Grandma Mercury’s Honey Cakes

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Pastry chef Brian Mercury had to come around to his grandmother’s honey cake recipe, “When I was a kid, there just weren’t enough sprinkles,” but now the Italian struffoli is one of his seasonal staples and he keeps up the long line of Mercurys making the dish since 1950. “When I think back to this time of year, as a child, I always remember seeing my mom, grandmother and aunts spending all day making 20-30 of these to give as gifts,” he says. The sweets chef invites you into the tasty tradition with his recipe below: “The crunchy fried dough mixed with toasted nuts covered in honey, how could you go wrong!”

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Yields: 12


For the honey mix: 
  • 2 3/4 cups honey
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 egg whites (reserve yolks for dough)
For the dough:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, heavy
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 yolks
For the struffoli: 
  • 9 1/2 cups of almonds and hazelnuts, toasted


  1. Combine honey mixture and a little water in a pot and cook to 240 degrees.
  2. On a table, combine dry ingredients in a round mountain with a hole in center. Add eggs and yolks to the hole and mix with a fork to make dough.
  3. Separate the dough into sections and roll them into long, straw-sized strips. Let dry.
  4. Starting with the strip first rolled, cut the strips into small balls and lightly sprinkle with flour.
  5. In a pan, heat canola oil for frying to 350 degrees. Working in batches, fry the dough balls until lightly browned and place the fried dough into a large bowl with a paper towel to drain. Remove the paper towel before adding a new batch of fried dough.
  6. In a bowl, mix the fried dough and nuts together. Once mixed, divide the mixture into 2 large bowls. Split the honey mix between the two bowls and mix all ingredients together.
  7. Line an 8-inch plate with aluminum foil and lightly spray with oil so the honey cake doesn't stick. Arrange the mixture into a wreath shape and top with round colored sprinkles. Keep the cakes open until dried and then wrap around with foil to keep until serving.

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