There is something about the arrival of another Southern summer that makes me feel like a child again. Summers in the South seemingly last forever, but nevertheless, I am always sad to see them go and look forward to their return. One of the first signs of the season draws me in as the heady aroma of honeysuckle fills the air during my evening walks. Immediately, I am transported to my grandmother’s backyard in Louisiana.
At the onset of any summer evening, I could be found running around barefoot and wide-eyed in faded jean shorts and a white tee shirt catching fireflies in a wide-mouth Mason jar. As soon as I had as many blinking insects as my heart desired, I strolled over to the honeysuckles, which were nestled next to a blooming wild blackberry bush. I put down my treasure trove of fireflies and plucked winter white and buttercup yellow flowers off the emerald branch. Gently, I pinched the end of the green stem and slowly pulled out the center filament until a sweet bead of nectar rested at the end of the thread. Quickly licking the saccharine syrup off the end of the filament, I continued with a few more flowers until my summer sweet tooth was satisfied. The path back to my grandmother’s house was faintly illuminated by the light of the fireflies softly flickering away from the jar in my hand.
Creating recipes using one of my favorite scents reminds me of being a child again, skillfully capturing the scent of a honeysuckle in a Mason jar as if they were fireflies at the arrival of another glorious Southern summer.
Recipe: Honeysuckle + Lemon Pound Cake
Makes 1, 9×5” Loaf Cake
Note: To make the Honeysuckle Simple Syrup combine 1 cup of recently boiled water to 1 cup of granulated sugar. Stir until completely dissolved. Add 1 1/2-2 cups of rinsed honeysuckle flowers and ½ of a lemon that has been zested and sliced into thin slivers to the simple syrup. (Make sure to include the lemon zest as well.) Allow the syrup to steep and cool at room temperature. Once the syrup has cooled, strain and stash the Honeysuckle Simple Syrup in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Any leftover syrup can be added to lemonade or sweet tea!
If you are allergic to tree pollen, skip the honeysuckle simple syrup and substitute warmed orange blossom honey where the syrup is used in the recipe.
1 ½ cups (190g) of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
2 tablespoons (30ml) of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup (see note), plus 1/3 cup
1/3 cup (80ml) of buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 tablespoons of freshly grated lemon zest (from 2 large lemons)
½ cup (100g) of granulated sugar
½ cup (95g) of raw cane sugar
½ cup (120ml) of light olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 eggs, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5” loaf pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a glass-measuring cup, combine 2 tablespoons of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup and buttermilk (or yogurt).
In a large mixing bowl, add lemon zest, granulated sugar, and raw cane sugar. Rub the zest and sugars together with your fingertips. Whisk in the oil until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the cake batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
Spread the batter into the prepared loaf pan; tap the pan on the countertop a few times, releasing any bubbles in the batter. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cake tester comes out clean.
When the cake has finished baking, let cool for 10 minutes in the pan and invert onto a cooling rack with a tray underneath. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick and brush 1/3 cup of Honeysuckle Simple Syrup over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely while absorbing the syrup. Enjoy!