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Honey Cake with Honey Buttercream and Sunflowers

Honey Cake with Honey Buttercream

This honey cake is unique in the way it is made and baked. There is honey in the layers, the filling and the buttercream is made with honey instead of sugar. I decorated it with easy-to-make sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine.
Makes one eight-inch 9-layer cake
Course: Desserts



  • 1/2 cup (170g) honey
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 tbsp (113g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) mild-flavored oil such as vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract homemade vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 4 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 2 2/3 cups (320g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream at room temperature 

Whipped Cream

Honey Buttercream

  • 3/4 cup (255g) honey
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) egg whites (from about 3 eggs) at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (330g) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract homemade vanilla extract
  • pinch salt



  • Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Generously grease as many 8-inch / 20cm cake pans as you have, then line them with greased parchment paper. (To bake the nine layers, you will have to bake multiple batches. The more pans you have, the faster this will go).
  • In a medium-sized pot heat the honey over medium heat until just simmering around the edges. Turn off the heat, add the baking soda, stirring constantly until the honey foams, thickens and turns from light color to a caramel color, about 2 minutes. Transfer into a bowl to cool.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. 
  • Turn the mixer speed to medium; add the oil, sugar, and vanilla to the butter; and beat for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is light in color and about double in volume.
  • Turn the speed to medium-low and add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, mixing each until incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the bowl after each addition.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream. 
  • Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and add half of the milk mixture, mixing until combined. Repeat with another one-third flour, the remaining milk mixture, and then finish with the final one-third flour, scraping the bowl and paddle after each addition. 
  • Fold in the cooled honey mixture.
  • Pour 150g (3/4 cup) of the batter into the prepared pans and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Gently tap the pans on the counter to release excess air bubbles.
  • Bake until golden and set, about 12-14 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, cool completely on a wire rack. Line the pans again with greased parchment and bake the next batch of cakes. Repeat until you have baked all of the batter. If you are not weighing the batter, you may get more or less layers.

Whipped Cream

  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy whipping cream, sour cream, honey, and vanilla and beat on medium speed (you read that right) until just thick—it will start to leave marks from the whip in the cream. Take the bowl off the mixer and continue whipping by hand, using the whisk attachment, for several seconds until it reaches the desired consistency; this way, you can ensure the mixer won’t take it too far.

Assemble the Cake

  • Remove the parchment paper and place one cake layer on a serving plate.
  • Using an offset spatula, spread 75g (1/2 cup or about a 1/8-inch /3mm-thick) layer of the whipped cream over the cake, making sure it goes all the way to the edge. Place the next cake over that and top with another 75g layer of whipped cream. Repeat with all the cake layers, leaving the last layer of cake without whipped cream. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate the cake layers.
  • While the cake is setting up in the refrigerator, make the honey buttercream and create the buttercream sunflowers.

Honey Buttercream (see notes)

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the honey and egg whites.
  • Put 1 inch / 2.5cm of water in the bottom of a double boiler or a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, until melted, hot (140°F / 50°C), and thin.
  • Place the bowl on the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium-high speed, until the mixture is light, fluffy, glossy, and the bowl feels at just about room temperature. (If the egg whites are not cooled off sufficiently, the butter will melt when you add it.)
  • Once the egg whites are whipped and cooled, turn the mixer speed to medium, add the butter, 2 Tbsp at a time, and beat until incorporated. Once you have finished adding the butter and it has mixed for about 1 minute, the buttercream will be creamy and glossy looking again. Add the vanilla, and salt and mix on low speed until well blended. Can be used right away or covered and refrigerated for 7 days or frozen for up to a month.
  • Divide the buttercream into 4 bowls. Leave one bowl white. Use yellow, orange, and black gel food coloring to color each of the other bowls of buttercream.


  • Using an offset spatula, cover the top of the cake with a smooth layer of white buttercream, about ¼-inch-thick. Place the remaining white buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with an Ateco Star Tip #821 and pipe an alternating shell border around the top of the cake.
  • Fill a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton Fluted Star Tip #4B with the black buttercream. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton Leaf Tip #366 with the yellow buttercream. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton Leaf Tip #366 with the orange buttercream.
  • Pipe a bit of buttercream onto the large Rose Nail and secure a 3-inch-sqare piece of wax paper on the nail. Use the black buttercream to pipe one star in the center, then five stars around it to create the center of the sunflower. Switch to the yellow buttercream and start at the edge of the black stars, holding the beak of the leaf tip right next to the black stars and pipe about ¾-inch-long petals all the way around. As you finish each petal, lift the tip slightly, so they don’t lay flat on the paper, but curl like a real petal. Pipe another row of ¼-inch-long petals over the first row, but in between, so you can see each row clearly. Gently slide the flower covered wax paper onto a baking sheet.
  • Repeat the sunflower with the black and orange buttercream. You can also use the yellow and orange together to make a multicolored sunflower.
  • Once you fill the sheet with sunflowers, place it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. They can be made a day ahead. Once they are frozen, you can peel them off the wax paper and place them on the cake.


  • Serve the cake at room temperature. Store remaining cake in the refrigerator, wrapping the layers, but leaving the flowers uncovered. The cake itself is good either at room temperature or refrigerated, but the buttercream and flowers really are best at room temperature, so they aren’t hard.


Notes on Buttercream:
After you have added about half of the butter to the buttercream, it may look curdled and runny. This is normal, and you should continue adding the rest of the butter.
This makes a large quantity of buttercream for this cake, I wanted to make sure you have plenty for your flowers, but you may end up with extra and it can be frozen.
Reprinted from Zoë Bakes Cakes. Copyright 2021 by Zoë François. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.