honey cake

March 21, 2014 § 93 Comments

I noticed my rosemary bush was full of blossoms the other day and my first thought was honey cake!   Tessa Kiros suggested making this cake when you are lucky enough to have tiny purple flowers on your rosemary bush so you can scatter them over the finished cake.  And she was right.  This comes from her book “Apples for Jam”.


We love this honey cake.  It is dense, moist, heavily flavored with honey and a hint of rosemary.  The frosting is simply butter, lemon and powdered sugar.  I have been making this cake for years and finally, this is the first time I have timed it right with the rosemary blossoms.

Goodbye winter, hello spring!  All week I have been waking up to the song of robins.  It is my understanding spring begins at the first sound of a robin’s song.  Perhaps it has to do with the vertical migration of the earthworms once the ground has thawed.

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1/4 pound + 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1-2/3 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 2 eggs, beaten

L e m o n   F r o s t i n g

  • 2 cups confectioners’s sugar
  • 7 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

M e t h o d

Grease and line the bottom of an 8-1/2 inch springform pan.  Put the butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small saucepan and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of water.  Heat gently, stirring once or twice, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.  Leave to cool for 15 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon into a bowl and add the rosemary.  Add the honey mixture and eggs and beat until smooth.  Pour into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when you poke it into the center.  Leave in the pan to cool completely.

To make the frosting, sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl.  Add the butter, lemon zest and juice, and 1-1/2 tablespoons of water and beat until smooth.  You might like to add a few more drops of lemon juice after tasting it.  Spread over the top and sides of the cake.  The cake softens as it sits and will keep well for up to a week in a covered container.


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§ 93 Responses to honey cake

  • Liz says:

    oh, gosh that looks lovely. Am a big fan of fresh rosemary in sweets :-)

    • Me too! Love rosemary in so many things. It is as though I have rediscovered my rosemary bush last week! I’ve been using it quite often. Just last night made an rosemary aioli for our artichokes! To die for…

  • How beautiful and I have never been lucky enough to have the rosemary flowers. What a gorgeous addition to the cake which looks so amazing!

    • Thank you Suzanne, I’ve been baking this honey cake for years and this is the first time I timed it right! The next day when I uncovered the cake the little petals almost looked like they had been drawn on the cake. They had sort of melted into the frosting. It was gorgeous.

  • nancyc says:

    Your cake looks so good! I used to have a huge rosemary bush that had the lovliest deep purple flowers!

  • Oh my goodness…I don’t know what to comment on first!! That robin. I am a bird girl. A true bird girl. I’m not talking parrots, and flamingos… I’m talking chickadees, robins, bluebirds, finches… You’ll be able to tell that if you walked into my house! So… I need your robin napkin, placemat, etc… I LOVE it. It makes me happy. :-)

    And now for the Pièce de résistance…. that cake. Oh my goodness… that cake. Seana, it is beautiful. So spring like…so feminine… so Perfect.

    I’ve never had honey cake, and now I know why… I was just waiting for your recipe! It sounds so wonderful, and I’m so intrigued as to how the rosemary tastes with the cinnamon and lemon. It has to be amazing.

    I’ve missed you. <3 So happy that you are back!

    • Hello there! Well, I’ll just have to send the flour sack to you with the robin on it! :) Make the cake Prudy! My poor son has been dying for dessert this past week. He made one request when I left to go to the market…dessert! And guess what? I forgot to pick something up. It was Wednesday and late in the afternoon. I certainly didn’t think I could put both dinner and dessert on the table after working all day. It was the rosemary bush! It reminded me of this cake and within 15 minutes I had it in the oven and it was on the table for dessert that night. I love birds too! And I also love sponge candy and buffalo bites!!! :)

  • Love this cake and the garnishing is beautiful.

  • Nancy says:

    Lovely, lovely cake! The lemon frosting sounds perfect for topping off such a delectable cake. Btw, I didn’t know that about rosemary flowers… thanks for the herb lesson!

  • Victoria says:

    Oh my gosh, this looks heavenly!!!

  • What a pretty cake and gorgeous-sounding combination.

  • What a wonderful cake for spring! Truly lovely.

  • Seana, Honey, rosemary and lemon? Really?! Yes, please; this cake is heaven for me. Maybe I will try this for my husband’s birthday next month. We have a rosemary bush on every corner in New Mexico. Your are such an impressive baker! The beautiful photos sold me on the cake before I read the prose and recipe. Best, Shanna

    • This time when I made this cake I imagined doubling the recipe and making it a two tier. But, then I wonder if the density of the cake would just be too much for that. Hmmm, or what do you think about slicing it in half on the equator and making a lovely lemon cream for the center. Yes! Perhaps I’ll make it again while the blossoms are still here and do this.

