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Victorian honey cakes

This simple recipe is taken from Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery, dated 1888. It suggests making individual square cakes, but it would do just as well cut into rounds with a biscuit cutter. Note that you will need a fine grater for the lemon rind and a very fine one for the nutmeg.

  • 60g / 2oz butter
  • 225g / 8oz honey
  • A small lemon
  • 60g / 2oz nibbed almonds
  • One-eighth of a nutmeg, grated
  • 225g / 8oz plain flour
  • 15g / ˝oz bicarbonate of soda
  • A teaspoon of flaked almonds
  • A teaspoonful of candied peel
  • Instead of the almonds and peel, you might prefer to ice the cakes, using the juice of the lemon and:
  • 110g / 4oz icing sugar

Grate off the lemon rind. Grate the nutmeg. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a little warm water.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, and pour in the honey. Stir while it boils for a few moments.

Let the honey and butter cool a little, and stir in the lemon rind, the almonds, the nutmeg, the flour and, last, the bicarbonate of soda. Celebrate with a cup of tea. Leave the mixture for a few hours or overnight.

Turn on the oven to heat to 180°C / 350°F. Butter a baking tray. Roll the mixture out about half an inch thick and cut into squares. Unless you plan to ice the cakes, decorate with a few flaked almonds and blobs of candied peel.

Put the squares on the baking tray and bake for 25 minutes or until done.

Icing: Add the lemon juice to the icing sugar little by little, stirring all the time, until the icing is spreadable, like warm butter. You may need to add a little water. Spread the icing on the cakes.

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I'd love to hear how you get on! You can email me at: gillian@

Good luck!