This Ukrainian Honey Cake (Medivnyk) tastes like Christmas, with the dark buckwheat honey that’s reminiscent of molasses or gingerbread, the hint of orange zest, and the Christmas spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, this cake is a celebration of winter.
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Honey cake came about because of the scarcity and expense of sugar. So, Ukrainian bakers began to experiment with honey in baked goods.
There are as many versions of medivnyk as there are grandmas, and I think my Grandma gave this recipe to me. She gave me many books, some of the cookbooks, and I’ve always had a fondness for all things Ukrainian.
Maybe one day I’ll share her recipe for Holoobchee (holubchi or Holubtsi).
Medivnyk should be made 2 to 3 days before you plan to serve it, to allow the flavor to develop properly. So remember to allow time for it to age.
Usually I do all the mixing for my baking with a fork and arm muscles! I like the workout and I like not having a bunch of machines to clean up afterwards.
This cake, however, is one where I recommend using a machine to help you mix. You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer, your choice.
I like to use a hand mixer (again, I’m pretty lazy and pulling out the stand mixer seems like so much work! LOL).
But the cake batter gets pretty thick, and nearly impossible to mix well with a fork.
This cake is best when made with buckwheat honey.
Buckwheat honey has a pungent molasses or malty flavor. It’s very dark in color, ranging from amber colored with a slight reddish tint to black.
It has lots of health related benefits that I won’t really dive into here, but know that darker honeys tend to be higher in antioxidant compounds than lighter ones.
So does that make this cake a health food?
Buckwheat honey also isn’t as sweet as the clover or wildflower honey that most people are used to.
I admit that I have a somewhat addiction to honey, and if you look in my cupboard right now you would find many different kinds of honey, so getting the honey to make this cake was a simple as searching through the cupboard. One of the nice things about my honey obsession is that honey, including buckwheat honey, never goes bad, it may just crystallize over time.
Since most people don’t share my hording of honey, I thought I’d mention that if you can’t find buckwheat honey, I recommend going with another dark honey, the flavor of the cake might change a bit though.
And, if you want to try clover honey, know that your cake will not be as full flavored, and will be much sweeter.
To make it easier to measure the honey, spray the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray first, then pour in the honey. The spray makes it easier to get all the sticky honey out of the cup.
Currants may be a new ingredient for many people. I think most people have heard of them, but may not have cooked with them before.
True currants are small berries that grow on shrubs and are more like gooseberries; they have a sweet and bright acidic berry flavor.
The currants that we can get here in most grocery stores are simply small dried Corinth grapes that are more or less just small raisins.
I was able to find dried Zante currants in the dried fruit section of my grocery store, which is in the back of the produce section at my store. If you can’t find currants, you may use raisins instead.
How to make this recipe
Prepare a 10-inch tube pan (like an angel food cake pan) by greasing it and then lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
To cut out the shapes, trace around the bottom of the cake pan with a pencil onto parchment paper, then cut the shapes out with scissors.
Fit the cut out shape onto the bottom, and a long piece onto the sides of the pan. Grease these pieces of paper as well.
I leave the center piece without any paper, and simply slide a knife around the center to make sure it’s loose when I go to release the cake from the pan.
Cream the softened butter and the brown sugar together. Then add in the buckwheat honey.
Mix the egg yolks into the honey mixture, one at a time. Add in the dry ingredients. The batter is pretty thick by this point.
Then mix in the orange rind and the sour cream.
Mix in the currants, walnuts, and dates.
In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites.
Then, fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly, and bake.
Once baked, carefully remove the cake from the outer part of the pan and let the cake cool (upright) in the tube section (like in the picture at the right above).
How to remove the cake from the pan
Once the cake is completely cooled, remove it from the pan. It’s a pretty sturdy cake, so you shouldn’t have any problems with this process.
To do so, first, take a knife, and gently work around the tube part of the pan to make sure the cake isn’t stuck to the tube.
Then, place a large plate on top of the cooled cake that’s still in the tube part of the pan. Quickly flip the plate and tube pan over so the plate is underneath.
Now the cake should fall onto the plate and away from the tube pan.
Remove the tube part of the pan, and gently peel away the parchment paper. Now, place a cake plate where where the parchment paper was (which is actually the bottom of the cake), and quickly flip the whole thing over again so the cake is upright.
Let age & serve
Wrap the cake in foil and let age for 2-3 days.
Once you are ready to serve the cake, cut it into smaller slices than you would with, say an angel food cake. This honey cake is pretty heavy and flavorful, so a smaller slice is perfect!
It can be garnished with powdered sugar or served with a bit of whipped cream if you wish.
Kitchen items you may need
Note: these are affiliate links
wooden spoon for mixing
angel food cake pan 10 inch tube pan with a removable bottom
pretty cake stand
measuring spoons and cups
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Ukrainian Honey Cake (Medivnyk)
- Hand mixer
- stand mixer
- ½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup buckwheat honey
- 4 eggs separated, divided use
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of fine grain sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- grated rind of one orange
- 1 cup full fat sour cream
- ½ cup dried currants
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- ½ cup chopped pitted dates
- Preheat the oven to 300° F. Prepare a 10-inch tube pan (like an angel food cake pan) by greasing it and then lining the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Grease the paper. Set the prepared pan aside.
- Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, then beat in the honey.
- Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Stir in the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix well.
- Add the orange rind and sour cream, beating until the batter is smooth.
- Stir in the currants, walnuts, and dates.
- In a separate bowl, whip the 4 egg whites until stiff but not dry, and fold them into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Bake the cake in the preheated 300° F oven for 75 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Carefully remove the cake from the outer part of the pan and let the cake cool (upright) in the tube section. When completely cool, remove the cake from the pan.
- Wrap the cake in aluminum foil and let sit at room temperature fro 2-3 days before serving. It may be eaten sooner, but the flavor won’t be as rich. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations, and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary based on brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes, and more.