My grandma Ursula relied on honey to solve nearly any culinary or health problem. Have a nagging nighttime cough? Swallow a spoonful of honey. Chocolate sauce not smooth enough? A dab of honey will do it.
My mom loved honey, too, favouring the creamy spun variety, which she smeared on toasted hunks of white bread slathered with butter. And her go-to dessert was a sweet apple-honey Rosh Hashana-style torte she learned to make during a short period in my childhood when we celebrated both Christian and Jewish holidays.
Now in my own home, I add a dollop of honey to sweeten smoothies or iced tea, steep it with rosemary and brush it on salmon, or drizzle it on top of ricotta or Greek yogurt with roasted fruit for a quick dessert.
And with school back in session, I'm back in the business of baking up one of my kids' favourites — a simple snack cake inspired by the apple-honey torte my mom used to make. Because it's technically a quick bread, the whole thing takes just 10 minutes to assemble (mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then together) and about 30 minutes to bake. The hardest part of this recipe is getting the ingredients out of the cupboard.
If I'm feeling fancy, I'll make a bright citrusy glaze, which is a nice counterpoint to the warm notes of autumn spices and honey. It's a perfect not-too-sweet dessert, a great dunking companion for afternoon tea or espresso, and an ideal afterschool snack with a tall glass of milk.
I use whole-wheat pastry flour for a little extra fiber and nutrition, and with the beautiful spices, the slightly darker colour seems right at home in this cake. Most of the oil has been pulled in favour of applesauce. To keep it easy, I use pumpkin pie spice, but you could easily substitute a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice.
The resulting cake captures all the floral goodness and nostalgia of honey in one tender bite. But if you prefer, feel free to replace half of the honey with brown sugar.
HONEY APPLESAUCE SNACK CAKE WITH ORANGE GLAZE
Start to finish: 40 minutes (10 minutes active)
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted (or vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons orange juice, divided
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with baking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, applesauce, honey, butter, vanilla, orange zest and 1 tablespoon of the orange juice. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk using a gentle folding motion until the batter is uniform.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is golden and the cake springs back under light pressure, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, to make the glaze, in a small bowl whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of orange juice and the powdered sugar. Once the cake is cooled, drizzle with the glaze.
Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories; 25 calories from fat (16 per cent of total calories); 3 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 21 g sugar; 2 g protein; 190 mg sodium.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the upcoming cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy." http://www.melissadarabian.net