my husband robbed the bees of some honey. we have had bees in our front yard for 3 years now and this is the first time that we were able to harvest honey. my mother never kept much in the house when i was growing up so most of my experiences with honey were the stuff from the supermarket-you know, the little bear shaped squeeze bottles. ask a bee keeper about that stuff and they will scoff at the idea of using it. first of all, it most likely isn’t pure honey-quite possibly it is flavored syrup mixed with honey. another concern is that the honey is processed to remove the pollen and bee parts-yes, bees can die during the harvest. lastly, most of mass marketed honey is made from blends from all over the world and much of the flavor is lost in the process.
several years ago, while writing my second cookbook, i had a honey epiphany. i had the chance to taste pure wild flower honey that was produced by bees being kept by a group of menonite farmers. knowing that these folks didn’t use many of the practices of the big commercial producers, it was an eye opening experience. i didn’t know honey could taste that good; better than good, more like uh-may-zing!!! that was it, no more little bears for me, just local wild flower honey from a reputable bee keeper.
about that time, my husband and i became master gardeners and he caught the bee buzz. we took classes, we studied, we asked questions and then we dove in feet first…honestly, the girls(what we call the bees) do the work, we just barge in on them every now and then to make sure all is well.
after borrowing an extractor-a hand cranked centrifuge, my husband got to work. it didn’t go smoothly and the comb was destroyed in the process, but he learned all about the process and will do it again soon. his efforts yielded nearly 2 quarts of honey.
i love the way it glows when the sunlight shines through it. knowing that i needed to make a cake for my trip to the garden, i chose to make an upside down cake just so i could include some of that honey.
in my favorite cast iron skillet, i melted butter, sugar, brown sugar and honey.
it is allowed to melt and then boiled a bit to thicken.
since this would be the last cake i could bake in my old faithful oven, mr. kenmore, i decided to go all out. not only did i use honey from our bees, i picked figs from our tree. for mr. kenmore’s last stand, he would bake a fig upside down cake. the figs are cut in half and laid cut side down in the syrup.
after baking, the cake is allowed to set for a few minutes and then it is turned out onto a serving dish.
fresh fig upside down cake
1 (10″) skillet cake that serves 8-10
adapted from my own book!
fresh figs-amount needed will depend on size, the ones from our tree are small and it took about two dozen to decorate the top and have the amount needed for the cake batter-1/3 cup, cut into chunks.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (or 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar as in the photo above-i ran out of light…)
1/4 cup pure wildflower honey
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
place an empty baking sheet on the lower rack of the oven to catch drips and preheat the oven to 350. place a cast iron skillet over low heat and melt 4 tablespoons of the butter with the brown sugar and honey. stir to combine and when it is melted, raise the heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil. allow it to boil, stirring continuously, until it thickens a little-about 2 minutes. remove from the heat.
place the halved figs, cut side down, in the syrup in a random pattern that covers as much as the top as possible. make sure there aren’t many large spaces between the figs or there will be large gaps in the design when the cake is unmolded.
to mix the cake batter, cream the remaining butter with the granulated sugar, vanilla and salt. when it is light and fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time and be sure to scrape the bowl well. sift the cake flour and baking powder over the batter, sprinkle the buttermilk on top and fold a few times. add the chopped figs and fold completely. dollop the batter over the prepared pan gently so that you do not disturb the pattern. carefully smooth out the batter and bake until a pick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. allow the cake to stand for 5-10 minutes and carefully turn it out onto a serving dish.
note that if you do not have a cast iron skillet, you can use any oven proof dish or pan, including standard cake pans, to make this cake. just be sure to use one that is at least 9″ in diameter and no larger than 10″. my cast iron skillet is 8″ in diameter on the bottom and flairs out to 10″ at the top. if you use anything other than cast iron, be sure to keep a close eye on the cake, thinner and lighter metal pans, as well as glass and ceramic, may bake faster.
and now, everybody join me in a moment of silence to mark poor mr. kenmore’s passing. may he rest in pieces…