Cake Project: High-Fat Honey Almond Flour Cake Recipe
My close friend Aya Katz, is having some ladies over for a group meeting, so it’s her turn to serve some goodies. Her diet is a bit specific, so since she would prefer not to alter her current dietary foods, we thought why not make a specialty cake. There must be a perfect recipe online for a cake that is high in fats and uses mostly animal based products and byproducts (so no sugar, just honey), and which does not require egg whites (with a bit of a treat using almond flour because of it’s high fat content). Easy peasy, right? Um, no, we were a bit wrong.
NOTE: This article is a work in progress made public for our testers while I work on this and other articles that will be created from it. Stay tuned. Also Sunday, October 4th Livestream with Aya Katz and Julia Hanna showcased this recipe in cupcake form and the Vegan version. Excitement! Thank you.
It took some trial and error to get a recipe for this type of almond cake that worked when there was so much fat, no egg white, no starches, and to have to replace sugar with honey (which while honey is overall higher in carbs than regular sugar, because it’s a wet not dry ingredient we were able to ultimately use less, (but the difference in carbs ended up being minuscule really, just fyi). All these factors ultimately affect the success of a fluffy sponge. Working with one substitution is easier than working with many. But I was up for the challenge.
I will say this is a cake that will love you sooo much if you love it back by giving time and care to each step. I learned that the hard way. But I learned.
My fourth almond and honey cake test was a fairly good success, especially when compared to its predecessors. It has the stability we were hoping for, it’s moist and spongy, it’s kinda like really really soft cornbread but not. Carrot cake, but not. Like a yellow sponge that was in the oven a bit too long initially and then softening as the days went by as opposed to drying out (this was a major plus).
After Aya’s first test of this, she said it was delicate like an Ezekiel bread. Flavor is fairly simple. I personally really would have liked to taste a stronger honey flavor in the sponge like in the first test cake (which turned out horrendously by the way stability wise). For this fourth cake I noticed each ingredient’s flavor separately, especially the next day. This is probably a cake you’d want to use your best ingredients in to really showcase the flavors and textures they have to offer. And this is also a cake you may want a really flavorful buttercream or a honey and spice drizzle for; or you could add a pow of flavor into the batter somehow and top off with a honey buttercream or creme pat or custard.
So bake 4 of this almond cake is presented. With a lot of information. So if you’re new to the world of baking in general or cooking with almond flour or honey, this recipe should cover all your questions. But you could always ask in the comments section below. Let us know how it goes for you and if you have any tips you’d like to share about this recipe.
Before you begin: If your mouth, lips, or ears have recently had any tickling or itching after eating a few almonds, I don’t suggest eating this cake plain. This means you might have some sort of sensitivity to almonds that could give you an allergic reaction of some sort if too much is ingested at once. This did happen to me after eating a whole slice of this cake. I had to take a benadryl.
HOWEVER, when i poured a syrup of honey, cinnamon, clove, and brandy on it a few days later, i was absolutely a.o.k. and was able to digest perfectly. The syrup does have a lot of honey, so perhaps my body was happy because of the medicinal properties in honey, which act as a natural anti inflammatory, antibiotic, and digestive aid. Whatever the reason, that addition worked for me, but it may not work for you.
Do not give honey to children under two.
The Almond Cake Recipe
1 Stick butter (8T) salted or unsalted
1/2 c honey
3 1/2 t baking soda (1/4 t baking soda for honey, 1/4 t for yolks and cream, 3 for almond flour)
6 egg yolks
1/2 c full fat whipping cream
3 c almond flour, blanched, fine
*T=Tablespoon, t=teaspoon, c=cup
wet and dry ingredient measuring cups
3-4 medium to large metal or glass bowls for mixing, and sifting in 3 parts. If you have to reuse bowls, take out the part you finished very carefully keeping the air and softness in tact and put in a different container; then wash your bowl very well and dry super duper well before mixing the next ingredients.
mixer hand held or stand with both paddle and whisk attachment (please make sure you wash and dry your attachments thoroughly between mixtures, this is extremely important until you get to the final combining of all the mixes into one batter.
knife or spoon for butter
deep baking or roasting pan for your bain marie
1 nine inch baking round
Preheat oven to bake 325F (not convection, just regular bake, convection has so far been a disaster for this recipe. So please don’t preheat to 300 convection — note that if you’re using convection in any recipe, it’s 25 F degrees lower than the recipe calls for.)
