I really, really love mincemeat. Deep, almost savory, sweet, rich, spiced, and preserved is my greatest dessert described and mincemeat hits all of the above. The thing is, store bought mincemeat can be rather expensive when done right and very disgusting when done wrong. I suppose the same is true when done at home, though I believe nothing is as exorbitant or unappealing when made by loving hands with thoughtful ingredients in a home kitchen. Mincemeat can be overwhelming and we are all familiar with traditional mincemeat pie, but often have different opinions about it. It’s one of those desserts that seems to go very right or horribly wrong. I think the key is portion size and balancing flavors. I especially love real mincemeat made with beef and suet, but that’s a post for another day.
A few weeks ago, I opened a jar of homemade (meatless) mincemeat from my mother’s pantry for a dinner party. I made a simple crostata with half of a whole wheat and butter pie crust recipe and just put a thin layer of mincemeat over the rolled out dough in the center, leaving 2 inches around the sides. I folded those sides over, egg washed the exposed dough, and baked it hot at 425 for 20 minutes. It was stunning.
So last week I opened another jar the same day I bought a quart of local wildflower honey up the road. Wildflower honey has a more pronounced flavor than clover and while I love the taste, it has a habit of taking over anything it’s made with. Making this cake out of such simple, strong, old fashioned ingredients was a risk, but it paid off. I haven’t had a dessert that brought such pleasure in a long time. This may look like an everyday snack cake, but I disagree with the categorization. It’s impossibly rich and nearly a pudding cake because of how moist and dense it barely sets. Really, it’s just glorious. The whole wheat and buttermilk are absolutely necessary to hold up to the honey and mincemeat.
If you don’t have a jar of mincemeat on hand, you can purchase some, but I recommend taking the time to make your own mincemeat like this all-fruit version or this traditional one. Either find a way to make a lot of cake, pie, and crostada in the next few weeks or pull out the pressure canner and preserve it for a very long time. You’ll never regret having a jar on hand when this cake is just a few other ingredients away. Although I could have and would have eaten this cake alone, I shared a bit with my mother, Aurelia, with two gentlemen at an Editorial Board meeting, and with Aurelia’s teacher. Everyone raved about it and it seemed to speak to them the same it spoke to me. Something unexpected, memorable, and unlike any cake you’re used to. The perfect finish to your Easter dinner, perhaps?
Honey Buttermilk Mincemeat Cake
Adapted from Allrecipes
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup prepared mincemeat (freshly prepared or from a home preserved or purchased jar)
Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan. Cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add honey, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating mixture well after each addition. In a 2 cup measuring bowl, dissolve soda in buttermilk, stirring well. The mixture will bubble and rise as it reacts. Mix flour into creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Mix well after addition. Stir in mincemeat, mixing just until combined. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the springform pan and cool a bit longer, just as long as you can stand. Serve as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.