If there is such a thing as a man’s man or a woman’s woman, well then, this is a cake’s cake.
“Love, Set, Match Milk & Honey Cake” is from the new cookbook, “Simple Cake: All You Need to Keep Your Friends and Family in Cake” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Odette Williams, a native Australian who now makes her home in Brooklyn, where she’s an apron designer.
The genius of this book is not only that the recipes are definitely simple, but encourages you to mix and match cakes with your choice of various frostings and fillings.
There are 10 basic cake recipes — all that you really need, Williams declares. That’s because each cake recipe provides suggestions on flavor variations and topping choices, not to mention baking directions for turning the recipe into cupcakes or mini Bundts or a square or rectangular cake instead of a round one.
For instance, you might want to make the “Cinnamon Spice Cake” into “Walnut Spice Cake” instead by adding toasted nuts. You might want to finish the cake simply by brushing on melted butter, then sprinkling on “Cinnamon Sugar.” Or you might want to do it up and serve the cake warm with “Caramel Sauce” and a scoop of walnut ice cream.
Since I adore the floral, nuanced taste of honey in baked goods, I couldn’t resist the recipe for “Milk and Honey Cake” that also has buttermilk in it for moistness. I used orange blossom honey, but you can use any that you like.
The batter gets baked in two round cake pans, which you should line with parchment, as the recipe instructs, so that they don’t over-brown due to the honey. For a little treat, you will get a lovely whiff of fragrant honey as you pull the finished cakes out of the oven.
Then, I followed the directions to turn it into the “Love, Set, Match” cake that is a play on a classic English Victorian sandwich as well as an homage to Wimbledon, where strawberries and cream are a tradition.
A big gob of honey-flavored whipped cream gets sandwiched in between the two rounds of cake. The directions say you might have leftover whipped cream. I didn’t because I took the liberty of smearing every last spoonful onto the cake because I just can’t help myself. The sides of the cake are left bare. But the top gets decked out in a pile of sliced fresh strawberries. I added some fresh sliced kumquats, too, just because I had some around. Then, the entire top of the cake gets dusted in powdered sugar.
That is indeed as simple as it gets. There’s no spun sugar, no Italian meringue, no fussy fondant flowers, just a fluffy, moist cake with old-fashioned goodness, fresh seasonal fruit, and sweet whipped cream — all singing blissfully of honey.
Nope, it’s not an easy cake to slice. The fruit will topple here and there, and some of the whipped cream might squish out. And if you refrigerate any leftovers, the cake texture will turn a little denser.
No matter. This cake is such a joy to dig a fork into no matter what time of day or night. It’s a cake’s cake all right.
Love, Set, Match Milk and Honey Cake
(Makes one 8-inch round layer cake)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, shake carton
3/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
For honey whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons honey
1 pound strawberries. larger berries halved or quartered OR a mix of strawberries and sliced, seeded kumquats
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter, line the bottom and sides of the pans with parchment paper, and grease the paper.
Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and sift.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Set aside.
In another small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, honey, and vanilla. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer with beaters or a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 to 45 seconds on medium speed, then gradually add the sugar. When all the sugar has been added, stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Continue beating n medium speed for another 4 minutes or until light in color and fluffy.
With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs 1 tablespoon at a time, over 3 minutes. If the batter curdles, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour to bind it back together.
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry and wet ingredients alternately two times, starting and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined and smooth. Don’t overbeat. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to make sure it’s well combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven on the same rack for 35 to 38 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed.
Remove the cakes from the oven and let them stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cakes to gently release. Peel off the parchment paper from the sides, invert the cakes, peel off the bottom piece of parchment, and cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the honey whipped cream: Pour the cream into a cold large metal bowl. Add the honey. Using a balloon whisk, begin to whisk the cream until it has doubled in volume, has smooth soft peaks, and is light and fluffy. (Or use a stand mixer instead.)
To assemble: Put oe of the cakes on a serving plate. Spoon the cream on top of the cake, keeping it 2 inches from the perimeter. Gently place the top layer of the cake onto the bottom layer. This will push the cream to the edges. To decorate, start with the whole strawberries and then pile on the halved and quartered pieces, and kumquats, if using, facing both cut side in and out at various angles. Finally, dust your masterpiece with confectioners’ sugar to bring out the shine and juices of the strawberries.
Store any leftover cake covered in the refrigerator.
Note: Because of the honey, make sure you line the bottom and sides of the pans with parchment paper to stop the exterior of the cake from taking on too much color and sticking to the sides, creating crumbly edges.
Adapted from “Simple Cake” by Odette Williams
More Honey Recipes: Double-Chocolate Honey Bread
And: Olivia’s Honey Pie