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Midsummer Mooncakes

Midsummer, or Litha, has arrived. Also called Alban Hefin in the Druid tradition, this is the day when the sun is at it's most powerful, riding right through the center of the sky and combing its golden fingers through the trees.

Everything has reached its peak; the flowers are fully bloomed, the grass is growing tall, and the baby birds of spring have fledged their nests. It's hard to believe that from this point onward, the days will begin to shorten and we will begin our long journey into the dark part of the year.

Even if you're not planning to go full-Druid and put on a white robe and dance around a fire doing complex rituals to celebrate the crowning of the Sun King by the Goddess, take a moment to bask in the glow of summer. (I would totally do the white robe thing if I had one! But alas...)

Another excellent way to celebrate is to make something delicious.

Enter: mooncakes.

 My sister and I first started making these when we were but wee young druids; I'm not even sure where the original recipe came from, to be honest. They are very similar to traditional Welsh honey cakes. I love to whip them up on full moons and special days, especially in the summer.  

These little cakes have a sweet, earthy flavor and a hearty texture. Really, they have quite an eldritch feel about them; whenever I make them, the rich scents of honey and cinnamon fill the kitchen and I like to imagine that this same recipe was once cooked up in a much older kitchen, in a time long, long ago. A little clay-walled kitchen, with all kinds of herbs drying and medicines brewing on little wooden shelves. So, my dream kitchen. Sigh. Life goals!

Anyway, here is how to make these wonderful, special, enchanting cakes:

Mooncakes

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (I use whole wheat but white is just fine too, and, although I haven't yet tried it, I think a gluten free flour would do well)

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup butter (a vegan butter, such as Earth Balance, works as well)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup milk (I use almond)

A little white (or coconut) sugar, for topping (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a muffin tin.

Mix the flour, cinnamon, and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside.

 Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Separate the egg, reserving the white in a small bowl, and mix the yolk into the butter and sugar mixture.

Gradually add the honey to the sugar mixture until well combined and smooth.

 

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with a little milk, until everything is well combined. 

Whisk the egg white into a stiff foam (it should hold soft peaks). Pro tip: this can be done by hand, but it takes approximately 37 years. Using an electric mixer will only take liiiike a minute. So I recommend putting on whisk attachments and doing that.

When the egg white has reached the desired consistency, gently fold it into the batter with a wooden spoon or spatula. 

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins and sprinkle with a bit of white sugar, if desired. 

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Of course, if you have some kind of excellent awesome outdoor cooking situation, do that 100%. I feel like these won't be at their full potential unless they are cooked on a flat rock or in some sort of super-rustic stone oven. They need to be slightly charred to feel really authentic, I think. Someday I'm going to achieve this. Sigh. More life goals!

Once the cakes are out of the oven, give them a few minutes to cool down.

Now all you have to do is take your bounty to a lovey spot, relax, and contemplate the blessings of summer while stuffing your face.

Oh, and these are great plain, but adding a little butter and jam is fantastic too!

The solstices are a time to pause and reflect on where we are in the circle of the year, to reconnect with the earth and with ourselves and feel gratitude for what we have. Drink some iced tea on your porch, harvest your herbs, cook a beautiful summer meal, make some moon cakes! Look around at all the green, drink it in, let your heart expand in the long light of the sun, and enjoy being alive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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