As soon as he got home, he went to the larder; and he stood on a chair, and took down a very large jar of honey from the top shelf. It had HUNNY written on it, but, just to make sure, he took off the paper cover and looked at it, and it looked just like honey.
"But you never can tell," said Pooh. "I remember my uncle saying once that he had seen cheese just this colour." So he put his tongue in, and took a large lick. "Yes," he said, 'it is. No doubt about that. And honey, I should say, right down to the bottom of the jar. Unless, of course," he said, "somebody put cheese in at the bottom just for a joke. Perhaps I had better go a little further... just in case..."
Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne, Chapter 5, in which Piglet meets a Heffalump
My sister Lucy and I had all of Winnie-the-Pooh on audio book growing up, and would often listen to them from a shared walkman on long drives. Although we had the books as well, it's Alan Bennett reading the stories that has stayed with me, and re-reading them for this blog was impossible to do without his wonderful voice in my head.
We come across Winnie-the-Pooh eating a pot of his favourite 'hunny' in almost every one of A. A. Milne's stories, so really, there was no other ingredient I could have baked with. I first made these cakes some years ago for two lovely friends, Anna and Jen, as we painted Jen's room one spring. After a long day on ladders, our faces still dotted with paint, we ate these hot from the oven, with an excessive amount of the icing unceremoniously spooned onto the top. Their flavour is something else; the warmth of the rosemary and honey provide a deliciously unusual contrast to the rich, sweet topping. Ideal shared with friends, as I'm sure Pooh and Piglet would agree.
Honey and Rosemary Cakes
115g dark brown sugar
200g plain flour
1.5tsp baking powder
1tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 eggs, beaten
150g cream cheese
300g icing sugar
Rosemary Honey Drizzle
2 sprigs rosemary
Deep 12-cup muffin tray
Knife and chopping board
Electric hand whisk
1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease the muffin tins with a little of the butter. Place the rest of the butter, along with the sugar, honey and 1tbsp water, into the saucepan. Heat gently (not allowing it to boil), stirring only once, until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Following some feedback from my friend Emily, I should say that it will look odd and a little separated. Don't stress! Set aside to cool.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon together, and add the rosemary.
3. When the honey mixture is cool, stir in the beaten eggs. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is smooth.
4. Divide the mixture between the greased tins, making sure they are all around two-thirds full. Bake for around 25mins, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool for five minutes in the tins, then transfer to the wire rack until cold.
5. While the cakes are cooling, whisk the cream cheese until light with the electric whisk. Sieve the icing sugar and beat it in, until the icing is smooth and creamy, but holding its shape.
6. When the cakes are cold, you can ice them, using a palette knife to drop icing onto the top of the cake, and then rounding it off at the edges, as in the picture above. Unless you're happy to eat them as Jen, Anna and I did, don't be tempted to do this too soon (much easier said than done, when you'll inevitably want to eat them immediately) as any residual heat in the cakes will melt the icing.
7. To make the rosemary honey, pull the leaves off the rosemary stalks, add them to the honey and bring the mixture to the boil in a saucepan. As soon as the honey starts bubbling, turn off the heat and allow the flavours to infuse in the saucepan for at least twenty minutes. Pour the mixture into a jar - it will keep for a good few weeks, and tastes wonderful on roasted carrots as well as on top of cakes.
8. To serve, warm the rosemary honey in the saucepan and spoon over an iced cake. Eat immediately.
Recipe adapted from an old favourite - an oft' baked cake from Tessa Kiros' Apples for Jam.