      • The cake looked perfectly dense, in a way a tea time cake should be. Can you divide the batter between two pans and watch it carefully? Maybe lower the temperature a bit? At Rosh Hashanah, we make a honey cake… why Have I never thought to add rosemary? :-)

  • I love the cake, and the little touch of the decoration with small flowers gives it a smell of spring :)

  • Hilda says:

    Am going to check my rosemary plants right now.

  • trixpin says:

    Definitely “Hello Spring” with this recipe! I love the idea of using rosemary in your cake – beautiful.

  • Ngan R. says:

    Such a lovely cake, Seana. I can already picture myself with a slice of this and a warm cup of tea on a sunny afternoon this spring. The rosemary buds on the cake are a beautiful touch. Happy first day of Spring to you!

  • I love baking with honey. This cake looks delicious. Will have to make this recipe.

    • I love baking with honey too. This honey was so wonderful in this cake. I used a very nice local honey which seemed to have more flavor than I can remember any honey ever having. They must be very happy bees!

  • Amanda says:

    This is stunning. I didn’t even know that rosemary flowered! Wow what a beautiful cake. I have to make this. I love the sweet and savory combination.

  • I love Tessa Kiros! I have her book Food From Many Greek Kitchens and I have to say the recipes are spot on! This looks delicious.

  • Lisa says:

    The thought of a honey cake sounds so lovely. I adore honey; I don’t know why I haven’t made a honey cake yet. Looks wonderful!

    • Hi Lisa, thank you! Honey is so wonderful in a cake and I particularly love the lemony frosting with it. It’s a fabulous recipe, I make it quite often as I seem to always have all the ingredients on hand. Happy Friday!

  • Lori says:

    Sounds and looks so good! Would never have thought about using rosemary in a cake!

  • That’s a lovely cake! I haven’t tried rosemary on cakes. I’m sure it tastes yummy. :)

  • Alex says:

    I looove the sounds of this frosting!

  • Patty Nguyen says:

    I love the name “honey cake”…there’s something about it that’s so light and happy. I can’t wait to try this, Seana!

  • Laura says:

    yum yum yum! I’m definitely having a dessert craving now!

  • saucygander says:

    The idea of honey cake is also hitting all the right notes here, with new season apples and pears and figs coming onto the market. And if i can edible flowers, they are definitely going on the cake, yours are so pretty. Bookmarked this recipe. :-)

    • I never really use edible flowers. I’m always intrigued when I see a package of them at the market and imagine them on a salad, but can’t bring myself to buying them. I do like using the purple chive flowers in salads though. These little rosemary buds are so delicate and really added a nice look to the cake. Nice to hear from you! :)

  • What a lovely cake for spring – def making this for this weekend and sharing your recipe on our Facebook page will be a pleasure!:-)

    • Hi there and thank you for stopping by my blog. I took a look at your’s and what an interesting live you have created in Turkey! I was fortunate enough to have a short excursion into Istanbul several years ago and it is indeed a beautiful place. :)

  • I’m not sure my rosemary ever bloomed, but will have to pay more attention from now on so I can make this pretty cake. If you make this tiered, it’d be perfect for a wedding cake! The cake plus frosting sound perfect together. I can’t wait to give this a try!

  • MB says:

    Apple for Jam is one of my favorite cookbooks! I’m such a fan of Tessa Kiros. Beautiful post… I just discovered your blog, and love it… can’t wait to follow your culinary adventures to come :)

  • bakeaffairs says:

    This cake looks gorgeous!

  • Woow! That cake makes me wanna grab it from the screen and eat. Looks very nice.

  • Michelle says:

    What a lovely cake! I adore rosemary in sweets. And hope one day to have some blossoms. Unfortunately, rosemary isn’t hardy here and my bush is just hanging on after a long winter in the kitchen.

    • Hi Michelle. I have been making this honey cake for years and this is the first time I used the blossoms on top. The real treat with this is the rosemary baked in the cake. It’s wonderful. Hope your rosemary survives the long winter. Nice to hear from you! :)

  • Cathy says:

    I was just daydreaming of something to make with rosemary! This must be a sign to try your cake recipe! :)

    • It is a sign Cathy! You most likely have everything in your cupboard to put this simple cake together. Funny, ever since I baked this cake a few days ago I’ve been taking clippings off of my bush and using it in all kinds of things! :)

  • I love baking with rosemary – mine never makes it through the winter so I always have to replant. Tried growing it indoors as always but the spider mites got to it – they love the heat of my home! I will look forward to trying your yummy cake – thanks :)

    • Sounds like Jack Frost and the spider mites both have a love of rosemary! I used to live in a climate where rosemary wouldn’t make it through the winter. I was so surprised to see the size of the rosemary bushes here in Seattle when I first moved here. Impressive! Hope you get a chance to try the honey cake. Even without the flowers it’s wonderful.

