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photo by Frances F. Denny
olive oil & black sesame cake for the full moon
from "The Feast of the Full Moon", The Witch's Feast
Serves 6-8 guests
Contains gluten, dairy
Prep time : 1 hour
Cook time : 1 hour
FOR THE CAKE
Butter, for greasing
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1½ cups all-purpose flour 1½ teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds ½ cup buttermilk
FOR THE FROSTING
½ cup butter, softened
1 2/3- 2cups icing sugar
3 tablespoons milk
6–8 tablespoons black sesame seeds, ground fine in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle
Salt, to taste
On the eve of the full moon, begin with the cakes themselves. Preheat your oven to 350°F and prepare two 6in cake pans by lining them with baking parchment. For each tin, cut out a circle of parchment to fit the base, and inscribe upon the parchment Agrippa’s seal of the moon (pictured here). Set this parchment in the base of each tin and grease both pans thoroughly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, beat the olive oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and powdered sesame seeds. In alternating batches, add your flour mixture and the buttermilk to the oil and egg mixture, ending with the buttermilk. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake tins and, using a knife or skewer, trace the lunar sigil again into the surface of both cakes. If you would like to read an invocation over the tins, consider the Prayer to Selene for Any Spell from the PGM, or the Orphic Hymn to Artemis as good candidates. Bake for 25–30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, make the frosting by whipping the soft butter until light and fluffy, about 10-15 minutes at a medium speed. Add the icing sugar in small batches, making sure it is fully incorporated before adding more. Stir in the milk and sesame powder, and season with salt to taste. Allow your cakes to cool fully before frosting. To frost your cake, place one round onto your serving plate, and cover evenly with 1/4 of your frosting. Place your second round on top of the first, and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remainder of your frosting.
The evening of the full moon is significant for European witchcraft traditions, and for many religions the world over. On this
night, the illuminated face of the moon is nyktophaneia, “night-shining”, and pulls upon the earth to swell the tides to their fullest. She gives a rare light to the nighttime and inspires the hearts of poets, artists and witches as she casts her strange glow down to earth. Since the moon observes a predictable orbit and resides so close to Earth, her influence is more palpable than that of other planets, and in the pinnacle of her cycle, the moon is said to give her gifts in excess – dreams, visions, and the possibility to slip from mundane reality.
In the ancient world, any obscuration of the moon was viewed as an ill-omen, with eclipses and new moons being especially dangerous. On the other hand, the full moon was said to embody the moon’s more luminary aspects, but it was still not without its dangers. In ancient Greece, it was believed that people could exhibit madness or luna-cy as a direct consequence of the full moon. In the middle ages, it was believed that European witches would transgress their physical bodies during the full moon to meet their devil-lover in the wilderness. In 16th century France, a full moon that fell on a Friday had the power to turn humans into werewolves simply with its shining rays.
Feared and revered, the full moon continues to inspire us, and offers modern witches a powerful time to conduct their rituals beneath her otherworldly light. This recipe appears in The Witch's Feast as an element of a three-course supper, designed to be served in ceremony on the full moon, and to be a meditation on herbs and ingredients that share the moon’s more luminary virtues- particularly olive oil, which gives this light cake a richness and aroma that beautifully compliments the earthy nuttiness of black sesame.
This cake, consecrated with lunar invocations and sigils of the moon, is a useful addition to offerings and celebrations for our closest luminary. Make this treat part of your full moon suppers or consider whipping up the entire three-course Full Moon Feast from The Witch's Feast- where this cake is served alongside gnocchi in a sage blossom pesto and mushroom parsnip soup. For creative inspiration in designing your own recipes for a full moon feast, check out my master list of planetary correspondences, to see other ingredients, flavors, and cooking methods associated with the moon.