Get your bain marie ready. Use a roasting pan with deep sides that will fit your cake or cupcake tin inside of it nicely with some extra space on the sides. Place your tin in your roasting pan, and fill the roasting pan with water (cold from the sink like I did, or up to a boil from the stovetop or a little of both) to about 3/4 of the way up the wall of your tin. Take out your tin, dry it, set it aside and place your bain marie on the middle rack or your preheating oven so that it heats up or cools down with the oven. If you choose not to use a bain marie, skip this step.
Cut up 1 stick of butter from the fridge into workable pieces (about a tablespoon, or more or less, sized pieces; but it’s your choice really) and toss them into your bowl, glass or metal, not plastic. Whip on high speed with a paddle attachment preferably. I have a stand mixer so I can work on other things while a machine is doing it’s job, but a hand mixer is just fine. Because most hand-held mixers have flat edges to their attachments they work just fine as a dual whisk/paddle. If doing by hand, use a tough spatula or a wooden cooking spoon. Cream fast with that spoon or on high with your mixer until butter is really light colored and it’s creamy and fluffy and doesn’t look like it could go back to butter anymore. It should look like whipped spreading butter you can buy in the round containers. You’ll notice the puff and lightness. (It would have been helpful if I took a picture of this, at some point here I will.) When you start thinking it’s done, chances are you could go a bit further, but when you start thinking it might be ready, then it’s time to add the honey. (See the difference in thought?) It’s okay to stop the creaming process at this point if you need to take a breather or get your honey ready.
Grease your measuring cup with water, oil, butter, lard, cooking spray or whatever works best for you, before filling with 1/2 c honey, topped with 1/4 t baking soda right in the center . You just have to make sure there isn’t a bulky residue of it that will fall out with the honey because that could effect the process. For greasing my measuring cup for the honey, I tried oil and butter and neither worked that great so I just added a bit more honey into the greased measuring cup I was using to accommodate for the amount that I wouldn’t be able to get out easily. Just look at the measuring lines on the side and you’ll be able to tell how much went in.
Keep or turn your mixer back on high speed while drizzling in honey. The baking soda on the top will slide into the whipped butter and incorporate just fine. You can pause the drizzling if you think your butter and honey mixture need more time together before adding more. You don’t want to overburden your creamed butter with too much liquid. You don’t want your creamed mixture to break or deflate any more than it has to. The butter and honey MUST be totally incorporated and as one. You do not want to see the honey in the final product. You don’t want to see too much honey while you’re creaming the two. You do not want to see any honey droplets or streaks, and no separation when you stop the creaming process and set it aside. It should look just as is did when it was just the butter but more fluffy. It shouldn’t be quite shiny or you’ve added too much honey overall, assuming you mixed the crap out of it. Trust me it is better to start over from scratch and keep trying until you’re confident, than to try to keep going when it’s not right, because it WILL affect the outcome of the cake and not in a positive way. (“Oh, my!” and positive aren’t the same.) Once you’re sure it’s whipped to perfection, go ahead and put it in your fridge to keep cool.
Separate your 6 yolks and place the yolks into a new glass or mixing bowl. Whisk on medium high until they are lighter in color and they have the texture and consistency of a thick custard or the center of a room temperature Cadbury egg. When you stop your mixer and lift up, the peaks shouldn’t want to drip back into the bowl. The size should have doubled. So don’t stop until this happens.
To your creamed yolks, slowly drizzle in your whipping cream. Don’t let your whipping cream take over the egg yolks. Once incorporated keep whisking. The whipping cream will grow and fluff, adding to the yolk thickness, and make peaks as it would on its own. Sprinkle in 1/4t baking soda at any point during the adding of the whipping cream. Don’t overwork, but time should be given for this transformation. The peaks should be the same as they were for just the yolks, stiff but soft all over. Set this mixture aside.
In a large bowl, use a fork or a hand whisk to blend your 3 cups almond flour and 3 tsp. baking soda (and salt if you’re using non salted butter but feel like you want the salt. Over a large bowl or a big sheet of parchment paper, sift. Then sift again into a big glass or metal bowl, big enough for adding what you’ve already worked on to make your final batter, and set aside. Double sifting almond flour is, I feel, important but it’s not necessary. Sifting it is.
With a spatula, gently fold in 1/3 to 1/2 of your creamed yolk/cream/baking soda mixture at a time, incorporating without taking too much air out. If you want to use your stand mixer, on a low setting, with the whisk attachment, mix to almost completely combine. You can use your paddle attachment but it might butter together everything and you don’t really want that. If using a hand mixer move your mixer slowly in big spiral circles clock wise. Your batter will be sort of grainy and feel a bit like play doh. If you’re good folding in with a spatula, I’d totally recommend using that method because you can be gentler with your combining.
