The honeybees on this cake aren't exactly biologically correct. Nigella, their inventor, describes them as 'Disneyfied'. I have to admit I picked this cake because they're cute.
I also chose this cake because I'm addicted to honey at the moment. I go through eating phases, particularly at breakfast. I am firmly in the runny-honey-and-local-butter-on-thick-white-bread-preferably-brioche phase.
I love this recipe. You take sweet butter and cream it with my favourite light brown sugar. You pour in a golden stream of runny honey. You pour in a molten river of dark chocolate. It's beautiful to watch.
The final result balances the two flavours of chocolate and honey perfectly. Instead of getting separate chocolate notes and honey notes, they seem to merge. The cake is dense and rich, especially when combined with the glaze (a fascinating water and honey based ganache). I wasn't sure how much I would like this cake but I have to admit it has totally won me over.
The only problem?
Both times I have made it a little circular crater has appeared bang in the middle of the cake. The first time I had opened the door a bit early so I presumed it was because of that. Then I made it again today. At the same point as before - 30 minutes in - the cake was beautifully risen and domed when I looked through the door. Yet once again when I looked at 40 minutes (this time having not opened the door), the cake had sunk down an inch and had a crater in the middle.
So next time I think I'm going to try a slightly larger tin - probably a 20cm - and see if that helps (I've indicated this in the recipe below, but for reference I used a 6" tin here). I halved the recipe but usually that doesn't cause problems. If you'd like, you can double the recipe back up and use a 23cm tin as in the original.
To rescue the situation this time I decided to insert a 'marzipan surprise' and turn the cake over. Nobody minded my little trick. That's the best thing about many baking 'disasters' - outside of our perfectionist world, nobody could care less as long as it's delicious.
Honeybee Chocolate Cake
(adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast)
For the cake:
50g dark chocolate, chopped
135g light brown sugar
115g butter, at room temperature
60ml runny honey
100g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
125ml boiling water
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm/9" tin. Melt the chocolate in a bowl above a saucepan of simmering water then leave to cool. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or with a handheld whisk). Pour in the honey and whisk to combine. Add the egg and a tablespoon of the flour and combine throughly. Scrape in the cooled melted chocolate and whip again to combine. Sift the rest of the flour, the bicarbonate of soda and the cocoa powder into the bowl and whisk again. Slowly add the boiling water to the mix with the speed on low, pausing every few moments to let it combine into a smooth liquid. Pour into the prepared tin and place into the oven. Bake for 45 minutes until springy on top. Cool on a wire rack in its tin until totally cold.
For the glaze:
60ml runny honey
90g dark chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp icing sugar
Place the water and honey into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate has melted and the glaze is smooth. Sieve the icing sugar over the top and whisk in.
5 small pieces of marzipan (about 20g)
10 flaked almonds (+ a few spares)
Line your serving plate with four strips of baking parchment to form a square. Turn the cake out of the tin and place in the middle of the strips. Brush any loose crumbs off the cake. Spoon a few tablespoons of the glaze into the middle of the cake and use a small palette knife (or similar) to spread the glaze down the sides off the cake. Keep adding the glaze and spreading it until the sides are complete. Add extra to create a smooth top. Leave to set while you make the bees. Shape the marzipan into little oblong bodies, then press two flaked almonds into each one at an angle to create the wings. Use a toothpick and the remaining glaze to draw three stripes and some eyes onto each bee. When ready position the bees onto the top of the cake. Very carefully remove the strips of parchment paper and remove any little drips with a damp cloth.