We are recipe-hunters. Our flat is filled with bits of paper scribbled with rudimentary instructions from friendly cooks we meet on the way; pages we’ve torn from newspapers and foreign magazines with a picture we like and a recipe we will one day translate; menus with cryptic notes written after drunken dinners (what did we eat that made us write “coriander before and after, also lamb, must try”, and what does it mean?). Our phones are also filled with pictures, not only of dishes we liked but also of recipes we will one day try, in our never-ending search for lovely things to cook, serve and eat.
Most of these recipes never get made, but every so often, when we have some headspace and free time, we go through these papers, take recipes to the kitchen and try them. Most will be made once and never be revisited, even if the results were good, because that is not the point of the exercise: whenever you follow a recipe, you follow in someone’s footsteps, getting a glimpse of their mind and their experience, and there is always something interesting to take from that. But then sometimes, rarely, we come across a recipe that is so good, so special, and so right for us, that we return to it again and again, and it becomes part of our experience, our minds.
This is one such recipe, found in a drawer in our kitchen, torn from a newspaper – neither of us remembers which one, but it has an American feel because it uses buttermilk and peanut butter.
Whoever wrote the recipe said tahini could be used instead, which was all the encouragement we needed. A seemingly simple sponge, not much to look at, but the taste and texture of it are so special, so good – nutty, fudgy, sweet with a savoury touch – that we (and everyone who tried it) fell instantly in love. We added white chocolate and lemon zest to the original recipe, and vanilla cream for show. We bake it almost every day now and know it’ll be part of the Honey & Co cake repertoire for years to come, and now hopefully yours, too.
Makes a two-tier cake fit for kings and a large party
For the cake batter
caster sugar 320g
plain flour 350g
bicarbonate of soda 1½ tsp
baking powder 1½ tsp
table salt 1 tsp
lemons 2, zested
white chocolate 70g, chopped
vegetable oil 120ml
tahini paste 230g
vanilla pod seeds of 1, or 1 tbsp pure vanilla essence
buttermilk or kefir 240ml
For the icing
double cream 200g
full-fat cream cheese 200g
icing sugar 90g
vanilla essence 1 tbsp, or 1 pod
rum 2 tbsp
For sprinkling (optional)
white chocolate 30g, chopped
lemon zest a sprinkling
Heat the oven to 170C fan/gas mark 5.
Mix all the dry ingredients for the cake batter together in a large bowl. In a smaller one, mix the eggs with the oil, tahini, vanilla and buttermilk. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Slowly stir in 180ml boiling water, and mix until well incorporated.
Line the base of two 23cm round cake tins with a circle of baking paper and lightly butter the sides. Divide the batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Rotate the tins for an even bake, then cook for another 10-15 minutes. The cakes should feel lovely and bouncy, and have a good, golden colour all over. Remove from the oven and carefully flip onto a flat plate to flatten the tops. Allow to cool upside-down before removing from the tins.
Mix all the icing ingredients together with a small whisk until well combined and thickened (you can pop this in an electric mixer, but best to use a paddle attachment to avoid overworking and splitting it). Place the first cake on the serving platter, spoon on half the icing and spread around to cover. Top with the second cake, spoon on the rest of the icing, and spread. If you wish, sprinkle with chopped white chocolate and lemon zest.
If serving on the same day as baking, best to avoid putting the cake in the fridge. If you are keeping it for longer, do place it in the fridge but allow it to come to room temperature before serving.