With a large serving spoon, gently spoon your fluffed honey butter and place here and there over your batter. Make sure you don’t see any separation or honey droplets, streaks, etc, on their own. If you do, whip on high again and let it sit aside while you check to make sure it stays combined. Fold in with your spatula, even more gently than with the creamed yolk cream. You can always finalize your batter by slowly whisking on low speed, as you did before (I did this for 5 or 10 seconds.) It will look and feel like a grainy cookie dough.
This batter rises by about half, so I put all the batter into one 9”round, placing it in the middle, and gently easing it to the edges, smoothing it without pressure to as flat a top as possible. Because your cake batter has so much fat content, it’s not going to stick to your baking pan, especially if it is a non stick one, that’s truly going to be overkill and will effect the bake. If you’re using an 8 or 9 inch round, don’t butter and flour the sides, don’t bother with lining it with baking paper you won’t get your cake out. I’m telling you this based on the results of my practice bakes. Messing with my pans in any protective way just messed up the edges of the bake.
Place baking round or cupcake tin slowly and gently in center of bain marie in the oven making sure you don’t burn yourself and that the water doesn’t have a chance to slosh or splash. For one 9 inch round, set your timer for 25 minutes. It could take up to 35 minutes, depending on your oven. (Note for aya, who will be trying this in cupcake form, set your timer for 10 minutes, could take 15)
READ THIS BEFORE YOU PLACE YOUR CAKE IN THE OVEN OR SOON THEREAFTER: Check at your first timer set. This is the tricky part. If you touch or pierce the top, and it’s not ready to be touched, it will deflate the cake center and your bake won’t recover or cook the same after that. So to prevent this what you need to do is put on your oven mitts and start to carefully lift it out of the bain marie keeping your eyes on the bake the second your mitts touch the pan. If it obviously starts to wobble, don’t continue picking it up, put it back down, close the oven door, don’t check for at least another 8 minutes. If there isn’t a prominent wobble, then you have to carefully lift the bake and slowly tip it side to side and watch for any movement, stopping the moment you see movement and then repeat the other way, stopping the moment you see movement, to make sure and to judge how much of your bake is effected. A smidge of movement is fine, it’s beneficial to your bake’s outcome if there is a smidge of something maybe happening, like barely seeing anything happening, or a slow even movement that doesn’t threaten to go over the sides if you tip too far; IF THIS OR IF no movement is happening at all, then it’s time to turn off the oven, keeping the oven door open and leaving it be for 3 to 5 minutes and then place it on a cooling rack or counter while still in its round or cupcake tray. At no point up till now should you be poking anything into your bake! Don’t remove from trays or cupcake wrappers until just a slightly warm temperature. You should be able to touch the baking pan with no problem. If your cake isn’t cooled enough, it will break apart when removing. (Using a toothpick or other implement to check to see if your cake is done doesn’t work here. Almond flour will always stick.)
Because we’re working with fats, humidity and heat can affect the outcome of this cake. If your kitchen is cool or chilly in temperature, go ahead and leave stuff out, but if your kitchen is warm or humid, probably best to store things in the fridge until they’re needed again. Ingredients don’t need to be room temperature, except of course for the honey. In fact for some reason everything worked better as did the final bakes of the ones where the butter and eggs and whipping cream were straight from the fridge or out just a short bit.
You don’t need to add salt as there is already salt in the egg yolks naturally, as well as in the baking soda. I like the salted butter but would have been pleased with the unsalted, I wanted to use what I already had lying around in terms of butter because it can be expensive.
Bain maries and sloshing issues. One reason you place your bain marie in the oven first is because moving it into your oven you’ll notice sloshing. you don’t want the water to slosh into your batter. This way you can just take your tin and place it gently into the water bath and do the same when taking your tin out without the sloshing.
Why a bain marie for this bake? Because it helps to provide an even gentle heat around the food. It acts as a diffusion buffer. It also keeps high fat desserts from separating or cracking during the bake and keeps the insides moist; and some people use this method for molten center cakes. If a food normally creates a crust you may not want for your particular bake, like a batter made with almond flour or cornmeal, a bain marie will prevent that crust creation on the sides and bottom, at least in terms of severity and thickness.
