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Monday, 13 October 2014

Medovnik. A Czech Honey Cake made with Charlecote Honey

Earlier this year I had a wonderful experience with the volunteer Bee Keepers at Charlecote Park and I was able to see inside the hives and how the honey was made.

It seemed only right that once the honey had been collected from the hives that I made something very special with it. I decided on a very old recipe and it all went so well together.

I had had a few requests for this layered honey cake recipe since posting a photo on both twitter and Facebook so I thought I better write it down. The cake is made from a very old Czech recipe and is called 'Medovnik'.
Medovnik translates as 'Honey Cake' and is one of the oldest cakes in Europe. It is very popular through Central, Northern and Eastern Europe and I have found that each area has it's own twist on the recipe. This cake is not a quick cake to make as it takes tree days from start to end but don't let this put you off making it. It is well worth the effort. Plus, the second to the third day is the hardest as all you have to do is wait to eat it :) This recipe can be cut down to two days if, instead of making your own caramel, you buy some ready made but I will explain this as I go along.

Medovnik is a really lovely cake with many layers and with the beautiful fresh yummy honey from Charlecote Park, how could I go wrong? :)
This recipe can be halved to make a smaller cake.

For the 9 inch cake,6-8 layers, ingredients below. To make a smaller 7 inch cake with 6-7 layers, half the recipe.                                 

For the Cake:                                                                                       
60g of unsalted butter
5 tbs of honey
200g of icing sugar
500g of plain flour
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder

For the filling and covering
475g of unsalted softened butter
2 cans of sweetened condensed milk (or you can buy the condensed milk which has already been                                                                               made into caramel to save a day.)
300ml of double cream
A bag of whole walnuts.

Day 1-Making the Caramel

If you are making the caramel yourself, my advice is to do it the day before you make this cake. To make the caramel you will need a large saucepan of water brought to the boil but then left on a low simmer in which you carefully pop a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk into. You will need to cook the cans for around two and a half hours, making sure the water does not dry out. I like the water to be at the same high as the cans. If you wish for the caramel to be richer and darker, simmer for three hours. A little tip here. You can do a few cans at once and store them in your cupboard for whenever you need them. Alternately you can buy the caramel ready made and just jump straight to day 2.

Day 2 -The Cake

Firstly make a small cup of strong coffee and put aside to cool.

This cake is actually really easy to make, it just sounds complicated which is why I have shared the step by step photos. The hardest part is waiting for it to set before you can cut it and try a piece. It doesn't take long to make even thought it says 3 days. It is more the waiting between stages that takes the time. On day 3 when you do slice the cake and you see all the lovely layers and you taste the cake, that makes the effort and waiting all worth while.

As promised , a little more about Tuzemsky.
Tuzemsky is known as a Czech/Slovak domestic rum but these days it is not allowed to be called rum as it  is brewed very differently and to be honest tastes different too. It is something that I have in my kitchen all the time as it is that secret ingredient in so many sweet dishes. A few drops can make a lovely cake into a very special cake and you would never know what it was just by tasting the finished product. I use it it many things including sweet pastries.

 Tuzemsky added to this honey cake brings out the taste of the honey so much. The two go so well together. There are many brands to pick from but my favourite has to be Boskov Tuzemsky.The others do come very close and are perfectly fine to use. It is so smooth and smells amazing, just like rum and raisin together and is fantastic in my truffles.

I normally buy my Tuzemsky on-line but I have also been able to find it  locally in the European/Continental shops. If you go on holiday to Prague like so many people do these days, bring some back with you and try it. 
My lovely jar of Charlecote Park honey is going down. I must get some more.

Honey buns next time I think :)

Thanks for reading this blog. hope you liked it even though it was very different from my normal blogs.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Gardens of Upton House

I always think how funny it is when the 1st of September comes and everyone seems to turn off from Summer and start to think of Autumn. It is like the weather has changed over night but really it hasn't. It's just the thought that it is September so it must be colder. I have to admit, I love Autumn. It is one of my favourite times of year as everything looks so beautiful, even the roads you drive down are suddenly full of colour. Saying this, I have been in no hurry to get to Autumn this year as I have been enjoying all the beautiful September flowers. I  have visited all four of the National Trust properties that are close to my home (Charlecote, Baddesley, Packwood and Upton) and every one of them had a beautiful display of colour with their Asters, Dahlias, Cosmos and other later Summer flowers. It is such a pretty time of year and all the flowers are so much deeper and richer in colour.

