I first heard about baker, food photographer and fellow Georgian Hannah Queen, of Honey and Jam, a couple years ago after stumbling upon this recipe. Her unique recipes combining distinct flavors have kept me busy in the kitchen and I was thrilled to get a hold of her first (and hopefully not her last!) cook book, Honey and Jam: Seasonal Baking from My Kitchen in the Mountains.
This may be my favorite cook book EVER. The beautiful photographs make the recipes even more appealing and I especially love that the recipes are divided by season. She offers a seasonal produce guide followed by a list of pantry staples, supplies and techniques.
The first recipe that made my jaw drop was this Honeysuckle Breeze Cake. We are in the height of honeysuckle season at the moment and there is nothing like the aroma in the air when passing by a wild honeysuckle vine. The scent just takes me back to my childhood, wearing K-Mart jelly shoes, band-aids over mosquito bites, plucking those yellow and white flowers from the vine to get that single drop of honey on my tongue!
While I truly enjoy cooking, baking is mostly reserved for special occasions. There is a certain amount of preparation required for baking that I am usually not excited about.
This recipe found its way to me at the perfect time: my dad-in-law’s birthday and Cinco de Mayo were the perfect reasons to bake a cake.
My gal Haven helped me pick four cups of honeysuckle blossoms so we could start prepping the day before.
I just realized she had me paint her nails to match her dress. That gal – she’s a planner!
She didn’t understand why we were collecting the flowers instead of sucking out all that sweet nectar. I was like, “Take a chill pill. It’s only four cups, you can have the rest.”
(Okay, I didn’t actually say “take a chill pill”, but I remember my mom saying it to me when I was little and so now I think I’m bringing that saying back!)
This is a close up. I should’ve given you a full view of this patch next to garden. There’s no shortage of wild honeysuckle around here so what we collected didn’t put a dent in our supply.
I put the four cups honeysuckle in a bowl and poured just enough boiling water over the flowers to cover them all. After the bowl cooled, I placed it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, I took the lid off the bowl and found the flowers had gotten all brown but it’s cool because the recipe warned me they’d look gross but smell amazing.
I strained all the liquid into a bowl and tossed the now grody-looking blossoms. (hmmm… grody, that’s another great 80’s saying to bring back. I’m gonna get all Valley Girl and figure out a way to slide “Like, gag me with a spoon!” into this post).
That strained liquid is now our honeysuckle water. Go ahead and measure out a 1/2 cup of it and set it to the side; it’s reserved for our cake! The rest of the honeysuckle water is going in a saucepan to boil. The recipe says to add 1 cup of sugar per cup of honeysuckle water. I had 1 cup exactly so I added 1 cup sugar. I brought it to a boil and simmered it until the sugar was completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. We now have our cup of honeysuckle syrup for the frosting!
Now it’s time to make our cake! Preheat your oven to 350(F) and butter two 8 inch round cake pans. (The original recipe calls for two 6 inch round cake pans but I used 8 inch and they turned out just fine!)
Here’s what we need:
- 1 and 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 whole large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup reserved honeysuckle water
We’re going to whisk together our all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl we’ll cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (usually takes about 4 minutes with an old hand mixer with paddle attachment).
To the creamed butter and sugar, add the whole eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides after each. Next add the egg yolks one at a time.
Stir in the vanilla extract.
In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and reserved honeysuckle water.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and milk mixture to the egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
Divide batter evenly between the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Allow the layers to cool a few minutes before removing them from the cake pans.
Your layers should look like this (you may or may not have a 2 year old’s hand poking yours, so that result may vary).
I adapted the recipe (gasp!) for the frosting.
I went with a simple vanilla frosting recipe and added the honeysuckle syrup. This frosting recipe makes 4 1/2 cups so I had enough to frost the cake and enough leftover to frost another cake or 12 cupcakes, so I froze the remainder for a future baking day.
Here’s what you need for the frosting:
- 1 1/2 cups cold butter
- 5 cups powdered sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup honeysuckle syrup
Cut the butter into pieces and whip with a mixer with paddle attachment for about 5 minutes.
(While whipping the butter, bring your honeysuckle syrup to a rolling boil on the stovetop.)
Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar to the butter and mix on low speed until incorporated.
Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix.
Add 2 additional cups of powdered sugar, mixing at low speed until combined.
Slowly add in your boiling honeysuckle syrup and mix on high speed for 3-5 minutes until it begins to cool.
Add final cup of powdered sugar, the heavy whipping cream, and final 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat on low for a couple minutes so everything begins to mix well. Increase mixer to high speed for about 5 minutes to make your frosting light and fluffy.
I let my frosting set in the fridge for about 30 minutes before I assembled the cake.
To assemble the cake:
Place a cake layer on a plate and spread frosting over the top. Cover with the remaining cake layer and add (smother!) frosting all over the outside. (Place any remaining frosting in the fridge for up to two days or freeze it for a future baking day)
This cook book has a permanent place on my kitchen bookshelf. It’s filled with savory seasonal recipes perfect for baking both on special occasions or simply because it happens to be a hot summer day and you have an endless supply of blackberries for a blackberry-thyme cake. Ahhhh, I’m looking forward to that day in July!
If you’d like to see the full original recipe for Honeysuckle Breeze Cake, please check out Hannah Queen’s Honey & Jam!