Last spring, I tested out a batch of Burdock & Rose Brownies at Gather’s “Botanical Sweet Treat” bar. And they were the first to go. Their dark fudgey icing drew peoples eyes like a magnet – and no one cared a whit about warnings that these brownies were a little more “earthy” in flavour than usual. But judging by their expressions as they took their first bite (and the brisk sales) the Wild Rose & Burdock Fudge Brownie was a winner. So this fall, in honour of a young Venus turning 19, I decided to make a brownie birthday cake.
Grounded in the dark, heavy goodness of chocolate and the loamy roots of the burdock, this cake takes flight in the heady floral top notes of rose. And when it comes to indulgence it’s pretty guilt-free. Yes of course the sugar is “bad”, but everything else in these Burdock & Rose Brownie Cake is really gooood for you!
Last spring I used a fresh burdock root in the recipe. I peeled it, gave it a boil pulsed it the food processor, then mixed the mash right in the brownie batter, much like you might use zucchini. But this time I used dried burdock root powder instead (made by whirring up the dried bits in my coffee grinder), and it added a delicious, roasted coffee-like flavour. (You can find dried burdock at your local herbalist shop)
Burdock is a blood purifier and important detoxifying herb in both Western and Chinese herbal medicine. Nutrient and mineral rich, burdock contains phenolic acids, quercetin and luteolin, lignans, inulin, mucilage, sulphur, and organic acids, all of which assist digestion support the liver, balance hormones, and reduce inflammation. Studies show that burdock is useful to help ease arthritis and gout, and as an anti-tumor herb. And it rumoured to be one of the four ingredients in the legendary anti-cancer Essiac Tea, allegedly acquired from a First Nations healer.
And it’ magical too. Old folk-lore and traditions tell us that burdock root protects from evil and negative influences. Burdock should be gathered in autumn under the waning moon (right now!) dried, cut into pieces and strung on a red string. When worn as talisman or as a necklace this burdock necklace will protect the bearer from bad spirits and ill forces.
And because the planet Venus rules over burdock (as it does the rose) it also associated with love. One medieval folk tradition tells girls to pick a burdock burr, give it her lover’s name and throw it against her dress. If it stuck he was faithful, if not, he was untrue.
Of course nothing captures Venuses allure and beauty better than her signature flower, the rose. Long used in love magic, potions and spells it’s no wonder she has been called Venus Verticordia (“Venus the turner of hearts”). Because of her aphrodisiac qualities, it was an old custom to strew rose petals on the bed of a just married couple to enhance fertility.
Last May I used the petals of wild roses but this time I went with the intensely fragrant blossoms of the Rugosa whose bright pink flowers are blooming again all over Victoria. To this I added a a fat coral rose from the garden with a wonderful peachy aroma. These rose petals bring not only Venu’s intoxicating aroma to this brownie, they bring Vitamin C, antioxidants, polyphenols and bioflavonoids to it too.
And considering that chemical compounds found in roses have been found to help to trigger “feel good” endorphins while reducing cortisol and blood pressure, helping the brain enter calm and relaxed states – this is one dreamy brownie cake indeed. And I’m not going to even begin in all the wonderful mood-lifting and healing properties of chocolate itself! Lets just say, this brownie cake will not only nourish you as you indulge, it will make you feel really good too!
Burdock Root & Rose Brownie Cake
- 3 tablespoons dried powdered burdock roots
- 2 cups fresh lightly chopped rose petals ( 1/2 cup dried)
- 1 &1/2 cups organic cane (or brown) sugar
- 1 & 1/2 cups unbleached organic flour
- 2 & 1/2 ounces unsweetened or dark chocolate (in pieces)
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped, roasted hazelnuts (optional – I found some fall foraging so I threw them in)
The first most important thing is infusing your petals in melted butter as this extracts their flavour.
- Melt butter on low heat. Place the rose petals in the pot/pan and stir gently.
- Let them in infuse in warm heat for at least an hour (don’t cook them- just let them release their oils into the better. I put mine in a small casserole dish in the oven at lowest setting to sit.
- Once roses are done (they should be limp) preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a small round baking pan and dust with flour.
- Melt chocolate and set aside to cool.
- Beat eggs and vegetable oil until fluffy. Add sugar and beat well. Next mix in melted chocolate. Add in your butter and butter infused petals.
- In separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in nuts.
- Fold together your wet and dry ingredients, mix well.
- Spread batter into prepared round pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until toothpick stuck into center comes out slightly moist. Cool completely.
Couple of Closing Notes:
If you want to use fresh burdock root, spring and fall are the best times for harvesting. Or should I say digging? Because fresh burdock definitely requires getting your hands dirty. These links by noted herbalists Yarrow Willard and Jim McDonald tell you everything you need to know. Use about 1/2 cup, peeled, boiled and chunkily pureed.
And when it comes to rose petals any fragrant variety will do. Just take a whiff and your nose will let you know. And right now if you like in Victoria you can even find wild roses like Nootka making a last reappearance in the autumn sunshine. If you can’t find fresh roses, dried rose petals will work. Just be sure to place to infuse them in butter longer than the recipe requires – they will need to fully plump up before you use them.
And when it comes to frosting – well, I’ll leave that up to you!