Concerning the bain marie, when it comes to bakes,(french baguettes and eclairs in particular) misting the dough or placing a pan of water in the oven (not a bain marie per se, but still) is what caused the outside of the baguettes and eclairs to crisp and crust. Now this cake does have a crust but when in the bain marie the crust effects the top mostly. As I mentioned, the bain marie helped minimize or prevent a crust layer from happening in the parts that were in the baking round. But it could not stop the top from forming a crust, obviously. So my conundrum is, is there a crust because of the humidity from the bain marie within the oven, or is it just what is meant to happen no matter what? Almond cakes and cakes with honey are known to brown and crust. I’d like to test temperatures and cook time more. possibly even find a way to protect the top like people do for pie crusts. I think that if we could relieve this cake of a crust, then people wouldn’t want to mistake it for a cornbread. I didn’t mistake it, but i could see where they would initially respond that (as my family did).
Ingredients, methods, science and notes:
Because yea, I kinda took a lot into consideration and may have gone overboard.
The process of creaming your butter and then creaming your butter with the honey and baking powder combo is very important to the leavening of this cake. What’s happening is not only are you incorporating the acid of the honey into the fat of the butter, essentially creating one ingredient here, but also you’re building up air. These ingredients can’t aid in the leavening of your sponge if you don’t allow this process time. The same is true later for your yolks and whipping cream.
The salt issue and the butter you choose: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter from grass fed cows is probably the best to use for this recipe because of its nutritional makeup. Salted or unsalted is a taste preference. I noticed that for the second test cake, where I used much less honey per butter ratio, the consistency was almost there, but between the baking soda amounts used for that bake and the use of salted butter, salt flavor was overload and prominent and it had a burnt something or other kind of aftertaste. It somehow picked up too much baking soda flavor. It was the one cake that didn’t taste good at all, the rest tasted great despite their looks. The recipe for this cake number 4’s ratio, I don’t think I could imagine using unsalted butter, but that is a preference, and I’m wondering if the bake that resulted might have tasted sweeter using an unsalted butter instead? In my 4 bakes enough honey tends to mute salt. Your taste buds will tell you what kind to use though. If you only have unsalted but feel you need salt, just add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. salt (doing so won’t change the consistency result of this recipe). (But note for Aya, I don’t know in this recipe if the salt brings out or mutes the honey as I’ve read it could do either; I didn’t test that, and obviously based on my previous three cake tests it can possibly go either way.)
Note also that yolks have about 8 mg of sodium each. So I really wouldn’t bother adding salt, especially if you’re wanting low salt. And I’d even think about trying this with unsalted butter just to see if I like it better.
The butter you use: I used Members Mark brand butter here because it was cheap and I needed to go though a lot. I feel that final consistency and bake are possibly effected greatly depending on the butter you use. The last “normal” cake I made before this one, a Whole Orange Spiced Cake was a bit on the greasy side. That never happened before, but then I’d always chosen better butter brands for cakes and pastries (say that 3x fast) to make me seem like a better baker, and also because better ingredients just do their thing better. It’s really worth the results and and result in less kitchen conundrums. So comparing nutritional values and ingredients could be important. Butters, like any other ingredient, aren’t all equals.
Why cold butter: cold butter emulsifies better than a room temperature butter. So since we are adding liquid honey, the butter in the end does a much much better job from the fridge than at room temp.
Honey: Remember, you can pause the drizzling of your honey if you think your butter and honey mixture need more time together before adding more. And if it looks as thought the butter won’t be able to take more honey, stop before it gets to that point and beat beat beat, adding butter is fine as a solution if you’ve accidentally put in too much honey, and then just divide your mix. I’ll say again, it’s critical that the honey and butter are totally blended with no sweat or streaks left. And you don’t want to lose the fluff of your butter or you’re losing part of the fluff of your cake. The baking soda will only be able to do so much, and we aren’t adding baking powder.
Honey, why use less and what kind: I do know that the lighter the honey, the better for baking because of sweetness and strength. Too strong can be quite overpowering in a bake. Besides the flavor, one reason why using less honey than the amount of sugar a recipe calls for is because of all the water in honey. Honey is about 20% water. You’re basically mixing two liquids together (butter, even though it’s not in a melted state, and honey), not a liquid and a dry (butter and sugar crystals) as most recipes call for. Another way to look at it is that with butter and honey, you’re mixing a fat and an acid and water, not a fat and a carb and gluten and water. We aren’t working with carbs and gluten like we would be if we were baking a yellow sponge cake.
