I fell in love with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth when I read The Fellowship of the Ring. Admittedly, I was only introduced to Tolkien when the movie came out (cringe, cringe). My childhood didn’t offer much opportunity to explore literature as much as I wanted and I had to scrape together my meager allowance to buy used books. Forget about libraries; the only ones that I had access to were school libraries and I made sure to spend most of my free time there. But enough of the sob story. Today’s all about Beorn’s Honey Cake.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that this is the fourth challenge in the Cooking by the Book series. I haven’t had the time to write about the others (madeleines, pumpkin pasties, and treacle tarts) but I’ll hopefully get to them soon.
For those who aren’t familiar with The Lord of the Rings, Beorn was a skinchanger who helped Thorin and the dwarves in The Hobbit. He takes on the form of a huge bear, and true to stereotypical bear behavior, he was fond of honey. In fact, honey was added to most of the food he made.
Honey cakes, though, were the Beornings’ specialty. They were renowned for being one of the best bakers around and Gimli probably loved their honey cakes.
“Indeed it is,” said Gimli. “Why it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beorning, and that is great praise, for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of;”
In the book, the honey cakes were twice baked to keep them fresh for a long time, making them perfect for traveling around the Middle Earth for weeks. In the real world (aka our world), these cakes taste much better fresh out of the oven but can be kept for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.
This is a very simple recipe but I upped the appeal factor by using this specialty pan from Nordic Ware. I’ve had my eye on this for a few months, but they were too expensive to buy from the shop. Luckily I found a seller on Carousell (it’s like Ebay) who was selling it at a cheaper price.
Honeycomb pan + honey cakes? Sold. Oh did I mention that it makes an adorable pull-apart cake? The pan has these cute bee designs with ridges that make it easy to separate each section.
If you don’t have this honeycomb pan, don’t fret. You can use a 9-inch cake pan as well.
For my version of Beorn’s Honey Cake, I used a combination of cornmeal and flour. The cornmeal, not to be confused with corn starch or corn flour, added an interesting texture to the cake. The cake came out tender but with a hint of grittiness on the tongue. It’s not rough or coarse per se, but the cornmeal lent a je ne se quois (oh, snooty) to the cake.
If cornmeal isn’t available, you can use all purpose flour instead. While I haven’t tried baking this cake using all flour, I think it will turn out just as good too. It will probably taste like honey sponge cakes. Drool.
I also tried infusing the milk with cardamom and cinnamon. Following a quick simmer to melt the butter, I let the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick steep for 30 minutes in the warm milk and butter mixture. I love how the milk smelled like cardamom. It’s seriously my new favorite spice. Haha.
Serve it warm for tea and top it with butter and honey. Delicious!
Ready to try this Middle Earth treat for yourself?
Honey cakes were the Beorning’s specialty in the Lord of the Rings. This tender and sweet cake is easy enough to replicate and perfect to top with butter and honey!
138 grams (1 cup) cornmeal
120 grams (1 cup) all purpose flour
110 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
240 ml (1 cup) milk
60 ml (1/4 cup) honey
4 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
57 grams (1/4 cup) butter
- In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the butter, milk, honey, cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick to a simmer. Stir occasionally to ensure that butter is melted. Remove from heat and let the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick steep for 10 minutes or more.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
- Remove the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick from the milk mixture. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Pour the batter onto the prepared 9-inch cake pan.
- Bake at a preheated 350F/180C oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the toothpick comes up clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting on to a serving plate.
- If you don’t have cardamom pods, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom. However, add it in with the dry ingredients rather than steeping it in the milk.
- I love cardamom but if you haven’t tried or don’t like it, you can try to lessen the amount used. Or you can more for a stronger taste!
- If cornmeal is unavailable, use all purpose flour instead.