I was introduced to this ambrosia by a happy group of Emirati ladies who were visiting their farm in the foothills of Ras Al Khaimah. They invited me in for cake, gahwah (cardamom-flavoured coffee) and a chat. It was a small portion of cake by Emirati standards but very special. "Honey Cake," said the ladies. "You can find it at the Emirates Honey shop in town." Upon investigation, I found the tiny shop stocked with exotic local mountain honey and a large fridge containing the cakes, each weighing 1.5kg. They are concocted from eight to nine thin rounds of cake, layered together with fresh cream then sprinkled all over with toasted crumbs of the honey cake mix, made from pure liquid honey, eggs, butter, wheat flour, salt, vinegar and baking soda. Refrigerated, the cake will keep up to five days, yet it lasted only four minutes when a friend offered it as an office treat to his staff.
The recipe is an old traditional one from Russia, where each family has its own variety. In the UAE the cakes are produced at the Alliance/Honey Bakery in Umm Al Quwain. Sergey Lyakhevich first started the business in 1997 and its subsequent success has, in part, been due to popular demand by Emiratis, who favour it during Eid and are partial to it for a number of reasons, including the culinary, nutritional and medicinal qualities of honey.
Honey Cake is distributed to Spinneys supermarket and sold whole (Dh80) or by the slice. It can also be found at Yamal Al Sham (Dh85), the Emirates Honey shop (Dh100), both in Ras Al Khaimah and Sergey's bakery in Umm Al Quwain (Dh75). Call 050 797 9454 / 06 767 0353.