I think the Greeks have a really high sweet threshold – how else do you explain the endless syrup cakes and honey-soaked pastries I grew up with? This cake brings together Greek honey and pine nuts in a sweet sticky marriage made in heaven. You can serve this on its own but it is indescribably delicious served warm with a little crème fraîche or even some vanilla ice cream. Honestly one of the easiest and tastiest cakes I have ever made – and it keeps really well too. The one thing that doesn't keep well at all is pine nuts – make sure you use them soon after buying as they really don't improve with age!
I grew up surrounded by pine trees – both in our flat in Athens but especially in our little summer home on the island of Skiathos (my dad's birthplace). My father has planted umbrella pine trees all around the house and we used to collect the pinecones and shake out the seeds, smashing them with stones to get to the sweet treat inside.
My husband and I decided to get married in Skiathos, bringing together friends and family all the way from Canada, the US & UK and mainland Greece. Our reception was outside, under olive trees festooned with fairy lights. Romantic, right? Right. Little did we know, and unthinkable to imagine (rain? In Greece? In August?) that it would start to rain at 3am while the reception was still in full swing... and it would not stop raining for 3 whole days. This was no summer rain – this was a deluge and the island was completely flooded. Pine nuts all over the island swelled and sprouted and literally hundreds of tiny little pine tree seedlings dotted the landscape. We brought back a couple of seedlings and one is now a tree – currently waiting for the garden to be free of builders so it can claim its rightful place in the sun again.
Honey and pine nut cake
Recipe adapted from 500 Cakes
230g | 8oz unsalted butter, cubed
120ml | 4fl oz honey (Attiki honey or wildflower honey preferably)
75ml | 2.5fl oz golden syrup (or replace with honey)
100g | 3.5oz soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs
200g | 7oz self-raising flour, sifted
2 tbsp fine cornmeal, sifted
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp powdered mastic gum (optional)
zest of 1 orange
100g pine nuts – reserve 2 tbsp for topping
5 tbsp honey to drizzle on finished cake (or more, to taste)
1. Preheat the oven to 160C (325F). Grease a 20cm (8in) springform cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
2. Put the butter, honey, golden syrup and sugar in the saucepan and heat gently, stirring over low heat until the butter melts. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
3. Beat in the eggs using a hand whisk then sift the flour, cornmeal, salt and mastic gum (if using) over the mixture. Stir with the hand whisk to combine.
4. Add the pine nuts (reserving a few to sprinkle over the cake) and orange zest and fold them in. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes (or up to an hour) until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
5. Heat 5 tbsp of honey in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until runny then drizzle over the still warm cake while it is still inside the tin. Remove the cake from the tin once completely cool and
serve with some Greek yoghurt, crème fraîche or vanilla yoghurt.