A Little Science in the Kitchen

Normally I have an irrational fear of hot things that spit molten oil at me and generally being burnt. Hence, my husband always does the deep frying (we try to restrain ourselves from too much deep frying for I fear that if we were to start a weekly habit it would escalate wildly out of control and then where would we be? Deep frying the dogs food? Sandwiches for work?) and anything that involves extreme temperatures. This is probably one of the main reasons why I could never work in a professional kitchen although I have plenty of burn scars to justify my fears.
Therefore it should come as a bit of a surprise to hear that this weekend I made Honeycomb. For those of you not familiar, the process of making Honeycomb involves a bubbling, lava hot sugar syrup that is sprinkled with Bicarbonate of Soda which then erupts into furious golden pockmarked cinder toffee. It involves a sugar thermometer and that has indicated failure in the past, due to my abject lack of patience: "Well, the recipe says 150c but surely 120C will do?"
English readers will know Cinder Toffee or Honeycomb in its most familar incarnation: Crunchie Bars, chocolate coated Honeycomb and American readers will know it by the more romantic Seafoam (an apt description of the most dangerous procedure of manufacture). The homemade version, I am pleased to report, is much, much nicer and, in spite of the burn threat, very easy to make.
I had seen a recipe for a Marmalade and Honeycomb Cake in a Sunday Magazine (which shall remain nameless) and decided there and then that I had to A) bake the cake and B) buy the book from whence it came (the Duchy Originals Cookbook). Sure enough, this Christmas, my mother - a staunch royalist and Prince Charles fan - bought me the book. All politics aside, the book has some delicious and simple recipes and the mantra of Organic, Organic, Organic is beguiling.
But I digress. I decided to bake the aforementioned cake for Saturday Teatime. The cake itself is a simple butter, eggs, sugar, ground almonds batter pinpointed with a couple of tablespoons of Marmalade. When I licked the spoon, the raw cake mix tasted delicious, the delicate hint of tart Seville oranges a wonderful surprise.
The baked cake darkens to a deep golden brown and it is then split and filled with a layer of more Marmalade and whipped cream, sharpened with some Creme Fraiche (or Sour Cream) and mottled with pulverised Honeycomb. It tasted like an old fashioned cake, from another era altogether, gently orangy and with the slightly burnt tasting honeycomb. It is very rich.
The recipe for the Honeycomb makes quite a lot and it is very moreish although incredibly tooth-achey (which you could probably allude to the sugar, corn syrup and honey that it contains...). After tasting the cream that sandwiched the cake together, I feel certain that this blend would make an awesome ice cream too.
75g Honey
150ml Glucose Syrup (I used Corn Syrup)
400g Caster Sugar
100ml Cold Water
15g Bicarbonate of Soda
Line a large baking sheet with grease proof paper and put the baking sheet over some sheets of old newspaper. The reason for this? When you pour out the honeycomb it goes a bit crazy and might overspill the baking sheet. And, speaking from personal experience, it really is a bit of a sod to remove from a wooden work surface.
1) In a large pan, gently heat the honey, sugar, glucose (or corn) Syrup) and water until the sugar has dissolved and is no longer grainy. This may take 5-10 minutes.
2) Then, using a sugar thermometer as your guide, gradually heat this sweet syrup until it reaches 150c (this is called Soft Crack stage). It may take another 10 minutes to reach this point. The sugar will bubble wildly but it doesn't spit out (thank goodness).
3) Once it reaches 150c sprinkle over the Bicarbonate of Soda. Stir rapidly until all the powder has dissolved. The mixture will instantly change from clear to a rich golden creamy colour and look very, very frothy.

4) Pour out this frantically multiplying mixture onto your baking sheet and leave it alone for at least half an hour. Do not touch the baking sheet as it gets incredibly hot from the honeycomb.
Keep stored in an airtight jar or tin. It will start to go sticky after 2 or 3 days (if it lasts that long) but it is has a multitude of uses: crumbled over ice cream, drizzled with chocolate, pumice stone....
The Cake:
250g Unsalted Butter, room temperature
250g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs and 1 Yolk, lightly beaten
250g Plain Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
50g Ground Almonds (which always promote a moist, long-lasting cake)
150g Seville Marmalade
Preheat Oven to 180c. Grease and flour an 8" Round Cake Tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Gradually beat in the eggs until amalgamated. If the mixture starts to curdle, sprinkle over a little flour and beat frantically.
Sift the flour and baking soda into the mixture, add the ground almonds and mix well.
Finally, stir through the Marmalade, just so it mottles through the batter. You want stripes of it running through the cake.
Pour gently into your prepared cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. Take care as the marmalade in the cake can catch quite easily (I had to shave off a little of the edge of the cake as it blackened slightly. This didn't affect the final product though).
Turn out onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
When cool, carefully cut in half and fill with the cream.
The Cream:
2 Tablespoons Marmalade
100ml Double Cream
50ml Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream
100g Honeycomb, blitzed in a blender until it resembles a nubbly rubble.
Whisk the cream until it softly peaking. Stir in the creme fraiche (or sour cream) and the honeycomb rubble. Spread the bottom layer of cake with the two tablespoons of marmalade and then spread thickly with the cream mixture. Put the top layer on and leave to set in the fridge for an hour (if you can stand it!).


Brilynn said...

Well done! My congratulations to anyone brave enough to work with hot sugar... I've been too scared to make honeycomb, although it's been popping up all over the place.

Kathryn said...

Bravo Freya! I would not be so brave, I think. The cake and honeycomb both look delicious.

Simon deep-fries chez nous too!

Has it all gone?

I made a chocolate nest cake (Nigella today. She is the one I turn to most for baking, because as long as you can cope with the sugar and butter overload, her recipes always seem to work for me!) for a friend's birthday. I'm making roast lamb shoulder tonight. Mmm.

When is the new project being unveiled???
Nosy Kathryn x

Writing At The Kitchen Table said...

Hi Brilynn,
It wasn't such a big feat really, you just have to get over the tedium of waiting for the sugar to boil and then. um, well actually I got my husband to sprinkle over the bicarbonate of soda because I wimped out...

Hi Kathryn! The Nest Cake sounds delicious! Hope you post a picture of it soon! I was going to buy shoulder of lamb today from Waitrose because I've never tried it before (I know it sounds amazing but I grew up in an anti-lamb household!).
Paul is slaving away on the new project behind the scenes, it's his baby and he is craddling it for all its worth!
Enjoy your sunday!

Love Freya

Randi said...

Even though I'm American and I know this as honeycomb, I live in Canada where we do have crunchie bars, but its also known as sponge toffee. I remember going to the mall in Florida( where I grew up) as a little girl and buying a piece from the chocolate shop in the mall. It was coated in thick rich dark chocolate. Yummy, thanks for the good memories.