When I was young and living in the Philippines, I remember going to a bakery called Hizon’s at J. Bocobo Street in Manila. The smell of butter, sugar, and eggs that greeted me every time I sailed through their double glass doors sent fireworks and sparkles to my world. I loved the way the sweet aroma wafting from their kitchen made me feel like rainbows and sunshine inside. Hizon’s is a dreamy classic!
All – I say, all! – of my birthday cakes throughout the years were bought from Hizon’s because it was supposed to be the best in Manila! I remember how the rich, smooth Euro-style buttercream of their classic birthday cake swaddled a lovely two-layer vanilla sponge. It made me go weak in the knees. It was a taste of heaven!
But we didn’t just go there for birthday cakes. We would launch monthly trips to Hizon’s for local sweets, too, like yemas, pastillas de leche, macapuno macaroons, pili tarts, silvanas, to name just a few. Going home with a prized white box of goodies from Hizon’s is a particularly wonderful memory for me – my happy place, indeed. How I miss glazing through shelf after shelf of their sweet treats.
Then I came to Canada – land of doughnuts, bagels, and double-double coffee (double cream, double sugar). My first job here was a stint as a barista at The Second Cup, sort of a Starbucks copycat in Canada. From barista, I became a franchisee-operator of my own Second Cup, along with my parents.
At that time, I worked long hours, murdered my social life, and went home reeking of old coffee! My hair smelled like coffee; my clothes smelled like coffee; even my nails smelled like coffee. In fact, I don’t know what part of me didn’t smell like coffee!
So, I got out of the business! But let me tell you, the corporate office didn’t make it easy for me to unshackle from the old ball-and-chain! In the end, we lost the franchise after years of negotiation and fighting a losing battle with the “head office”. We parted with nothing but a $3,000 espresso machine (but that’s another story, perhaps, for another post).
However, what I enjoyed most about working / owning a coffee house was all the delicious baked goods that came my way! Back when I was rocking the counters and making lattes in less than 60 seconds (ha!), I was not exactly very fond of sweets. Perhaps, because if one is around them all the time, one tends to get sick of it. Really quickly.
But now that I no longer am in the coffee service business, I kind of miss that environment (oh OK, not really! I’m glad I’m not doing that anymore). I do remember that we used to have these really nice cake loaves at the store that one of our suppliers would send us regularly. I was thinking at that time that I really should learn how to make simple, delicious-tasting loaves like those ones (and not have to pay $2.50, or something ridiculous, for a slice)!
And what do you know? I bake these things like crazy nowadays! A simple honey tea cake like this one is perfect for any beginner! It’s a pound-like cake with a more pronounced egg-y richness. I know, I know…it calls for a lot of egg yolks in the recipe, but rest assured, they make the cake dense and rich!
It’s really hard to go wrong with a classic loaf like this. Of all the recipes I’ve tried, the one from Miette (the cookbook from the famed San Francisco bakery) is the most sophisticated and luxurious one around!
I love cake!
- 12 oz (2¾ cups) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 large egg yolks
- 2 large whole eggs
- 8 oz (1 cup) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 11 oz (1½ cups) sugar
- 11 oz (1 cup + 6 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup honey, warmed and diluted with 2 tablespoons water to make syrup
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Liberally butter four 5 x 3-inch or two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans and dust with flour. Tap out excess.
- Preheat oven to 350 F ( C).
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. In another small bowl, stir together the egg yolks, whole eggs, cream, and vanilla.
- In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld whisk, combine dry ingredients and the sugar. Mix on medium speed for 30 seconds.
- Reduce the speed to low, add the butter and half of the egg mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Raise speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes to add air.
- Return speed to low, add the remaining egg mixture, and beat just until incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
- Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake until the tops are golden brown and tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes for the small loaves and 35 to 40 minutes for the larger loaves.
- Transfer the pans to the wire racks and immediately brush or drizzle tops with honey syrup. Run an offset spatula around the edges to release the cake. Let cool in pans for another 20 minutes before inverting onto the racks.
- Serve right away or wrap the cakes tightly in plastic and store at room temperature until ready to serve. Can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.