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spring equinox blood orange & rose cake

As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.


spring equinox blood orange & rose cake

Serves 10-12 guests

Contains gluten, dairy

Prep time : 1 hour

Cook time : 1 hour



Butter, for greasing

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons crushed rose petals

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk


½ cup butter, softened

2cups icing sugar

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons blood orange juice

Salt, to taste

Strawberry jam (optional)

Rose powder (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350F and prepare two cake pans by greasing them with butter and lining the base with a circle of parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, beat the olive oil, sugar, and rose until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. 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 before they bake, consider one of the invocations to Helios from the PGM, or the Orphic Hymn to Apollo 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 blood orange juice, 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. If using, spread a thin layer of strawberry jam in the center of your cake, stopping 1/2" from the edges. Place your second round on top of the first, and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remainder of your frosting. Dust with rose powder, embellish as you wish, and serve within 24 hours.

'Spring Equinox' / Christina Gineris

The spring or vernal equinox is the beginning of the solar year, marking the beginning of a shift toward spring and the warmer seasons. In the modern world, this holiday is sometimes called Ostara, theoretically after the Germanic goddess of spring, Eostre. Her name also forms the root of another famous spring ceremony, Easter. While Eostre’s cults in Europe only date back to the 2nd century CE, historical linguists have also suggested that her name possibly derives from Hausos, the proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn and rebirth.

In the Northern hemispheres, the spring equinox occurs as the land experiences the first days of warmth after winter. Across the earth, the ground cracks open as shoots and blossoms erupt from their chthonic slumber. Snakes uncoil in their subterranean nests, rabbits kick their feet against the earth, and the landscape reawakens for a kinetic, vibrant new season. It is a time when fresh vegetables and tender greens are finally available once more and edible flowers bloom in psychedelic sprays against the grey-green of early spring. With returning color come vitamins, nutrients and medicinal herbs, which have been missing from the landscape since last fall. The once-quiet planet riots with life, and all of earth’s living beings – humans, animals and especially plants – are revitalized by the first blush of the Sun’s life-giving warmth upon the ground.

In many European folk traditions, this time of rebirth comes with an emphasis on cleansing and purgative rituals. We can think of this now as “spring cleaning”, but in many traditions this cleansing had a holistic approach. Windows were opened, homes swept, and even the body itself was cleansed, usually by ingesting purgative herbs in an effort to “cleanse the blood” of winter’s fat, salt and stagnancy. This detoxification was necessary to begin the new year fresh, as the spring equinox was in many places regarded as the true start of the annual calendar.

In fact, the earliest recorded “new year” celebration, from the Babylonian calendar in 2000 BCE, places the start of the year on the vernal equinox. We can see echoes of this current of rebirth and new beginnings in the myths about the equinox, such as Persephone's return from Hades or Osiris' re-assemblage by his wife Isis. This rebirth and renewal is described beautifully in one of the equinox’s most powerful European symbols, the egg, in which the hard earth of winter (the shell) cracks and gives way to the new life of spring (the nutritious egg within). In Slavic countries, the equinox is celebrated with a number of egg-breaking games, in which female children sing songs in praise of Lazarus, the resurrected saint, and tap eggs against one another to see which breaks first. These egg charms are seen throughout Europe and usually come with the recitation of prayers and blessings to open the land and grant a fertile harvest to those who depend on it for survival. For this reason, eggs are a traditional part of spring Equinox rituals the world over and feature prominently in feasts for this holiday.

This bake makes use of what ingredients we have at this time of year- dried flowers, late winter citrus, eggs, dairy, and just the pantry essentials - to create a celebration cake that echoes the seasonal current of revitalization and renewal. The flavors and colors are bright and vibrant, with the strawberry jam providing a balancing acidity. True, these are all ingredients of late winter cupboards, but when combined they produce a surprising brightness - all too fitting for the Spring Equinox and the return of the sun's life giving warmth to the world.

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