Honey Cake Truffles

Honey Cake Truffles

I was trying to find a fall-themed dessert for a Sukkot celebration, which had to meet the criteria of being easy to grab and requiring no utensils. I somehow started thinking about possible truffles – pecan pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie – and looking at various recipes for them. But it just didn’t seem quite right. And then it came to me – why not a honey cake truffle?*

So I did what I usually do – googled various phrases trying to find recipes. I figured it was so obvious it had probably been made a million times. But this was apparently not true. I couldn’t find a single recipe.

Two medium loaves of honey cake

So, I cobbled one together. I envisioned a honey cake mixed with a honey frosting, coated in white chocolate and perhaps sprinkled with some cinnamon for decoration. I knew I wanted to use Smitten Kitchen’s honey cake recipe – moist, full of spices, with a dash of bourbon in the batter that added that extra little something.

Honey frosting

Honey frosting all whipped up

I found a ton of “honey frosting” recipes, but most had just a couple of tablespoons and were still powdered-sugar-based. Then I stumbled on one that was just butter and honey, and that seemed perfect. I am honestly not sure if I think it would work well as an actual frosting, but the consistency was fine to mix with cake pieces.

Adding honey cake to frosting

And that first bite of my honey-cake-and-frosting mixture? Absolutely amazing. I think I ate three pieces of it before making myself stop. I do love honey cake itself, but this was taking it one or two steps up a notch.

Mixing honey cake into frosting

Right way, I realized that white chocolate wouldn’t work. At all. The mixture was so sweet, it would be hideous with white chocolate. So I tried dark chocolate, thinking the lower sweetness would be a good foil (plus, remembered the German lebkuchen (gingerbread) cookies that have a thin coat of chocolate). Surprisingly, it was a total failure. The dark chocolate tempered the sweetness, but the primary taste (and sole aftertaste) was the dark chocolate, which defeated the whole point of a coating highlighting the filling.

Honey cake truffle mixture

So there I was, with a giant tray of honey cake truffles, and no idea for how to coat them. And then it came to me – almond meal! Not only would it be easy to roll the balls in, but many people traditionally put almonds in their honey cake, making it seem like an obvious choice. I had a bag of ground almonds from Trader Joe’s (which are ground with the skins on, which especially in this application gives a nice, almost rustic look), and tried one. It was pretty perfect. You don’t necessarily taste the almond, but it does add something.

Honey cake truffles

One of my friends is allergic to nuts, and I was later trying to think of what I could roll them in so she could try them. Her son suggested graham cracker crumbs – I was a little embarrassed that it had never occurred to me, because it does seem pretty natural!

I gave samples of both the almond-covered and graham-cracker-covered to several friends, and none of us really tasted enough of a difference to have a clear preference. So, I like keeping it more natural and quasi-traditional with the almonds, but the graham cracker crumbs are a good substitute.

Coating honey cake truffles

* Note that I originally called them “honey cake cake balls” because it’s essentially a cake ball (crumbled cake mixed with frosting) but since that sounds so repetitive and convoluted, I decided “honey cake truffle” just sounds so much better 🙂

Honey Cake Truffles

Honey Cake Truffles

Honey Cake Truffles

Original recipe by Liz Chesser; frosting recipe barely adapted from Recipes to Nourish and honey cake recipe from Deb Perelman who adapted it from Marcy Goldman’s Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking

    Cake:
  • 3-1/2 cups (440 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (95 grams) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons (about 8 grams) ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup (235 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (340 grams) honey
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup warm (235 ml) coffee (see note below)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) rye or whiskey (optional but recommended)
    Frosting:
  • 1 stick butter, cold
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons honey (I sprayed a 1/4 cup measuring up with non-stick spray, and measured one and a half of these cups, giving me approximately 6 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    Coating:
  • Ground almonds, almond meal, or graham cracker crumbs
Make Honey Cake:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Recipe makes 8 cups batter, which can make one angel food or tube pan, one bundt pan, one 9x13” pan, or several loaf pans (3 cups of batter for large loaf pan, 2 cups of batter for medium loaf pan, and 1 cup of batter for small loaf pan). For this recipe, I baked my honey cake in 4 medium loaf pans (disposable pans measuring 8” x 3-7/8” x 2-15/32”). Generously grease pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.
  • Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye or whiskey, if using. Measure the oil before the honey, as it makes it easier to get the honey out of the measuring cup.
  • Use a whisk to mix everything together, making sure nothing is stuck on the bottom or sides of the bowl.
  • Spoon batter into prepared pan(s). If using loaf pans, you may want to place them on a baking sheet to make it easier to remove them from the oven.
  • Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel food, tube, and bundt pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes. For small loaf pans, about 30-40 minutes and for other loaf pans, about 45 to 55 minutes. For a 9x13" pan, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.
  • Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan.
  • The finished loaves weighed around 17 ounces each. For each batch of honey cake truffles, you will need 1-1/2 loaves of honey cake, or approximately 25 ounces total.
  • Make Frosting:
  • Roughly cube the cold butter, and place it in the bowl of a stand or hand mixer. Beat it until it softens and is a little whipped. Add the powdered sugar, and continue to beat until it’s fully incorporated and is a little fluffy. Drizzle the honey in, and keep beating. You will want to beat for at least a couple of minutes, scraping the bottom and sides once or twice to make sure everything is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla during the beating.
  • While the frosting is beating, crumble the honey cake. The edges on my honey cakes were a little firm, so it is important to break these into small pieces, but the soft center can be chunkier, as the mixer will be able to break it down sufficiently.
  • Make truffles:
  • When the frosting is nice and fluffy, put some of the honey cake crumbles into the mixing bowl, and beat just to incorporate. Repeat until all the honey cake is incorporated. I found the listed amount of honey cake to make a fairly stiff but still soft and moist cake ball consistency, and it seemed perfect to me. If you prefer your cake balls stiffer or looser, adjust the amount of cake crumbles accordingly.
  • Scoop the mixture into balls; I used a #60 cookie scoop, which yields balls that are about an inch in diameter. Roll each ball so it’s smooth and round, then roll in the almond meal. You want to roll while the ball is at room temperature so the almonds will actually stick. If you refrigerate the mixture before this step, just bring to room temperature and proceed.
  • Eat immediately. If making in advance, keep in the fridge or freezer.
  • Note: The original recipe lists “coffee or tea”; coffee is traditionally used in honey cakes, and I wanted to use tea, but was persuaded not to. I can’t stand the smell or taste of coffee (and am usually quite sensitive to small amounts of it in desserts) but I was unable to taste it in this cake, so I agree it’s best to just use coffee.
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