Honey – the defining ingredient in this Ukrainian cake – is a Prairie staple. More readily available (and affordable) than sugar during lean times, it was a baking mainstay for Canadian settlers and is still used in many classic desserts. “Anything that they could substitute honey in meant it was frugal and they didn’t have to spend any money,” says Karlynn Johnston. “It’s a big Prairie food and there’s a lot of beekeeping.”
Growing up, Johnston spent every summer on her maternal grandparents’ farm in Dauphin, Man. where she helped out with the annual honey harvest. It was arduous work, but she looks back on it fondly; taking part put her in touch with the production of an indispensable Prairie ingredient.
Here, she says buckwheat honey would be the traditional choice in order to achieve the cake’s distinct flavour, “but feel free to taste-test with your favourite type.” For the cream cheese glaze – her own, non-traditional finishing touch – she prefers to use a more subtly flavoured honey such as clover.