Every spring when Easter comes around, I get an itch to bake. Lying dormant since winter break, I feel prepared once more to tackle dough, cakes, and other sweet things with delight. I always pick a new baking project to mark this change, preferably something completely new to me. This year, my partner expressed a desire for a homemade version of one of his favorite snacks: the “Texas” large honey cake. They’re the kind you usually get from the gas station or the vending machine in your school’s lunchroom during recess. That definitely fits the criteria for my project.
Although I didn’t grow up in the Lone Star State, I know these honey cakes well. Whether called “Big” or “Jumbo”, they are marked by their uniform light brown color and flattened, oblong spirals that are breaded with cinnamon filling. They are a mass-produced version of what was probably Swedish kanelbulle – what we call a cinnamon roll – when it first came to America with Scandinavian immigrants. Along the way, cinnamon rolls become a mountain of white and crispy glazed dough.
In contrast, despite being made with many of the same ingredients, honey bread in contrast has a surprisingly thin and smooth glaze and less filling than cinnamon rolls. However, as with most nostalgic pies of the post-World War II era, honey cakes are chock full of hard-to-detect chemicals, stabilizers and artificial ingredients, which means they’re ready to go. replace.
Before I started developing my own honey bread, I read the ingredients list on the back of their packaging to gather what was actually in the cellophane-wrapped cakes. Although I’ve never noticed a strong honey flavor in the cakes of the same name, it turns out that there is some – in powder form. There’s also cocoa powder in the filling, which reminds me of eating the filling that has a vaguely bitter taste that barely wraps around the twist of the dough.
Making the dough soft is the easy part, as I have made countless cinnamon rolls in my life. My waffle dough uses butter but here I switched it to vegetable oil, which helps keep the dough and cake more moist than butter. I also add an egg yolk to the milky dough for a bit of color. But to really ensure the exact spongy texture I wanted, I turned to an Asian bread-making technique called tangzhong, where you cook small amounts of flour and liquid together before mixing with your remaining dough ingredients. This not only keeps the white bread dough soft, but it also helps to keep the bread fresh for longer. In an age when crisp, crunchy sourdough is considered the ultimate dough texture, it’s refreshing to know that you can also apply the same principles to your desired soft bread dough.
With the dough figured out, I moved on to the filling, just asking to play with the ratio of butter, cinnamon, and cocoa powder until I got that signature flavor. But I also wanted these cakes to be more purposeful, so I added really honey for the filling – some fix is hiding in plain sight, you know?
The biggest challenge was recreating the distinct fat and elongated spiral shape of the honey bun. To work around that, I use a number, let’s say, “creative molding”. First, while for the cinnamon rolls you would roll a sheet of dough into a circular spiral, I instead folded the dough into a flat log, similar to folding a sheet of paper as an envelope.
Next, I arranged the cut oblongs on a baking sheet in a slightly frozen fashion so that as they rose and baked, they pressed against each other, further reinforcing their soccer form. Finally, I put another piece of parchment and a sheet of baking paper on top of the cakes while they checked. This may sound odd, but it provides the perfect amount of weight to keep the cakes flat while still allowing them to expand and expand while baking.
For the final step of the process, I use a popular baking technique to provide moisture and crust: soak the cake in syrup. Instead of just coating the cakes with powdered sugar glaze, I made a thin syrup to pour over the cakes as soon as they came out of the oven. The syrup soaks in and helps prevent any part of the cake from becoming “porous” in any way. Then, once cooled, a thicker opaque glaze is poured on top and left to shape, giving the cakes their iconic image.
It is surprising that it took industrial scientists as much engineering to make their homemade honey cake as it did industrial scientists to create their packaged version. But it’s magical and exciting to discover that you can recreate a childhood favorite – and make it even better than before – with just a few playful touches. And now that my homemade honey cakes have been approved by a partner, I look forward to seeing less cellophane in the car and more used tissues stamped with swirls. that famous.
Get the formula:
Time1 hour 10 minutes, plus 3 hours test
yieldsMake 8 cakes
https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2022-04-14/honey-buns-with-intention Honey buns that break free of the vending machine