Good times roll: A cracking cake with honey at its heart

Honey is the star of this cake, adding drama and chemistry to the line-up

Honey and mascarpone sponge roll

Honey and mascarpone sponge roll

 

I don’t need much of an excuse to add honey to a recipe. Yes, it is sweet, but it adds so much more flavour than sugar. The variety of honey is mind-boggling. The taste can be mildly floral or hugely complex, via fruity, spicy and resinous, depending on the nectar the bees have found.

Raw, unfiltered honey still contains traces of pollen and has a truly local taste. Raw honey supplied from a local beekeeper has many positive health benefits, so it is something I often buy for my family. I don’t know whether eating the local allergens in honey form helps relieve hay fever symptoms or not, but if holistic medicine tastes this good, I’m very willing to try it.

Good honey can be expensive, so save the raw honey for spooning over figs and ricotta, drizzling over a wedge of Parmesan or slathering on buttered toast. Commercial supermarket honey is often blended (and may not even be Irish) and is generally pasteurised. Although pasteurisation removes some of the flavour, commercial honey is much more economical and is fine for baking.

Honey is definitely the star of this cake, where it is added to the cake batter and mixed into the creamy filling. I love the drama of the chemistry at work in this recipe. Adding bicarbonate of soda to the hot honey syrup causes the mixture to foam up as the bubbles of carbon dioxide get trapped, which is how honeycomb candy is made.

HONEY AND MASCARPONE SPONGE ROLL

Serves six

Ingredients
4 whole eggs
100g caster sugar
4tbsp runny honey
¼tsp bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
100g self-raising flour
¼tsp mixed spice

For honey mascarpone:
250g mascarpone cheese
40ml runny honey
1tbsp stem ginger and the syrup
100ml cream
Optional garnish: icing sugar, honey drizzle.

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius, fan, or equivalent. Grease and line a 22cm x 32cm rectangular baking tin with baking parchment.

2. Using an electric whisk on a high speed, whisk the eggs and caster sugar together in a large bowl for five minutes, until the mixture has increased in volume, and is thick and pale.

3. Put four tablespoons of honey in a small pot and cook over a high heat for about five minutes until the honey turns a darker amber shade. 

4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment, then stir in the bicarbonate of soda. At this stage the mixture will start to fizz as it forms bubbles. Once the mixture has ballooned up, continue to stir until slightly cooled, then whisk it into the egg mixture. Keep whisking until fully combined.

5. Sieve together the self-raising flour and mixed spice. In two batches, gently fold the dry ingredients evenly through the batter with a metal spoon or spatula until no flour pockets remain (take care not to knock too much air out of the mixture).

6. Pour the batter into the lined tin, guiding the mixture into the corners. 

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes or until the surface of the sponge is firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.

8. Once the sponge is removed from the oven, cover the top with a clean damp cloth and allow it to cool fully. 

9. For the mascarpone cream, place the mascarpone straight from the fridge into a mixer with the honey, stem ginger (finely chopped) and a teaspoon of ginger syrup and mix until combined. Gradually add the cream until the mixture thickens to the consistency of whipped cream.

10. When ready to roll, remove the cloth and upturn the sponge on to a sheet of clingfilm on a work surface, dusted with icing sugar. Peel away the base layer of paper. Spread the mascarpone, filling evenly over the centre of the sponge before firmly rolling up from the shortest end.

11. To serve, dust with icing sugar. If you like the taste, heat some more honey and drizzle it over the top of the rolled sponge.

Variation 
For a decorative finish, top with mascarpone cream, toasted hazelnuts and fresh figs.

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