Beorn's Honey Cakes (vegan)

reading time: 4 min

»Indeed it is,« said Gimli. »Why it is better than the honey-cakes of the Beornings, and that is great praise, for the Beornings are the best bakers that I know of; but they are none too willing to deal out their cakes to travellers in these days.«

The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien

(...) he would lade them with food to last them for weeks with care, and packed so as to be as easy as possible to carry-nuts, flour, sealed jars of dried fruits, and red earthenware pots of honey, and twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of which they could march far. The making of these was one of his secrets; but honey was in them, as in most of his foods, and they were good to eat, though they made one thirsty…

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Today we are making honey cakes that would make Beorn proud! Well, actually I made these brownie-like cakes a looong time ago for my friend Björn's birthday because the name Björn (like Bjorn from Vikings) sounds very similar to Beorn and also means "bear" in Swedish, but didn't get around to posting them until now.

For those who aren’t familiar with The Hobbit, Beorn is a shape-shifter (J.R.R. Tolkien called it a “skin-changer” in the book) who helps Bilbo and the 13 dwarves on their quest to the Lonely Mountain. He’s a vegetarian, but can take on the form of a huge bear, who is very fond of honey and cream. Honey cakes were the speciality of the Beornings, the people living between Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains. You can find an illustration by Tolkien of Beorn's hall down below :)

Fun fact: The character of Beorn is probably based on the hero Beowulf, whose name is commonly translated to "bee's wolf" or "bee-hunter", which describes a "honey-eater", so a bear!

Since Beorn's honey cakes are "twice baked" according to the book and supposedly similar to cram, the Hobbit hardtrack (though tastier than that), and also similar to Lembas, the Elvish travel food, they are probably quite dry and firm. It's even possible that Tolkien had something like Italian Biscotti in mind, since the Latin (panis) biscoctus means "(bread) twice-baked".

After comparing 16 different recipe options, however, I decided to make a fluffier cake for my take on this recipe with ingredients based on the Dutch honey cake (Honingkoek) that is typically enjoyed with lashings of butter for a traditional breakfast in the Netherlands. I also drew inspiration from the Dutch and Flemish spiced breakfast cake (Ontbijtkoek) that bears similarities to gingerbread. (bears, gettit? ... never mind ...)

Anyway, here are my fluffy sweet honey cakes!


Preparation time: 50 mins
Main ingredients: spelt flour, almonds, honey / golden syrup
difficulty level: easy
makes: 12 cakes (9-inch square brownie pan)
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, wheat-free, yeast-free, soy-free


dry ingredients:
2 cups spelt flour (type 1050) *
1/2 cup almonds, finely ground
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup brown sugar or raw cane sugar
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger OR 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of salt
1 tsp orange zest

wet ingredients:
1/2 cup of liquid mountain honey or clover honey (or vegan "honey" or golden syrup
or dark molasses, for vegan version)
1/4 cup of golden syrup (
or dark molasses – NOT blackstrap molasses!)
1/4 cup of soy milk
(use soy milk or pea milk to achieve vegan "buttermilk" that curdles)
1/2 cup vegan butter or margarine
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)

3 tbsp golden syrup or liquid honey + 2 tbsp water for soaking

* If you are confused about that flour type, check out this website which explains the difference between German flour types and US-American flour types.  


Preheat oven to 180 °C / 350 °F. Line a 9-inch square brownie pan with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients except for the sugar. Stir. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter/margarine and sugar. Mix soy milk with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to form vegan "buttermilk". Add this to the butter mixture. Lastly, add honey and syrup. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and combine.

Pour the batter into the prepared brownie pan.

ake in the preheated oven at 180 °C / 350 °F for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven. Brush the still warm cake with some diluted golden syrup or liquid honey if you like. This is optional, as the cake is plenty sweet on its own. Decorate with orange zest or leave plain. *

Run a knife (preferably of Gondolin or Númenórean make – no Morgul blades!) around the side of the cake, and slice into brownie-sized squares.

Cool in the pan and serve warm or cold and slathered with butter, custard, ice cream or whipped cream.
Beware, hobbits and dwarves are known to be prodigious eaters, so a single cake will not be sufficient for large parties!

Stored in an airtight container this cake will keep for at least four days. In fact, it becomes even more delicious if you keep it for a couple of days wrapped in foil or wax paper.

Cut into individual squares or slices, this can also be kept in the freezer for up to two months.


- Instead of making the cakes brownie-shaped you could also transfer the batter into a greased 9x5 inch  loaf pan or a greased muffin pan, or into lined cupcake tins, filling each cup 2/3 full.
- * You can also top off the cake with a proper glaze. In a small bowl, mix icing sugar, unsalted butter, lemon or orange juice, and vegan whipping cream. Spread all over the cake(s) using a spatula. Top with a handful of chopped toasted walnuts or almonds, and orange zest.
- If you like, you can also replace part of the plant-based milk with 4 tablespoons of Scotch whiskey or rum. You could even replace all of the milk with freshly brewed, cooled strong coffee.

Looking for more nerdy recipes? Check out some of my other literature-inspired creations:

Sansa's Lemon Cakes (vegan)
Bilbo's Seed Cakes (vegan)