honey cake

The “Famous” Blue Glass

I’m sure we have all asked someone for a recipe, and the answer is something like “well, it is a bit of this and a pinch of that”. In the case of my family, recipes are often given in terms of a “blue glass” as in, add one blue glass of oil, mix until ready, and bake until done. Um, forgive me, but, how big is that famous glass??

I am including my favourite blue glass recipes. I have translated the blue glass into more conventional measures after trying out a few likely glasses, but the baking times are still a bit wacky. I always have to bake them longer than the recipe (and common practice) suggests.





4 large apples, peeled, halved, cored and sliced

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 ½ cups sugar (I only use 1 1/2)

3 cups flour

1 tbs. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil

3/4 cup orange juice

2 ½  tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a tube pan.

Combine apples, cinnamon, and a bit of sugar and set aside. (Do not add all the sugar here!)

Combine rest of ingredients and beat until smooth ( I usually beat the eggs, sugar, oil and juice and add the dry ingredients to that)

Pour half of batter into greased tube pan

Spread half the batter, then half of the apples, then the rest of batter, then rest of apples

Sprinkle with walnuts, cinnamon and sugar (use your blue glass here, folks. You know how much is right)

Bake at  350 until toothpick comes out clean about 1 and a half hours. (Usually more)

You can broil at end to brown apples

When cool sprinkle with icing sugar if you like.  Cool and remove from pan.

I fully understand that baking is all about chemistry. So can someone please explain why these “blue glass” recipes come out differently every single time I make them. An you say “ghost of the blue glass?”

The following story about Aunt Rosie’s Honey Cake was written by my incredibly talented mother, Helen. Enjoy.

My Aunt Rosie’s Honey Cake

My Aunt Rosie’s honey cake was the colour of damp mahogany.  My Aunt Rosie’s honey cake was the dark, heavy, sweet of buckwheat honey, spun by big, black bees drunk out of their stingers with the intensity of sensuously, perfumed pollen, particular only to Buckwheat, Prince of Grains.

My Aunt Rosie’s linoleum kitchen floor, week-end scrubbed, waxed and protected with fresh newspapers laid out always in perfect rectangular alignment, one next to one, had the subtle smell of strange, wonderful, unaccustomed spices and flavours taking me with the first whiff, from my home on Gerrard Street, into foreign and far-away tents and bazaars.  The protecting newsprint absorbed, retained and echoed the many-layered aromas of green onions, honey, herring, garlic, oil and poppy seeds, and deliciously masked the institutional Johnson’s floor wax under the comic section of Friday’s Toronto Star.

My Aunt Rosie’s long salt-and-pepper hair was always pinned with shiny combs into a tight, beautiful, strangely regal and no-nonsense bun.  She meant business when she mixed, tasted, oiled and lined with brown grocery-bag paper, her two, narrow, cast-iron cake tins and her empty coffee cans, that she rotated into and out of the hot aromatic oven.  The cakes seemed to bake forever, rising here and falling there, taking on character, baking-in that mahogany richness and exquisitely perfuming the universe with the smell of burning buckwheat honey, baking and sticking as it bubbled and overflowed onto the bottom rack of the big, black, iron oven.

We never, ever, left Aunt Rosie’s house without first refusing, and then helplessly accepting, thank goodness, a waxed-paper-under-brown-paper-and-two-rubber-bands-wrapped honey cake, to savour at home in the east end of town, where a buckwheat honey and damp, dark, heavy-as-a-brick mahogany cake was definitely big-time exotica.

Just remembering my Aunt Rosie’s honey cakes, each one seriously sinking in the middle under the over-the-limit load of moist golden coconut strands seriously sprinkled on top, evokes instantly for me, a shiny black-and-white snapshot of childhood so vivid, so clear, it must have been stored in the deep freeze of consciousness—perfect, intact, silent—waiting, waiting just to be seen and smelled and tasted once again.

At the bottom left of this picture, I can make out a little round face of a little round girl around six, sleepy, smiling, inhaling still, memories of sweetness, all hugged-out, feeling favoured, secure, and knowing for sure that heaven is near, in a waxed-paper-under-brown-paper-and-two-rubber-bands-wrapped warm, heavy, honey cake parcel, protected and hugged close, close to her heart.

The ghost made this one fall a bit…BOO.

And now, the recipe, typed as I heard it:

Grease a loaf tin and line with parchment (or just use a silicone loaf pan). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


½ lb. melted buckwheat honey (no crystals)

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

Less than 1 cup strong coffee

¼ cup oil

Sift in:

Less than 2 cups flour

1 pinch salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

Stir until mixed. Pour into pan. Top with shredded coconut if you like.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, and then 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Mine usually need longer…