New Year’s resolutions are so yesterday. I mean, I really would appreciate it if everyone staggered the start of their resolutions so I could get mat space at yoga and a parking spot at the gym. Thanks! Just kidding…sort of (really, has anyone ever tried to get into a gym the second week of January? It’s like waiting in line for a newly released IPhone or IAnything). #developedworldproblems
Sidebar over. In all seriousness, I realize posting a recipe for this delicious, tempting, easy to make – yet impressive – cake is probably the worst idea on New Year’s Day. I certainly don’t want to derail anyone’s health resolutions. But thinking of my friends over in the long, dark winters of the Baltic region, I realize that sometimes, you just need a little cake to get through winter’s chill.
On my first morning in Latvia, I derailed my own health resolution to try a piece of mysterious cake at breakfast, which I later learned was medus kuka, or honey cake. The combination of dense, moist honey-accented cake and creamy filling was worth the calories. Though I sampled other versions of this honey cake, the hotel’s – with the telltale velvety richness of mascarpone – was the one to beat.
Once home, I was determined to recreate this cake. I scoured various Pinterest recipes, converted from metric to English units of measurement, and tinkered several times to produce the best version. Though you might be tempted to add spices or make substutions in the filling, I encourage you first to try it as is: rustic, yet elegant, drawing your focus to its pairing of honey with layers of smooth, creamy filling. Don’t get me started on this filling! It is so good that you’ll be wondering where it has been all of your life – even if it does involve sour cream (I know many of you might be sour cream haters).
And it’s so easy, even non-bakers can get it together. So give it a try, make it your own, and share your story! Untried suggestion: add nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice to the cake batter or 1-2 tbsp. liqueur to the filling)
Latvian Honey Cake
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup (8 fluid oz.) dark amber honey
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3 cups all-purpose (or white whole wheat) flour
- 16 oz. sour cream
- 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and crushed into crumbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 365 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large jelly roll pan (essentially a cookie sheet with raised edges) with parchment paper. Set aside.
Beat all three eggs in a large mixing bowl [either manually with a whisk or electric mixer] until frothy. Gradually beat or whisk in honey gradually, followed by the sugar, salt, and baking powder. Sift the flour into the mixture and mix thoroughly. Gently pour the thick batter onto the parchment paper; moving methodically from one end to the other, top to bottom will help distribute the batter evenly, since it is a bit difficult to manipulate once on the tray. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly risen, brown, and springy to the touch.
While the cake is baking, make the filling: in a medium mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla extract until the sugar has dissolved.
Once the cake has baked, set it aside to cool. To cool more quickly and allow for easy cake assembly, set the baking tray in the freezer for about 10 minutes. The cake should be slightly cool to the touch. Separate the tray from the cake and parchment paper. Evenly divide and cut the cake crosswise into four sections of equal size (you may want to use measuring tape instead of eyeballing it).
Carefully remove and flip (invert) one end section of the cake from the parchment onto a serving plate (bottom side up). Spread a thick layer of the filling atop the cake. Optional: sprinkle the toasted walnut crumbs on top of the filling. Next, remove and flip a second section of the cake from the parchment and atop the first layer of filling. Trim any uneven edges as needed. Again, spread another layer of filling, and, if desired, walnuts, on top of this layer. Repeat again with the third and fourth layers, leaving the top unfrosted. You may wish to frost the entire sides of the cake or leave unfrosted.
Cover and chill overnight to set before serving. The cake also freezes well in advance of serving.