St David’s Day Teisennau Mel (Welsh honey cakes)

Thank goodness for ‘mel’ – the apparently pronounceable conclusion in the bewildering nectar flow of this multi-syllabic Welsh recipe. I still don’t know how to pronounce teisennau a shame as it means that when I go to a Welsh bakery I’ll be unable to ask for one of these cakes), but mel must be sister to French miel, cousin to Serbian med, long lost relative of Albanian mjalte. And these are fabulous honey cakes in any language.

I have no leeks, daffodils, dragons or rugby players in my house today to celebrate Wales’ patron saint’s day, but I’m happy to show my solidarity through these baked treats. They’re made in muffin tins but they’re as dark as parkin, as sticky as gingerbread.  I’ll be making them again, though I’ll try amending the recipe I used this evening as it seemed unnecessarily complicated – the American approach to combining flour, sugar and butter, by melting it the fat then adding to the dry goods seems like it would be quicker than this creaming (and the mild muffin rebel in me wants to see if it’s really necessary to separate the egg and whisk the white till stiff; I’ve ignored this over-elaborate element of muffin recipes before and had no problems).

Mwynhewch eich bwyd!


0.5 cup butter

0.5 cup brown sugar

1 egg, separated

0.5 cup honey

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

0.5 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

0.25 cup milk

icing sugar


Grease muffin tins (not forgetting to grease around the top where the ‘muffin tops’ will easily stick). Cream the butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg yolk and honey gradually. Combine flour with cinnamon and bicarb of soda; add to butter mixture, alternating with milk. Beat egg white until stiff and fold into batter. Fill muffin tins less than halfway and sprinkle icing sugar on top. Bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Top cakes with more icing sugar if desired.

This is my adaptation of the recipe in Honey, I’m Homemade, edited by May Berenbaum.


For more adventures in honey producing and honey-eating, see my book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published by Signal Books (2011) and available through bookshops and on Amazon.

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5 Responses to St David’s Day Teisennau Mel (Welsh honey cakes)

  1. Oh, I can help here! Tiessenau should be pronounced more or less as it looks, sans diphthong: ti-es-sen-nau (naa-ee) mel. It means also what it should mean according to its title–honey cakes. Tiessenau is the plural form of tiessen, ‘cake’ (-au is a commonly-used Welsh plural ending), and, of course, mel is ‘honey’. My hypothesis is that, etymologically, mel is a remnant of the Roman take-over in Great Britain (as might be, most likely, French miel), mel being both Latin and Welsh for ‘honey’, both of which appear to be related to (if not directly derived from) Greek meli, perhaps both from PIE *melit- ‘honey’. I do hope that this has helped. Diolch yn fawr! This recipe sounds very, very tasty!

  2. Pingback: The ten best recipes to make with honey? | One hundred days of honey

  3. Rhobat Bryn Jones says:

    I’ve noticed a number of websites, including this one, which mis-spells the Welsh word for cakes. the word is spelt “teisen”; ei is a common dipthong and there is no such thing as a double s in Welsh. Only ‘n’ and ‘r’ double up. So the correct spelling is teisennau although the alternative plurals of teisenni and teisennod are also available.

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