  • saraspunza says:

    Oh sweet baby Jesus, I need to make this immediately. Looks divine. I am picturing a slice with a big iced coffee. Can not wait!

  • toozesty says:

    Your cake looks beautiful with tiny rosemary flowers on top. I’m never successful in growing my rosemary plants. Oh well it won’t deter me from trying again this year!

    • I always had problems growing rosemary when I lived in Nevada. Not an issue here in Seattle! My massive rosemary bush doesn’t require much from me, other than a little water in the heat of summer (which is only 85°F in the summer!) and a little pruning. Thank you for stopping in!

  • Don’t know how I missed this post. Anyway, I’m more than intrigued by those flavours! Rosemary in bread, yes. Never had it in cake. And would never have thought cinnamon. Will have to buy more eggs in…

    • Hi Johnny! Rosemary is surprisingly good in this cake. I am very fond of using honey in place of sugar. Although there is a small amount of brown sugar added in, this cake has a very distinctive taste of honey. Lovely with the lemon and yes! rosemary. I’d really like to hear your thoughts if you get around to making it. :)

  • laurasmess says:

    Beautiful! Tessa Kiros is one of my favourite cookbook writers, everything she writes and photographs is a warm, sensory experience, if that makes sense! Love your interpretation of her honey cake. I definitely agree that the rosemary flowers add a delicate beauty to the finished product. Thanks for inspiring me to pull my finger out and make this too! Gorgeous as always Seana xx

    • Hi Laura! Isn’t Tessa Kiros just wonderful? I love the simplicity of her cooking and they are recipes that I seem to go back to over and over. Great kid comfort food. The honey cake is very down to earth, simple and I used a fabulous local honey that was was intensely flavorful. I just love cakes like this; densely moist. It was so nice to read your comment today. Thank you for stopping in for a visit! xx

  • chefjulianna says:

    Hi Seana, Thanks for teaching me something new. I didn’t know that you could eat the blossoms of a rosemary bush! I bet the flavour is wonderful. I am going to keep my eye on all of the rosemary bushes around me and try some. Your cake is beautiful!

    • You are welcome Julianna. :) Hope you find some! They are very delicate and I just love how they looked on this cake. Especially the next day! They sort of melted into the frosting a little and looked like they had been drawn on. Hmmm. Wonder what else we could use the blossoms with?

  • thehungrymum says:

    Bookmarked! I love our rosemary bush & can’t wait to try this superb looking cake.

  • OMG where do you live, i need to move there immediately! Nothing is blooming here!, it jut snowed another 15 cm. Love the your cake… yay for anything lemon

    • Ha! Ha! :) I live in Seattle Washington. I can’t believe you are still seeing snow falling! We had one snow storm this winter and it was the slushy kind that doesn’t stick! Oh well, I’m not complaining. Hope you start seeing blooms really soon.

  • The cake looks amazing! How delicious!

  • gwynnem says:

    I’m putting this cake on my spring to-bake list. I like the wholesome ingredients list. Now, if only the rosemary will bloom in my neighborhood! :)

  • SO pretty. I will make this cake this week – sans the rosemary flowers. My sweet little rosemary bush had flowers all winter long. But the flowers don’t seem to have survived the move. I’ve scarcely survived the move and I’m SO behind in the blogosphere. I’m glad you’ve got spring in Seattle – gives me hope! xo

    • Hi Lindy! You just made me smile when I saw your comment. Very glad you are moved and hopefully settling in. Moving can be invigorating. Starting again brings new perspective and begins new chapters in life. Hope you are liking your new place…so happy to hear from you!

  • Jody and Ken says:

    Honey cake with ROSEMARY FLOWERS!!! That sounds amazing. I don’t think I’ve even seen rosemary flower, although (duh) it obviously does, just not when I’m around. This sound fantastic. Best not to leave it on the counter in my house. Ken

  • Liz says:

    The cake looks so pretty I would dread cutting it. I love moist dense and with honey. What a wonderful combination!

  • cheri says:

    Beautiful cake!

  • […] but I bet he would have said yes please to a slice of this honey cake. I found the recipe on Cottage Grove House, home of Seattle-based food blogger Seana, who is always posting fabulous […]

  • Saskia (1=2) says:

    How did I miss this post? One of my favorite cookbooks, and one of my favorite cakes – for so many reasons – it improves and softens with time, it’s not too time-consuming to whip up and the rosemary adds such a lovely kick. I’ve actually never made the icing though, and must rectify that. Looks fabulous! I usually lazily sprinkle pine nuts on mine.

    • I accredit Tessa Kiros’ “Apples for Jam” for teaching me so much about cooking. And isn’t this cake a great example of her style and flavor? Do try the icing next time..and hopefully you’ll have access to rosemary blossoms too. My rosemary bush is still in high bloom, hmmm, maybe I should make another one! Do like your idea of pine nuts, I don’t think it’s lazy at all!

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