It’s a quiet and rainy Monday afternoon. Inside Ecaterinacakes, the walls are yellow, the light is warm and two women chat over coffee.

Ecaterina Moisei is behind the cash register with a broad smile.

To her right, a glass case holds the cookies, cakes and desserts. There are five shelves of pastries and sweets. Viennese whirls, chocolate-mint cheesecake, baklava, and strawberry roulades. Almond tarts and dulce de leche pecan pie.

And amongst them all, the proprietor’s favourite, honey cake.

The cake is brown, with cheese frosting between the layers, sweetened with honey and with a light mouthfeel. It is also infamous for how long it takes to make.

From start to finish it takes Ecaterina between four and five hours to prepare the cake. She does it three, sometimes four times a week, she said on that recent Monday.

She works around all the other tasks on her schedule, she says. “Depending on how it’s the flow of the day.”

Labour of love

Ecaterina Moisei has run the cafe in Phibsboro, along with her husband Dumitru Moisei, for almost seven years.

She was eight the first time she made a honey cake, she said. “I was really young and I was just playing. I learned by helping my mom,” she said.

Running her own business was a long-standing dream, she says. Ever since she was a teenager.

“This coffee shop is 100 percent my passion. When I was 14, I started thinking of having my own business,” she said.

She went to college to study business. She topped that up by studying culinary arts in Chișinău, the capital of Moldova.

Dumitru came to Ireland first, in 2002. Not too long after, Ecaterina and their two kids followed.

The first years were the hardest, as they all worked to learn English.

“When I came for the first time here, I didn’t know anything. Hello, and that’s it,” Dumitru said.

But they were happy to stay through the challenges, says Ecaterina. “It provided the opportunity to meet really good people and enjoy life.”

Many steps

Layered honey cakes are popular in Eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union. They’re served on special occasions. Birthdays, weddings, Easter or Christmas.

It’s the cake she would ask for at birthdays growing up, says Ecaterina .

Like all the other desserts in the shop, she makes it from scratch. First, the layers, then the frosting, then putting them all together.

Honey cake.

Cooking the batter for the four layers takes time, she says. “It takes one and a half hours to boil until it’s brown.”

Then, it needs to cool for another hour. “After that you add the flour, mix it together and again you leave it to cool,” says Ecaterina.

What started as a batter firms into a dough, brownish like gingerbread. “Then you make small balls and start to roll them,” she says.

It’s a hard dough that needs to be worked fast. The longer it takes, the harder it gets.

Each layer then has to be baked separately. “Five minutes you cook in the oven, no more,” she says.

Once everything has cooled down, she assembles it which, compared to the rest of the process, is a doddle. “It’s very fast,” she says.

“I don’t make it for profit, I make it because if I don’t a lot of people would ask, ‘Where is my honey?’,” she says.

The honey cake is popular, she says. “I think all of my regular customers have tried it at least once.”

It’s also her own favourite. She could give up other cakes perhaps, she says, but never honey cake.

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