As the light from the morning sun begins to reduce the darkness on the first day of May, people in times past, would gather near Norfolk, England and on the beacon hills along the Michael Leyline which runs southwest to the tip of Cornwall. They would wait until the first tiny sliver of the sun was visible and then light a welcoming bonfire to greet the sun. As the first fire became visible to the next group across the valley, the second fire would be started and on down the line this process would be repeated and repeated as the sun rose on what those gathered would call Beltane morning; a greeting of fire with fire to welcome life.
Fire, being an element that represents a cardinal direction and fire playing such a big part of Beltane traditions, I thought that today we would make a Bonfire Cake for Beltane next week.
For Wacky Cake you will need:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp, salt
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. Vanilla
5 Tbsp. oil
1 cup cold water
“In my kitchen filled with care, I welcome, Water, Earth, Fire, Air.”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. This is my standard everyday chocolate cake recipe. The one I use for rum balls, snacking cake ( topped with chocolate chips ) or when the cake or cupcakes is going to be topped with all sorts of other goodies. quick and moist. If you have something you would prefer to use, a different recipe or a cake mix, please feel free.
Blend together all the dry ingredients. Make a well and add all the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth. Bake until the centre comes out clean, 15 – 25 minutes depending on the size of cake.
This recipe will make an 8×8 pan or 11 medium cupcakes. I doubled the recipe and got all the different shapes you can see in the picture. I used a jello mold (front) and medium sized flan pan (top left) and a six inch spring form ( top right ) and 4 cupcake forms.
Once cool cut off the top of the cakes which have risen above the form height so that you have a nice stable flat surface for the bottom. The cakes will all be decorated upside down so the cut side connects with the plate and stops it from drying out.
While the cakes are cooling, make the icing and flames. Here are two easy ways to create the sugar flames.
You will need either:
5 red and 5 yellow hard sugar candies
2/3 cup of white sugar
1 drop yellow food colouring
1 drop red food colouring
If using hard sugar candies try to find spicy flavours like cinnamon or ginger, that will add to the whole fiery theme if the cake. Place five red and five yellow candies in a bag and break them into tiny pieces.
Grease or spray a piece of foil and place on a cookie sheet. Spread the broken bits out over the foil, keeping them close enough that they will harden into one large piece and bake at 350 degrees for 6 – 8 minutes. The candies will melt and then harden once more as they cool into a mixture of colours.
You will notice that the red seems to lighten more to the pink tones in this sample. the darker the red you can find in the candies, the better the red will stand out. Allow the sugar to cool until hard and put aside until it it time to break into pieces.
The second option is to start with sugar and a frying pan. It really is mostly a question of what you have on hand and what is easiest to complete. There is no right or wrong. It is all about what fits best into your day.
Place about 1/3 cup of sugar into a frying pan and add 1 drop of yellow food colouring. Over a medium heat mix until the coloring is mixed in and the sugar begins to met. It will become “crumbly” first and then liquify. You can help it along by squishing and sugar clumps with a spatula. Once the sugar is all melted pour onto a greased foil covered pan.
Repeat the process using a drop of red colouring and sprinkle on top of the yellow.
If you have flavourings handy, You can also add a little to the liquid mixture to give the harden sugar a little extra flavour. You can see from the pictures that two very different effects are created.
Again, your choice, what is easiest, fits into the schedule and looks best to your eyes.
Put aside and allow to cool.
When it is time to decorate, break into pieces with your hands. (Sugar has it’s own plans for how it will break).
For chocolate icing you will need:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 melted chocolate
4 Tbsp. cocoa
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
3 – 5 Tbsp milk
Whip the butter until light and fluffy and add the melted chocolate. Sift in the dry ingredients slowly. My mixer does not have a good low speed so I am always careful to avoid that big cloud of icing sugar by adding it a bit at a time. Continue whipping and add the milk to the desired consistency. You want enough movement in the icing that it will be creamy and still hold it place. ( Update! ***This recipe was enough to do all the double recipe of cake batter I made so you might want to cut it in half.)
If you have an icing recipe you would prefer to use go right ahead. You are really just looking for something to represent the ground so additionally if coffee is more appealing as a flavour to you, do that instead. Sprinkling Oreo cookie crumbs for earth is an additional option. My intention here is to show how a theme can be incorporated into food not control how you express your creativity.
The decorating bits. For the logs I used Twix bars and Pirouline Cookies. Cadbury Fingers will work as well. I find that having the icing and anything chocolate coated can sometimes be an issue as the colours are too similar as you can see in the picture here. This can be helped by making the icing darker or adding those Oreo crumbs I mentioned earlier.
Pretzels will also work as wood pieces for cupcakes and can also help use up the smaller bits as well as keep “helpful hands” occupied. You are sure to find other useful ingredients in the pantry.
All you really need are the logs and the flames but if you are feeling fancy then try adding some “stones” to create a fire pit. You can use chocolate covered ginger, bridge mix, almonds or those candy coated chocolates that look like rocks.
Ice the cakes as you see fit. I cut the six inch round and added a layer of icing between the layers but left the others with icing just on top, letting the ins and outs of the cake forms show through.
The jelly mold cake I turned into a little more of a bonfire style but really it is about having fun and getting to the finish line. You might also want to consider how the cake will be cut and leave a little space so that each piece gets a log and some part of the flame.
Break the sugar flames into pieces and place on top of the cake, between the logs and stones. The flames can be held in place by adding extra icing or pushing down into the cake itself.
At Beltane all hearth fires were extinguished and re-lit from the Beltane bonfire.
In England, mid summer festivals are celebrated in June, before summer officially starts in North America. This is because Beltane/May Day is thought of as the beginning of summer. A time when the light half of the wheel returns and life is busy, exuberantly creating.
For this reason it is also considered a fertility festival where there is an underlying encouragement for all things to produce new life.
Old Irish texts say that two fires were built and cattle was taken between the fires to shield them from disease. People also jumped the fires and things were passed over the flames for protection, purification and healing.
However you chose to celebrate, find time to be with the friends and the community you call home. This is a time to play in the joy of the light.
Bonfire Cakes from My Kitchen Wand