Ukrainian Christmas Honey Cake (Medivnyk)

Honey-Spice Cake
Pastry and Food Photography / Getty Images
  • Total: 2 hrs
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 90 mins
  • Yield: 2 loaves (16 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
285 Calories
11g Fat
47g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 loaves (16 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 285
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 57mg 19%
Sodium 351mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Protein 4g
Calcium 67mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This recipe for Ukrainian Christmas honey cake or medivnyk and other honey pastries are traditional for Christmas, New Year's, and Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah).

The scarcity of sugar in the old days inspired Ukraine bakers to experiment with honey in baked goods and 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, and others with chocolate. Some are even 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.

Ingredients

  • 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 (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick/4 ounces softened butter (or parve margarine)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature and separated)
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. 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.

  3. Heat oven to 300 F. Lightly coat two 8 x 4-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.

  4. In a medium bowl, combine raisins, currants, dates, nuts of choice, and 2 tablespoons of the flour. Mix well and set aside.

  5. In a separate medium bowl, mix together remaining flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

  6. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

  7. Mix in the lukewarm honey mixture.

  8. Add flour and coffee alternately until well mixed.

  9. Stir in fruit-nut mixture.

  10. Beat the egg whites until stiff.

  11. Fold into the batter.

  12. Bake about 1 1/2 hours or until toothpick tests clean.

  13. Allow to stand at room temperature, covered, a few days before serving.

Tip

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