Ukrainian Christmas Honey Cake (Medivnyk) Recipe

Honey-Spice Cake
Honey-Spice Cake. Pastry and Food Photography / Getty Images
  • 2 hrs
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 90 mins
  • Yield: 2 loaves (16 servings)
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This recipe for Ukrainian Christmas honey cake or medivnyk and other honey pastries are traditional for Christmas, New Year's and Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah.

The scarcity of sugar in the old days inspired Ukraine bakers to experiment with honey in baked goods, to good effect. There are as many versions of medivnyk as there are families. Some are made with sour cream, some with almonds or other nuts, or chocolate, and some are yeast-raised.

What remains constant is the use of honey, preferably buckwheat honey. Honey pastries need a few days to ripen for flavors to be at their best, so be patient.

What You'll Need

  • 1 cup honey (preferably buckwheat honey)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup dates (chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped or nuts of choice like almonds or pecans)
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick/4 ounces softened butter (or parve margarine)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature and separated)
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee

How to Make It

  1. In a small saucepan, mix together honey, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
  2. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly coat two (8x4-inch) loaf pans with cooking spray.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine raisins, currants, dates, nuts of choice, and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Mix well and set aside.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, mix together remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter or parve margarine and brown sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  2. Mix in the lukewarm honey from step 1, above. Add flour and coffee alternately until well mixed. Stir in fruit-nut mixture from step 2, above . Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.
  3. Bake about 1 1/2 hours or until toothpick tests clean. Allow to stand at room temperature, covered, a few days before serving.

How to Use Honey in Baking

Replacing sugar with honey in recipes is not a one-to-one conversion. When baking, use pure honey for up to half the granulated sugar in a recipe. Additionally, for each 1 cup of honey used:

  • Reduce any liquid by 1/4 cup
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees

Cooking with honey has its own rules. Check them out here.

More Dessert Recipes Using Honey