_ While I was working the counter at Amy’s Bread my first year in New York, I caught one of our bakers headed down to the basement with a bottle of whiskey in her hand. I couldn’t blame her – it had been a really busy week. I gave her an understanding smile, but she insisted that she needed the whiskey for a recipe. That’s when I discovered why I liked the honey cake so much. This cake is a combination of some of my favorite flavors – whiskey, coffee, almonds, and honey. We served it at the bakery around Yom Kippur, but I think of it as a good cake for any holiday – St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps?
_ I was sad that the recipe was not included in the Amy’s Bread cookbook – The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread – but they kindly agreed to share the recipe with me. This recipe is based on their recipe – I had to convert it from grams to cups and from convection oven to regular oven and from paper baking pans to metal pans, so it is almost their cake. The cooking times are somewhat approximate because each one that I have made so far seems to be done at a different time.
For the whiskey I used some of the Kings County Distillery bourbon I just got. And before you throw your virtual shoes at me for using good whiskey in a recipe, here’s how I approach it:
· I was taught to always use good ingredients – the best available – for baking.
· Most recipes don’t call for much whiskey, so who wants to go buy a bottle of something they don’t want a bottle of if all they need is a ¼ cup?
· And – most importantly – it’s nice to sip on the whiskey while cooking, so I want something I feel like sipping.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
5 eggs yolks – save the whites for later
¾ cup sugar
Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick (5-7 minutes).
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
(a little less than) 1 cup honey
4 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon brewed coffee (I used extremely strong coffee, but you can also add ½ teaspoon of instant coffee to basic brewed coffee)
1 ½ teaspoon tightly packed lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (this is a little tough to find, but specialty kitchen stores – like Brooklyn Kitchen – have it)
2 Tablespoons bourbon
Combine the liquids and flavorings and gradually add to egg mixture.
Gently fold in dry ingredients, in 3 batches, just until incorporated.
5 egg whites
Pinch of salt
Beat whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold ¼ into batter.
Add remaining whites, gently folding until just incorporated.
This will make enough for 2 9-inch cake pans. Sprinkle the top with sliced almonds.
Bake for 7 minutes, rotate, bake 7 more minutes, rotate again, bake 5-10 more until set and browned and cake springs back when lightly pressed.
Toy, pastry goddess over at Amy’s Bread, gave this good advice: “One tip on the honey cake - don't overcook it - it gets dry and tasteless faster than most cakes. A few moist crumbs left on a test toothpick, rather than a clean pick, means it's time to take it out.”