I have had the pleasure of enjoying three lovely displays at Upton House this year. The first was in Spring with the beautiful display of daffodils in the orchard which was lovely to see.
The second display I went to see was that of the Lupins in June which grew alongside of the mirror pool and had a lovely reflection in the water. I had never seen so many Lupins in one place so this was a real treat for me. It was beautiful.

It is not hard to see how this pool got it's name. It is just like a mirror.

My third visit to Upton House was just over a week ago at the end of September to see their marvellous Aster display.

Here there are not many written words as I hope the pictures will do the speaking for me.


There were so many different varieties of asters, so many that I can't remember all their names.

                                         Aren't they beautiful?

It was lovely to see so many Asters in one place. Unfortunately they don't last too long and Upton House's 'Aster two weeks' has finished now but you can always mark it in your diary for next year. Well worth the visit. I really enjoyed it.

I do feel sorry for the gardeners and volunteer gardeners at Upton House. It can't be easy working on such a slope like they do all the time but they always seem to be happy. 

This next trailing plant I absolutely love as it is the first plant that really gives you all the beautiful Autumn colours and it is so pretty. It also reminds me of Prague in the Autumn as it grows up one of the walls by Charles Bridge. You can also find it growing at Packwood House. I can never remember the name of it so if anyone can help me? Feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

When walking around gardens such as these, it is always worth turning around and taking a look in the direction you have just come. Things can look so different. I thought this made a pretty picture.

Now this next plant I do know the name of and it is one very much missed by myself as Autumn sets in. It is the 'Rhus Typhinia' which is also known as the 'Stag's horn' because of the shape of the flower head which grows on them. I never know if I should call this a bush or a tree as sometimes you see it like this and it looks like a bush but other times you see it more like as we had it in our garden as a bigger tree. I am guessing there are different varieties of it which might explain it.

 I know the Rhus Typhina so well. When we lived in Norfolk, as part of the children's science lessons, they were asked to keep a nature diary for 12 months, writing down any changes they saw. They had to take photos, press flowers and a lot of other things. I thought it was a marvellous idea as it not only encouraged the children to go outside but they learned so much and they grew to appreciate their surroundings and love nature. 

This is a picture my eldest son took for his nature diary when he was 8 years old. You can see the different colours that the Rhus Typhinia goes through. I used to love watching it change colours through the Autumn and it was right outside my kitchen window.

Back to Upton House :) 
The next two photos show the same border but at different times of the year.
This one was taken in June.

And this one last week. the colours have totally changed.

Some of the other lovely flowers at Upton House last week. One of my favourite, the cosmos.

                          This flower is always so perfect.

Anyone for a daisy chain?

This next flower was very pretty. I think it is also from the cosmos family but I might be wrong. It reminded me of a Victorian frilly petticoat. The flower just looked antique to me which might sound  funny but it just looked like something from a different time in history. I know many flowers have been around for a very long time but this one was different. I really really liked it!

The next flower is a very pretty flower and one I have enjoyed seeing at Charlecote Park also. It is called the 'Cleome Hassleraine' which is commonly known as the 'Spider Flower' and originally comes from South Africa.

A lovely array of colours.

The borders at the back of the house are very beautiful and those should still be in flower for a while. A lovely mix of flowers and very popular with the bees.

And last but not least Autumn is starting to show itself in the Midlands. This is Upton House's Bog Garden. This picture would have been so much better if the Sun was out with rays coming through the trees, making the colours look brighter but as I have said before, we can't have it all and a bright Sun would have been no good for my flower photos.
 I think the Bog Garden looks it's best in the Autumn with it's changing leaves. It just adds so much more colour. It is also lovely in the Summer but I do love Autumn colours.

I think in a couple of weeks time the Autumn colours should be lovely here and if you catch it on a nice sunny day it should make a lovely picture.

I hope you have enjoyed this blog. For my other late Summer garden blogs, here are the links.

Charlecote Park

Baddesley Clinton

Packwood House

                                                         Copyright Jana Eastwood