Getting your Druid-on at summer solstice
Summer Solstice marks the first day of summer or when the Northern Hemisphere is most inclined towards the sun, if you want to get technical. It is a day in the calendar that is loaded with ancient, spiritual significance. For the Druids, the 3rd century Celts native to this land, summer solstice marks the time when days are longer than the nights, and when the plentiful, fertile, life-giving light banishes the darkness. Our ancestors honoured this connection with the sun, and even though most of this helios, or sun-worship, (guess which one of us has the Art-History degree) has become extinct, thousands still flock to ancient sites such as Stonehenge to witness the first rays of summer sunlight.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald
It might sound a bit like new-age bullshit, but there is something so beautiful about a celebration so ancient, even when it’s significance is almost completely obsolete in our modern world. If we really wanted sun, we can jump on a plane a find it. The world is also demystified, we understand biology, mathematics and physics (well, some people do), and the spiritual magic that was one so prevalent, is now lost. Be that as it may, the June solstice represents the long-waited arrival summer which even now warrants celebration, and it isn’t every day you get to walk barefoot and dress like Stevie Nicks. It’s time to get your Druid on.
“Be like the flower, turn your face to the sun.” -Kahlil Gibran
Nothing screams celebration more than a cake. Cakes are present at all our times of change, times of growth and to mark occasions that are now clouded in memory. That, and everyone loves it. The more practical reasoning for this is that cake can happily feed many people, so it is perfect to keep your wannabe Pagan’s happy in the sunshine.
“Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon and the truth”– Buddha
The recipe we have provided is a little microcosm of summer with flavours of elderflower, lemon and fresh fruit jam. It is topped with fresh flowers, and if you have any leftover make some flower crowns to wear. If we had to pick a single summer flavour it would be elderflower, hands down. It is a native flower and its season in the UK runs from late May to late August. It grows on the Elder tree, believe it or not, and is found in woodland. In the autumnal months, the trees produce berries (elderberries – this is all rather confusing we know), which can also be consumed in the form of jam, wine or syrup. Of course, elderflower cordial is everywhere (please refer to your local hipster joint), but taking the time out to harvest and make your own is such fun and it makes a big difference. There is a fabulous recipe here, it’s quite fitting at this time of year to become one with nature and go picking in the woods. You’ll be a regular forest nymph before you know it.
Bask in the sunshine, make flower crowns, dance around a bonfire, and just be thankful witch trials are no longer a thing. Oh, and don’t forget to let them eat cake.
See you next Thursday,
Just before you get to the really important bit… we’d just like to take a minute to let you know we’ve been nominated for a Northern Blog Award. Rather exciting, don’t you think? We’ve been nominated for ‘Best Blog Photography’ award and we’re absolutely bursting with pride just to make the cut. Before we start practising our gracious loser faces, as the competition is fiercely talented, we’d like to let you know that public voting opens next month, so if you’re a fan of what we do here on G&T please so your support and vote for us when the time comes.
That is all, back to business.
Elderflower “Naked” Cake
375g softened butter or margarine
375g caster sugar
6 medium eggs, beaten
400g self-raising flower
200ml elderflower cordial
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
250ml of blackcurrant jam
550g icing sugar
250g soft unsalted butter
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. elderflower cordial
Preheat your oven to 180° degrees and line three 12’’ cake tins with butter and grease-proof paper. In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar on a high-speed setting until it is light, fluffy and creamy. This should take about (3-5 minutes). Add the beaten egg a little at a time, being sure that it is well combined before adding more. Once it is combined add the lemon juice, zest and elderflower and beat fast in the mixer. Add two heaped tbsp. of flour at a time and fold in gently. Once it is all combined, pour into the cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool completely. While you wait make the icing, clean your mixer, whip up the soft butter. Sift half the icing sugar into the butter along with the milk and cordial until smooth. Add the other half to thicken and chill.
To form the cake, take a sharp knife and level off the cakes by slicing the top off. Spread a good amount of jam on top and pipe/spread a little icing too. Place another half on top and repeat. Pipe icing around the top and sides and spread with palate knife or large knife. Decorate with fresh fruit or flowers and enjoy.
TOP TIP: If you want super smooth icing, rest or knife in hot water. Wipe the water off and use while it’s still hot for professional results.