Honey and baking soda: You’ll also want to add baking soda to help with the water in the butter and honey, and to stabilize and leaven your batter from the get go. When liquid, acidity, or heat, hit the baking soda, it encourages a leavening action each time. For every cup of honey they say to add 1/4 t baking soda. In this recipe, the honey is the only acidity in the cake. So adding baking soda at the same time the honey is introduced gives a kick start to its process. I tried the butter honey with less baking soda (1/8th for the half cup of honey used), more baking soda, and no baking soda, and it didn’t do so great. This step held its own with less weeping and separating once I included the 1/4 t for the 1/2 c honey.
Honey and crusting or browning: Honey could be part of the reason of top browning on this bake. I did accommodate by lowering the cooking temperature by 25 degrees, which should be done for honey as well as for almond flour. With the use of the bain marie, it’s possible the regular temp of 350 F could be used for a quicker bake and possibly therefore less time browning? I didn’t test this.
Crystallized honey: If your honey has any obvious crystallization, loosen up your honey before measuring, warm slightly and make sure there are no visible crystals and stir; or you can cream it with a mortar and pestle or a spoon. If your honey is quite crystallized, adding your honey to the creamed butter might shrink and tame the crystals, but it will do so at the expense of your butter, so be sure to cream your crystallized honey or warm your honey back up by placing the bottle in a warm bath until it turns back into full liquid, before adding it to your creamed butter. I didn’t do any tests that utilized honey crystals or crystallized honey; I made sure i was using honey that would be consistent. Crystallized honey isn’t uniform as the crystals are different sizes and therefore I would not have been able to measure consistently, and I couldn’t account for any faults in the bake
Honey and liquids: They say that if more than 1c honey is used in a bake, lessen any additional liquids by 1/4c per c honey because honey retains moisture (honey is about 20 percent water, so reduce accordingly, like for 1c honey reduce liquids by 1/4 c). I didn’t do this here, instead I reduced the honey because I needed the air production of the creamed butter more than I needed the sweetness. Plus there is enough liquid and acidity in 1/4 cup for the baking soda to be able to leaven appropriately.
Honey as a substitute for sugar: I’ve read that for every cup of sugar substituted, use 1/2 cup of honey, and I’ve also read 3/4 cups of honey. I think this depends on the other ingredients, how sweet you want it, and what methods are used in your recipe. In this case I went 1/2 c of honey because I used 1 stick of butter (8T), so therefore if I were adding sugar not honey, I would have used an equal amount of sugar as is the general rule. So far that amount has worked best.
The yolk: Yolks add color and creaminess. Yolks make up a third of the egg. Yolks are utilized in baking for their fat and emulsifying abilities and texture and under low heat they make great thickening agents. When aerated, an egg yolk will only double in volume. Most recipes prefer eggs to be room temperature unless otherwise noted. I’m otherwise noting. It’s nice to be able to get the chill out of them, but once adding the cream, it worked better if the egg hadn’t been totally room temperature at the start of the creaming process. Especially since we’re having to cream it for so long therefore creating heat that will be there when adding the whipping cream which really needs to stay as cool as possible to whip properly. Yes, yolks bind and emulsify best at room temperature, but they will quickly get that way by the time you add the whipping cream. Egg yolk helps carry other flavors but at the same time muddies mellows and mutes. I’m wondering then if this would be a good place to add flavor to this bake, in the yolk as opposed to in the butter; worth a try if experimenting.
Eggs contribute to the overall fat and moisture content, so if you decide you want to only use yolks rather than whole eggs, adjustments have to be made. because essentially you’re decreasing moisture
the fat in yolks helps to shorten gluten and tenderize the final product.
Baked goods made with yolks only are richer and more tender than those made with whole eggs. Less water equals less gluten development, and the fats in the yolk weaken the gluten that is present.
I didn’t try this as cupcakes yet, so I can’t report on how easy they are to take out of the paper. But if you watched our cake test video, it looks like there wasn’t any issue.
Thoughts on this cake number 4:
Wondering if leaving out the 1/4 tsp baking soda added to the yolks and cream should be left out. I’m not sure why really, but I feel like I should try now that the cake worked out, but I’m out of personal tries for now. Time in oven should be played with. Making a batch and then taking one cupcake out at the earliest check to the latest check, letting them set, and seeing which texture and consistency is the best. The second day of the successful cake number 4 completely crumbs apart but the moisture is still there and that is lovely, there’s a sweet, buttery, almond aftertaste. I’m wondering if placing a baking tray on the rack above the bake will help the top of the cake not crust so much. I would like to try this a few more times, playing with temperature and time and bain marie level as well. Maybe even placing parchment paper, or foil like one would for a roast, or both? If the ingredients were refrigerated a bit before the final incorporation or after the final incorporation, then would it take longer to crust therefore reducing crust?