I loved every minute of making this cake – beginning with the indulgence of a recipe which starts with blending warm milk, honey and butter. I used to like ‘milk and honey’ as the description of a land of luxury, until I moved to Kosovo and discovered the Albanian expression which goes one better – ‘ajke e mjalte’ or ‘cream and honey’. But this recipe takes the idea to its extreme of fat content and I stood at the hob happily stirring the swirling outlines of some other promised land in the steaming pan of butter and honey.
Next you sift the flour with the powder ingredients – first the smoky trails as the flour tumbles through the sieve, then the mixing of my favourite spices and the pounding of cloves like a whisper of magic Christmas breath in my cake.
As it baked, the house filled with the spectacular scent but I can’t pretend that the best bit wasn’t once it was out of the oven and cut into slices.
It’s not as dark and sticky as the shop-bought pain d’epices I’ve eaten, and next time I would use a sweeter honey than the apple blossom honey I tried it with today, but this is a great cake – or bread; I tried a piece with butter and even, as a late-night nibble, with cheese.
0.75 cup milk
0.75 cup honey
3 cups flour
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
0.5 tsp ginger
0.25 tsp allspice
0.25 tsp ground cloves
1 egg, lightly beaten
Heat the milk in a small saucepan until warm to the touch. Add the honey and stir until blended. Stir in the butter until it is completely melted. Remove from the heat and cool until just warm.
In a large mixing bow, sift the flour with the sugar, baking powder and spices. Stir in the cooled milk mixture and egg; mix until well blended.
Butter and flour a loaf pan. Spread dough in the pan and bake at 170 degrees for 50 mins.
For more honey recipes and adventures, read my book, Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo, published last year with Signal Books