crocus, bees and honey cake

Like most of the Northeast, we had a false alarm last Wednesday: it was actually warm out, almost balmy. The crocus in the crocus lawn was beginning to look carpetlike although the effect was (and remains) patchy, because last fall’s newly planted fill-ins are in the usual way coming up later than the established clumps.

There are still plenty, all of them very attractive to the bees. We lost one hive over the winter, a loss rate of 50 % but better than a lot of the pros did. Bill picked up 2 new boxes yesterday. They’re in the basement keeping warm, and I’m baking some honey bars – just to inspire them.


Bill got this picture by putting his camera on one of those tiny tripods that looks like Mr. Gumby. There will be no crocus honey because honey is not being made yet. The first nectar all goes to feed the brood.


This is a close adaptation of the recipe for Candy Cake in the American Heritage Cookbook, published in 1964 and now out of print but widely available and worth having, for the wealth of historical photographs as well as the recipes.

½ cup butter
a scant ½ cup sugar
3 well-beaten eggs
½ cup mild honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon each salt and baking soda
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or black walnuts which are wonderful if you like them

1. Heat the oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch square 2 inch deep baking pan. (8 inch may be substituted, see note at end.)

2. In a large bowl, let the butter soften, then beat in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, honey and vanilla, then lightly stir in the flour, salt and soda. Add walnuts and stir/fold just enough to mix them through.

3. Turn the batter into the pan and bake until edges shrink and a toothpick comes out clean, about a half hour. Let cool in the pan, then cut into small bars.

Note: The original recipe calls for an 11 ¼ x 7 ½ x 1 ½ inch pan, which must once have been a common size, albeit I don’t think recently (ours was found in a junk store 25 years ago). 9x13x2 is too big. The only problem with an 8 inch square is that the edges usually overcook before the center is done. Solutions in order of hassle include: pretending you didn’t notice; slicing off edges and feeding to dog or edge-lover; and making the cake plus a cupcake: fill the pan about 2/3 full. Bake remaining batter in whatever small shallow ovenproof vessel you happen to have around.

Update: Shortly after writing this, I found an 11 ¼ x 7 ½ x 1 ½ pan in the not very well stocked equipment section of a local Hannaford. Don’t know what to make of this but will say that’s a very useful size for all sorts of 2-person cooking.

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