Daniel and I visited our local farmer’s market today. It was the first true day of spring: sunny, with fluffy white clouds floating up in the sky, the bright lime-green of new buds on the trees, and lots of sunshine. Our Minneapolis farmer’s market is within walking distance. One of the things we love about it is that everything sold at the stands is locally-grown and locally-made. Even if you buy pickles, or jams, or handmade crafts like toys for pets, beeswax candles, and glazed pottery, they all use materials and ingredients made locally. My favorite part is getting to know the different growers. We loved chatting with Peter and Carmen from Peter’s Pumpkins and Carmen’s Corn. They are the most adorable couple and they produce some of the best eggs I have ever tasted. I used them in this recipe! We go to the farmer’s market every Saturday and get a farily good share of our basics there. They do not sell butter or milk there, so that’s a constraint, but you can get almost anything else: honey; veggies, fruit and other produce; coffee; cheese; meat and poultry; jams; pickles; and salsa. Some of the stands rotate each week so you have to plan your visit if you want to buy specific items, but it works out because the market is there every week. Today, we got a dozen beautiful eggs from local grassfed hens that run so wild they often get into the broccoli patch and snack on watermelon rind. The eggs are larger than store-bought eggs and come in different colors due to the different breeds of hen. Some eggs are dark brown, some are light golden, some are white, and some are robin’s egg blue. My test for the quality of an egg is the color of its yolk, and these live up to the highest standard ever: the yolks are super well defined, large and round, the color of a sunset sky. They are orange more than yellow. The egg whites are clear and don’t have any cloudiness to them, and trust me, if you were to do a comparison with a store-bought egg, you would totally notice the difference when you crack open the egg, as well as after it’s cooked. But I won’t bore you to death about eggs! I know I’m food obsessed and you’re here for the recipe. Suffice it to say we got a dozen eggs, a hunk of fancy goat cheese, a jar of local golden honey, and some veggies. I feel so fortunate to live in the Midwest and especially Minnesota, cozily nestled in the breadbasket of the country. There is a bounty of wonderfully and lovingly-tended crops here.
Anyway, inspired by the spring weather and the bountiful basket we brought home from the market, I put this recipe together. It’s adapted from Nordicware’s Beehive recipe, and it’s a fairly sizeable pound cake. I do admit that it’s the opposite of a small-batch recipe, but I figured that with the nice, warm season upon us, it won’t be too hard to share the cake in an outdoor setting with friends and relatives. It’s such a sturdy beehive cake, you can easily pack it for a picnic. If you love honey, this is the cake for you. The taste of honey really does come through in the batter and the lemon zest and lemon juice give it some bright notes, so that the sweet honey flavor is not too overwhelming. It is a dense cake and I usually like my cakes to be fairly dense, like pound cake, so this one lives up to that preference. Finally, the exterior of the cake is soaked in a delicate elderflower glaze. I was not able to find elderflowers at the florist, and I am in the process of acquiring plants so that I can grow my own in my garden, so if you run into that problem and can’t pick your own flowers, this recipe uses store-bought elderflower cordial or St. Germain liqueur (for non-alcoholic and alcoholic versions), which still have a beautifully delicate floral taste.
I hope wherever you are, you will make something special to celebrate the arrival of spring! It’s such a good season in which to be alive. The bunnies are hopping in the yard, the tulips are sprouting and offering their buds high into the sun, and the trees have little sprouts and brave new leaves that will provide us shade all summer long when they grow up. Go bee outside! Support your local honey makers and bake this beehive cake! Buzz buzz buzz!
Elderflower Honey Beehive Cake
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50-60 minutes
Servings: 12 slices
For the cake:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 2 ¾ cups flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp Celtic salt
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 4 large eggs
- ½ tsp ground vanilla powder
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 3 tbsp lemon juice (1 ½ lemons)
For the buttercream frosting:
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cups powdered sugar
- 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsbp milk
- 1 tbsp honey
- ¼ tsp lemon zest
For the glaze:
- 3 tbsp cane sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp light-colored corn syrup
- ¼ cup St. Germain elderflower liqueur
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Butter and flour your beehive Bundt pans. I like to use a pastry brush to get the butter in all the nooks and crannies. Set aside the pan.
- In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes, until softened and smooth.
- Add the sugar and honey, beating on medium-high for 3-5 minutes, and scraping the bowl often, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, followed by the ground vanilla powder. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, Celtic salt, and lemon zest.
- Going back to your stand mixer, turn the mixer on low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk. Begin adding flour mixture and end with adding flour mixture. Mix just until blended and do not over-mix.
- Next, add the lemon juice.
- Divide the cake batter evenly between the two halves of the beehive pan.
- Bake at 300°F for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.
- Continue reading for assembly of cake, starting with the making of the buttercream.
For the buttercream:
- To make the buttercream, in a medium bowl, combine the powdered sugar, butter, 1/2 tbsp of the milk, and the vanilla extract.
- Beat until light and fluffy. Add another 1/2 tbsp milk if necessary.
- Turn the mixer to high and mix until the butter is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl as necessary.
- Reserve the buttercream frosting for assembly of the cake.
To assemble the cake:
- To assemble the cake, use a knife to level the back of each beehive cake until they are flat.
- Frost both bottoms of the beehive cake with the prepared buttercream frosting and gently press both halves of the beehive together until the edges meet as seamlessly as possible. Do not use too much frosting or it will ooze out.
- Make the glaze, following the instructions below, and brush over the cake and let it soak.
- Serve and enjoy!
Note: If you do like to have a good layer of frosting in between the two halves of the cake for flavor, you could opt for a decoration that has poured frosting over the top of the beehive and falls down the seam of the cake to cover it. To have extra frosting to pour over the top of the beehive cake in a decorative style, simply double the buttercream frosting ingredients and add 1 tbsp milk, or enough milk to have a pourable consistency, and glaze only after the pour has set and not over the frosting.
For the glaze:
- For the elderflower syrup, in a medium saucepan, combine the cane sugar, water, honey, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly and most of the corn syrup is dissolved, and remove from the heat.
- Stir in St. Germain elderflower liqueur.
- For a non-alcoholic version, see notes at the end of the page.
- Brush over the cake and let it soak.
For a non-alcoholic elderflower glaze:
- Place the juice of one lemon with 4 fl oz store-bought elderflower cordial.
- Add 2 tsp sugar. Cook until dissolved and let it cool.
- Brush over the cake and let it soak.