THE MOST AMAZING RUSSIAN HONEY CAKE

While not difficult to make, this is a multi-step, highly involved cake that requires planning ahead. Please read through the instructions and the notes in the bottom of the recipe before starting. Note that the frosting calls for a can of Dulce De Leche, which is readily sold in some countries. If it's not available where you live, you can make your own with sweetened condensed milk. Just know that it takes 4 hours to cook, so plan ahead and make it as far as a month in advance. The finished cake, needs to chill overnight in the fridge before serving.

THE MOST AMAZING RUSSIAN HONEY CAKE

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE BURNT HONEY:
  1.  3/4 cup (9oz/ 255g) honey (*see note below)
  2.  1/4 cup (2oz/ 57g) water

FOR THE CAKE LAYERS:
  1.  1/4 cup Burnt Honey (from recipe below)
  2.  3/4 cup (9oz/ 255g) honey (*see note below)
  3.  1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (8oz/ 227g) granulated sugar
  4.  14 Tablespoons (7oz/ 199g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  5.  6 large eggs (300g without the shells)
  6.  2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  7.  3/4 teaspoons fine salt
  8.  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9.  3 3/4 cups (16oz/ 454g) all-purpose flour

FOR THE FROSTING:
  1.  1/2 cup Burnt Honey (from recipe below)
  2.  1 1/4 cups (one 13.4oz/ 380g can) dulce de leche (storebought or prepared from 1 (14oz/ 397g) can of sweetened condensed milk as per recipe in this linkable post
  3.  1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  4.  4 3/4 cups (1.12 liters) heavy whipping cream, very cold and divided

INSTRUCTIONS
TO PREPARE BAKING SHEETS:
  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 180C/375F.
  • Line 2 or 3 (or more) baking sheets with see-through silicon mats. On a large piece of paper, trace a circle around a 9-inch pie or cake pan and place the paper underneath one of the silicon mats. If you don't have silicon mats, trace the 9-inch circles directly onto 11 baking-sheet-size pieces of parchment paper. Place a piece of parchment tracing-side-down on a baking sheet. Set aside.

TO MAKE THE BURNT HONEY:
  • Place 3/4 cup of honey in a 2-quart saucepan, and set over high heat. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook the honey, stirring occasionally with a heat-proof spatula, until it the color darkens and turns from pale yellow to dark amber; about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully add 1/4 cup water. Allow the honey to sputter until it stops bubbling, then whisk to combine. Transfer to a heatproof measuring cup with a spout, and set aside.

TO MAKE THE CAKE LAYERS:
  • Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches of water, and bring to a simmer. Combine 1/4 cup burned honey, 3/4 cup honey, sugar and butter in a large heat-proof bowl, and place over the pot of water, making sure the simmering water is not touching the bottom of the bowl.
  • Crack eggs into a small bowl, and set aside. Stir together baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate small bowl.
  • Gently stir the honey/butter mixture until the butter has melted, then whisk well to combine. Use your finger to test the temperature of the mixture. When it’s warm, add the eggs while whisking. When the mixture returns to the same temperature, add the cinnamon mixture, and continue whisking for another 30 seconds. The batter will begin to foam and emit a curious odor. Remove the bowl from the heat, and allow it to cool until it’s warm.
  • Place the flour in a fine-mesh sieve, and sift over the batter in three batches, whisking to incorporate the flour completely with each addition, until completely smooth. The batter will spread more easily when it’s warm, so place the bowl in a warm spot, such as atop the preheating oven or over the pan of simmering water (off heat).
  • Spoon a heaping 1/3 cup of batter over the prepared silicon mat or parchment paper. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the batter to the edges of the traced circle. Make sure that the entire circle is well covered, otherwise, add a little more batter in patchy areas and smooth out.
  • If using silicon mats, carefully slide the paper with the traced circle from underneath the silicon mat and place under another one. Repeat spooning and smoothing remaining batter until you’re out of baking sheets. Ultimately, you should end up with 11 layers.
  • As you continue spreading the remaining batter on the baking sheets, bake as many layers at a time as possible, for 6 to 7 minutes, until the cake turns a deep caramel color, springs back at the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake!
  • When each layer is done, slide the silicon mat or parchment off the baking sheet to prevent overbaking. If reusing baking sheets while they are still hot, reduce cooking time to 5 to 6 minutes.
  • When the cake layers are cool enough to handle, examine them. If any spread outside the traced circles as they baked, use a sharp knife or pair of scissors to trim them. Don't throw away the trimmings. Before the cakes cool entirely, pull each one carefully from the silicon mat or parchment, then place back on the parchment or wire rack on a flat surface, and allow to cool completely.
  • When all the layers are baked, reduce the oven temperature to 120C/250F, and return the least attractive layer (and trimmings) to a baking sheet, and place in the oven to toast until deep reddish brown and dry, about 15 minutes. Allow it to cool, then use a food processor to grind into fine crumbs. Cover and set aside.