Almost every middle eastern culture has their own version, from the Jewish honey cake, lekach, to Arabic honey cake, which favours rich, nutty flavours.
Arabic honey cake can be baked, fried, or eaten straight from the pan. It can be made with almond meal or wheat flour, and is traditionally served with a strong cup of coffee.
Arabic honey cake can most likely be traced back to basbousa, a fermented sweet cake that was popular in Abbysinia (Ethiopia) and Egypt in the middle ages. It became very popular during the rise of Islam, when trade between the Islamic empire and Europe begam to boom. True basbousa ought to be cooked using semolina, a kind of wheat used commonly in pastas and couscous.
Modern Arabic honey cake is often made with things other than semolina (this is a recipe that can be very easily made gluten-free), but the fragrant smell of rose water, and the sweet, rich taste of honey inject all the authenticity you really need. Our recipe for Arabic honey cake uses almond flour, cinnamon and aniseed—try it at your next tea party!
For the cake:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp ground aniseed
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup almond flour
For the syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups honey
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup rose water
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. While oven is preheating, grease a 10” pan.
- Beat together eggs and sugar. Melt the butter and add it to the mix, stirring well.
- Sift almond flour, baking powder, aniseed and cinnamon together. Add to wet ingredients and blend.
- Pour batter into pan and bake 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- While cake is baking, add honey, water, and rose water to a pot and bring to a boil.
- Stir syrup constantly on high heat until the honey has boiled down; syrup should look clear, not carmelized.
- Once cake has finished baking, take it out of the oven and cut it into the pieces. Pour the syrup all over the cake and allow 2-3 hours for the cake to cool and the syrup to thoroughly soak in.