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Our bees are really, really angry and who could blame them. Today, we took away from them their whole summer’s work, so we could enjoy the fruits of their labor — honey.

The late, hard frost in April damaged our bees because they could not feast on their favorite food: cherries, apples, and other beautiful flowers. The bees scavenged for the later blooming flowers and produced a much darker — and, to my taste, a less palatable honey. Two of our hives did not last through the summer, probably because the bees could not find enough nectar in the hot summer or because a virus or mite got them in their weakened state. Typically, our bees love our grove of cherry trees, but not this year, since the frost killed the blossoms (and we lost our cherry crop). Our bees made 20 percent less honey than last year.

Why keep bees? If you are interested in growing plants, bees are essential to pollinate and thus reproduce. The honey they make is only a fringe benefit of their real work in the garden.

Our honey harvest did inspire me to make this cake:

Honey Cake

  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup strong coffee or espresso
  • ¼ cup rum
  • ½ cup raisins or chopped dried apricots
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated

Warm the rum and add raisins/apricots. Add the honey and espresso and stir to dissolve. Combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, five-spice powder, and salt. Mix together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and orange zest. Whip the egg whites. Fold in a half of the liquid mixture, then half of the flour mixture, then the rest of the liquid, and end with the rest of the flour. Fold in the egg whites. Pour into a greased 9-inch cake pan and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.