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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* 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 🙂
- 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)
- 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
- Ground almonds, almond meal, or graham cracker crumbs