This cake is one of my favorite treats to bake in the spring, when fresh lemons pop up in farmers markets and backyards all across Southern California. I sweeten it with honey from the beehives that apiarist Billy Williams keeps all around the ranch, which makes the cake sweet and fragrant and gives it a hearty, dense texture. Lastly, I glaze it with a simple mix of sugar and lemon juice and decorate it with golden bee pollen and the blossoms from the sage plants in our kitchen garden, which put up gorgeous purple flowers every spring.
Honey Lemon Cake
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for the baking pan
- 1 tablespoon dried bee pollen
- Sage blossoms or other edible flowers, for decorations
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and mix it with the baking powder and salt; set the bowl aside. Put the butter and eggs into a large bowl and beat them with a hand mixer until the butter is whipped and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients together in a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment.) Add the milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and beat until well mixed.
Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and beat it into the wet ingredients until just incorporated; scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula, then repeat the process two more times to use all of the remaining flour mixture. Slowly pour the honey into the batter, and gently mix and fold it in until it is thoroughly incorporated.
Using a paper towel, spread the oil into an 8-inch round cake pan, making sure to cover the bottom and sides well. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
When the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then flip it onto a cooling rack, and let it continue cooling upside down. (Using the bottom of the cake as the top will give it a nice, flat surface.)
While the cake is cooling, make the glaze (see recipe below). With the cake still on the baking rack, gently pour the glaze onto it, so that it sits on top of the cake and drips naturally over the sides, then transfer the cake to a serving plate.
Crush the bee pollen with a mortar and pestle until it becomes a fine powder, and scatter big pinches of it onto the glaze. Arrange the sage blossoms or other edible flowers around the edges of the cake.
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sift the powdered sugar to remove any lumps, then drizzle in the lemon juice, beating the mixture slowly with a whisk, until the mixture is fluid and drips easily.
Using fresh flowers is an easy, beautiful way to decorate a cake, and it also lets you hide any imperfections or mistakes.
This recipe was featured on Episode 102 of Ranch To Table on Magnolia Network.
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Photos: Jeff Young (bee shots), Brian Skope (kitchen shots)