Lavender Honey Cake

You’ve heard me go on about Ottolenghi (the man, the places, the cookbooks) before haven’t you?  (And if you don’t remember, just look here and here).

I still pride myself on having discovered the cafe (back when I lived in London) before it was (quite so) famous.

Actually I was taking a knitting class on the same block, I was hungry, and it was the first decent-looking place I happened upon, but as my dad likes to joke, “don’t confuse me with the facts.”  Let’s say instead it was my innate, effortless hipness, my internal up-and-coming-trend honing device, my legendary finger-on-the-pulse-of-the-next-big thing.

And now, despite a few kitchen mis-steps, I’m going to present you with my “version” of the Ottolenghi Lavender Honey Cake.

If you’ve seen the book, you know these are supposed to be mini bundt cakes.  I actually have mini-bundt cake molds (don’t ask!) which I’ve never used (don’t ask, again!) so obviously I should make this right?  And wouldn’t mini-bundt cakes drizzled in icing be just too cute?  Yes, this is all very true, but…unfortunately the recipe doesn’t spccify what size a mini-bundt pan should be.  Whatever size it is, it’s much bigger than whatever I’ve got, so in went the batter into a standard 9-inch cake pan.  (And my mini-bundts still have yet to take their maiden voyage to the oven).

Secondly, despite having made sure to purchase sour cream that day for this recipe, I realized, only as the batter was slowly glug-glugging into the cake pan, that the nice vat of sour cream was still minding its own business, unopened, in the fridge.

It probably wasn’t too late, exactly, as I could have scraped the batter back into the bowl and stirred it in, but I didn’t.  Into the oven it went instead, not without some trepidation and buoyed by tightly crossed fingers.  (That’s a high-tech baking technique by the way).

And it turned out just fine!  A whisper of cratering in the center–surely due to an imbalance of baking soda to acid, having left out the sour cream–that really just allowed for a lovely pooling of the sugary-sweet glaze.  (Kitchen science note:  an excess of baking soda or indeed baking powder can cause your cake to rise too much and too quickly.  Eventually structurally unable to support itself, the domed cake can collapse in at the center, or most disappointingly, crater.  Despite my reckless abandon, I probably avoided this sad fate thanks to the recipe’s use of honey, which like sour cream, is acidic and therefore reacts well with baking soda).

The cake had that lovely floral aroma of lavender and the moistness of honey–a moistness that it retained for a few days (when the last bit of it finally made its way into our bellies).  It was elegant without being too fancy or fussy, and came together easily.  Baking with honey is a lovely way to change up your routine and I hope to try it more and more.

Even with my little lapses, this was a great cake.  I’ve included the full recipe below.  But if you like, you can “leave out” the sour cream and just say you “intentionally” made a lower fat version.

P.S.  If you want more from Mr. Yotam Ottolenghi (and why wouldn’t you?) check out his column for the Guardian here!

Lavender Honey Cake (adapted from Ottolenghi:  the Cookbook)


  •  1 cup (2 sticks/225g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (115g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) honey (lavender honey if you have it)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2c (245g) all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t chopped dried lavender, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup (110mL) sour cream


  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice (one lemon should provide enough)
  • 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 3/4 cup (100g) powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325F.  Butter a 9-inch cake tin, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter that, and flour, tipping out any excess.

Cream the butter, sugar, and honey together until light and fluffy.  Beat the eggs lightly together and slowly incorporate into the butter base.

Mix the dry ingredients together (all remaining ingredients but the sour cream) and stir well.  Fold 1/3 of the flour mixture gently into the butter base, then about 1/3 of the sour cream.  Repeat twice more until all ingredients are just incorporated.

Turn the batter into your prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Note that honey browns very quickly in the oven, so if you notice this happening, you can tent your cake with foil for the duration.  When you cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for about ten minutes, then invert onto a rack to cool.

When cool, transfer to a plate and make the icing:  whisk the lemon juice and honey together, then whisk in the powdered sugar (ideally you’d sift the powdered sugar in to remove any lumps).  Drizzle over your cake, allowing the icing to trickle down the sides.  Sprinkle with additional lavender.  Allow frosting to set, and serve.

