves into warm brown butter.
Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt together in a separate bowl.
Place lemon juice and vanilla into the cup of milk and stir. Let it stand and lightly thicken/curdle.
When butter is cooled, pour it into a mixing bowl and beat in the honey.
Beat in milk mixture.
Beat in flour mixture.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Pour batter into prepared 9″ cake pan. (bottom lined with parchment, sides and bottom coated with baking spray)

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

4 oz. (1 stick) Butter, softened
8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
3-4 T. Honey
1/2 cup Pistachios–coarsely chopped to garnish

Beat the softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth.
Beat in the honey, one tablespoon at a time. Mixture will be creamy smooth, and somewhat fluffy.

Spread onto split layer and top. Garnish with chopped pistachios.

Serves 10-12

Posted in Desserts, Recipes

28 Responses to “A (Very) Local Honey Cake”
  1. Tracy Says:

    Beautiful. I was captivated reading every word. On toast. A cake.

  2. Beth Says:

    I want to come over right now for a piece! Thanks for yet another great post.

  3. amanda Says:

    i want it all – the cake, the honey, the company. beautiful post.

  4. rach Says:

    I know a beekeeper – backbone and fortitude, that is so true. The cake looks and sounds just lovely, my sort of cake and so properly pretty (but not twee or sickly looking the curse of so-many-a-cake). I really like the inclusion of thyme.

  5. ernestine lawson Says:

    I love this
    looks so good, and
    can’t wait to bake.
    When I lived in Sylvan Park
    3 years ago
    a neighbor had hives in her backyard.
    I was so thrilled when I made this discovery
    as I had just located there
    from my country home.
    Now I am back in the country
    where I belong :)
    Thank you for the recipe….

  6. Kath Says:

    Ooh how lovely, I wish I could come by for a slice. I really like the use of the browned butter I must try that.

  7. Nancy "M" Says:

    This cake sounds delicious! I have a friend who gives us honey from their hives when they have a good year! I am always anxious to recieve it for to me that is a precious gift.
    Glad to get this recipe and I’m going to share it with her; not just the recipe but a cake to go with it as a surprise!!!
    Nancy “M”

  8. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Nancy “M”–what a nice surprise that would be.

    I think that all of us who have had the experience of getting honey from a beekeeper we know understand the prize that we have, the gift of the labor–by both the bees and the keeper.

  9. Tammy Says:

    Nancy, it turned out so elegant! I love it. And you’ve inspired me to try to find my closest honey.

  10. Maggie Says:

    Nance, now this is my kind of cake! I want a piece right now!

  11. fluffy Says:

    I know only one honey sweeter…

  12. Gg Says:

    Nancy this is so subtle and beautiful! You have such good taste!

  13. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    This cake was anything but humble! It was probably my favorite thing at the past pot luck. The right amount of every ingredient created a dense, moist cake that was sublime. I love that you used very, very local honey. Beautiful photos as well my friend.

  14. Christine Cunningham Says:

    This sounds so scrumptious my mouth is already watering! I can’t wait to try it out.

  15. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Gorgeous cake! I love the thin layers, the pistachios. Fabulous. I’ve never thought about what makes honey the color it is. It seems it’s similar to chickens and egg yolk color. It all depends on the diet. There’s always more to learn… Thanks, Nancy.

  16. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    oh i have been watching to much winnie the poo and tigger movies lately because the first thing I thought when I saw this post was Pooh Bear and his honey jar! LOL! I LOVE HONEY! Love it in and on everything and this cakes looks amazing. Mouthwatering and so moist I can just taste it

  17. amelia from z tasty life Says:

    i have a neighbor that grow bees too and makes honey: it is a wonderful thing to do. Like you I like a spoonful of honey on my (Greek) yogurt in the morning. And a spoonful in my night tisane. This cake is wonderful… humble and simple are always my preference. The brown butter must add a nice nuttiness.

  18. Debbie Macy Says:

    I borrowed your Local Honey Cake Recipe. I can’t wait to try it. I have honey bees and am always looking for some recipes to use it in. Thanks!

  19. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Debbie–I hope you enjoy it. I’m sure it will be delicious made with your own honey.

  20. Juliana Says:

    Wow Nancy, this cake sounds and looks amazing…like the honey in the cake and frosting…and brown butter, can only imagine the taste of it…wow, wow and wow.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe and hope you are enjoying your week :)

  21. Faith Says:

    Local honey is absolutely incredible…after having it, nothing else will do! Supposedly it’s good for alleviating allergies so that’s an added bonus. :)

    Your cake is gorgeous!

  22. Beth Says:

    What a lovely cake! I tried artisan honey for the first time this year, and it was just wonderful. How lucky you are to have a friend who makes it!

  23. Weekend Reading – Deeply Rooted and More « Agrigirl's Blog Says:

    [...] My friend, Nancy Vienneau, food writer for the Tennessean, offers up some wonderful words about honey bees and a very local honey cake. [...]

  24. Amy (Savory Moments) Says:

    Oh my – this cake looks so wonderful. What a delicious treat with the lovely local honey. Yum!

  25. Susan Dewey Says:

    We are beekeepers so our honey WAS very local. We are always on the lookout for a good honey cake recipe. I’ve made this for my spinning group – substituting (because of an ingredient dearth) mint leaves for the thyme and lime for the lemon. Delish! Thank you so much.

  26. goodfoodmatters Says:

    HI Susan—Your substitutions sound terrific. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the recipe. Thanks for sharing! And thanks for Beekeeping. Nancy

  27. Buckwheat Honey Cake with Honey Buttercream Frosting » Honey Like No One Else Says:

    [...] nicely with the punch the Buckwheat gives the cake itself. The batter I used I got from the blog, Good Food Matters (I couldn’t agree more!). The butter cream frosting recipe I discovered at the site, [...]

  28. Jenn the Greenmom Says:

    My parents used to keep bees…it was so amazing how the honey changed from year to year. After a while we could even identify it by “vintage”–there was the year when the tulip poplars were really strong, and the honey was dark and really rich, and the other year when it was all about clover and honeysuckle, and so on…I can’t wait to try making this cake.

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