This dense, moist, and incredibly aromatic cake, originated in the Hanseatic cities, (a group of allied cities- mainly in the Dutch and German countries.) Around the 18th century, this delectable treat had initially become a symbol of prosperity and high social status- as it gained popularity in Poland, largely due to the high price of spices during that time.
Some passed down recipes indicate that this was a type of cake (dough) made weeks ahead of time, and allowed to age prior to serving, (which is thought to develop the flavors more deeply.)
This "cake" is traditionally baked in loaf pans as a traditional pound cake would be. The batter is interesting, because the coffee, honey, butter, and spices are heated, cooled, and then incorporated into the rest of the ingredients. (Again, very similar to the same ingredients/ method as the cookie variation- "pierniczki.") Once baked, the cake appears dry, but it is absolutely fabulous! The complexity of spices makes for a unique blending of texture and taste. You'll notice that lavender is one of the flavorings used. Florals can truly add intrigue and complexity to recipes, but it must be done subtley! The "piernik spice" is a regarded secret, and most Polish people purchase this spice mix to use for their gingerbreads. I have done a great deal of research, and I believe this particular mix of spices is pretty darn close to that of the old world style! Traditionally filled with a plum/ prune jam, and covered with ganache, this makes for a divine Polish treat that you will want to add every year to your holiday baking list, and not by any means a dessert you would be likely to find in stores or bakeries in the U.S. (Unless, of course, it's a traditional Polish Bakery!)
Every bite is like an adventure in your mouth- the dense honey spice cake, the rich plum filling, and the subtle richness of the dark chocolate ganache at the end. Truly amazing!
Prep time: 30-45min.
Yield: 2 Standard loafs
1 c strong coffee
1 c raw/ local honey (for best results, but could use any standard honey)
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 T espresso powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground (or freshly grated) ginger
1 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. anise seed
1/2 t. cardamom
1/4 t. lavender (finely ground- or I actually used 1 drop of essential oil.)
Note: if you wish to use pure grade essential oils for this recipe in place of the spices, use 1 drop per 1/2 t.- and add it once the mixture is luke warm. ****I do recommend using the actual ground cinnamon for color!
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
3 t. baking powder
4 c. flour
OPTIONAL: 1-2 cans of Plum/Prune jam or filling ***I used the Solo brand
Syrup for brushing between layers: 1 oz. strong espresso, 1 T. rum, 1 T. honey
Ganache: 1 pt. whipping cream, 11oz. bag of Dark chocolate chips, 1 T. unsalted butter
optional: confectioner's sugar for dusting or slivered almonds
Pre heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour 2 standard loaf pans.
1) In a pot, combine the coffee, honey, butter, and ground spices/ espresso. Place on medium heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and allow to cool. (If using the essential oils in place of ground spices, add them once the syrup is luke warm.)
2) Stir in the eggs, (1 at a time), and incorporate well- either by hand, or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the brown sugar until well incorporated. Lastly stir in the baking powder/ flour, and mix until combined. (Try not to over mix!)
3) Pour the batter into the 2 prepared loaf pans. Bake at 350F. for 40-60min. (Make sure to test with a toothpick in the center- if it comes out clean, it's done!) Remove from the oven. Invert out of pans after 10min.- onto a cooling rack.
4) Filling is optional!! If you don't want to get that fancy, (or don't have the time), simply slice and serve as is!
Or, slice each loaf into 3 or four layers. Make up the syrup mixture above. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush some of the syrup over each layer, then spread the plum/ prune jam. Repeat until cake is finished! (If not using both cakes at once, you can wrap one of the filled loafs really well, and freeze for 30-60 days until ready to serve.)
5) To finish with ganache: In a pot, bring to a boil the whipping cream and butter. Pour over the chocolate chips in a bowl, and whisk until chocolate is melted- and ganache is smooth. Allow the ganache to cool until just slightly warm to the touch- then pour over your cakes. Keep the finished cakes refrigerated until you are ready to slice and serve. ***Once sliced, it's important to keep well wrapped- to prolong the quality of the cake.