Update 10/29 Thanks to Hope for pointing out that I had forgotten to specify the quantity of flour!

More love for Mr. Yotam in the blogosphere:

Carolyn of Umami Girl’s Ottolenghi lentils

Heavenly Housewife’s cooking class with Ottolenghi and a recipe for grilled eggplant.

Sweet Artichoke’s Caramel and Macadamia Nut Cheesecake from the same book.


34 thoughts on “Lavender Honey Cake

  1. Yummy! I think you and Mike generously took me (and maybe Kate?) to Ottolenghi, and (if I am thinking of the right place), it was delicious. Looks like this cake lived up to it. The cake bible or celebration cakes (can’t quite remember which) has a mini-bundt recipe. Maybe we can make it at thanksgiving if there is room in the luggage for the pans?

    • I’m sure we took you there–you could order takeout by weight, like a fancy deli, which was genius. We should definitely make stuff at Thanksgiving!

  2. Hi, Sara! Your cake looks lovely, sour cream or no. And I am totally impressed with your knowledge of baking fundamentals. Hadn’t realized honey was so acidic, but now I know!

    Thanks for the link to my post. Hope you’re having a great weekend! xx

  3. What a gorgeous cake! I share in the Mr. Yotam love…Plenty is one of my very favorite cookbooks. I haven’t have the pleasure of eating at Ottolenghi, but know I will love it whenever I have the chance. I appreciate learning more about baking soda and powder…I didn’t realize honey was acidic. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  4. Laughing at the sour cream incident 🙂 I use my microwave only to melt butter – and on more than one occasion I’ve found a solid once-melted bowl of butter in my microwave on the following day.

    I love Ottolenghi’s books – but haven’t had a chance to visit them yet. Next time I’m in London…

  5. I think all of Boston’s caught onto how great Ottolenghi is; I put my name on the reserve list for his new cookbook at the BPL MONTHS ago, and I’ve yet to receive the message telling me the book is finally in.

    Re. your mini Bundt cakes. I was flipping through a magazine a few days ago — maybe this month’s F+W — and there was spread on Halloween snacks. There was one about making mini pumpkins: bake cakes in your mini Bundt pans, flip them over, and cover them in orange fondant (or frosting). All I could think was, now come on, who has mini Bundt pans lying around?!?!

    • I seem to remember it was some bargain bin or clearance “deal” and super-cheap, but yes, it’s still ridiculous. Covering a bundt cake in fondant sounds like too much work. You will have to borrow my book!

  6. Ton gateau a vraiment l’air délicieux. I Can’t wait to try it!!! Though I’m not sure I’ll be able to find lavender here in Guadeloupe.

  7. I made this cake yesterday with real churned butter, local honey ad lavender from the garden and it was TO DIE FOR!! I am wondering how much flour you used in your version as I merely guessed!?

    • I’m so glad you made it and even happier you liked it! It really is great to know so thanks for coming back to comment. I can’t believe I left out the flour, I will fix it; thank you! (she says, slightly embarrassed!)

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  9. I used 1 cup of flour haha! And now I see that the recipe calls for two cups. Wow! The cake was very moist (but I like a moist cake) and everyone asked for the recipe…Before I knew how much was in it I was going to try the recipe again with 1 2/3 cups of flour…We shall see! Thanks for adding it in! 🙂

    • Who knows though–your one cup of flour and my two cups could have been very close, given how much variance there is in a cup of flour (which is why I try to use weights as well, also it’s fewer measuring cups to clean). Anyway, none of this matters since it worked out well for you! Love that you were able to use all those local ingredients too. Did you use the sour cream?

  10. I did use the sour cream! I also made this recipe yesterday, again, and I used 1 2/3 cups of flour and I realized I didn’t have any sour cream at the last minute and had to use plain yogurt, which worked great as well, though I prefer the sour cream. 1 2/3 cups of flour made a beautiful cake density! I also made it in my mini bundt molds! Haha!

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