“Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose.” 12th Century Persian Poem
Don’t underestimate the power of this demure, pretty, little cupcake. Behind its girly facade lies a scent and flavor so compelling, so transporting, that it has been from time immemorial associated with magic, mysticism, esoteric secrets, sacred sexuality, the unfolding of higher consciousness, and most especially – divine feminine power.
The story of the wild rose (from which all our domesticated roses descend) could fill books – and has. Reputed to be millions of years old, the five petal rose (Rosa canina) blooms in late spring in woodlands and fields across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America. The colours of our wild rose vary from pale pink to dark cerise, and are extremely nutritious, high in Vitamin C, antioxidants, polyphenols and bioflavonoids.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, our native species are known as the Nootka and Wood’s Rose and were harvested by our First Nations for both food and medicine. Not much is known because, as I have discovered by asking many questions – that they too have their own “sub rosa” secret traditions. Enough said!
Ruled by the feminine planet Venus, who traces her five petal shape (the magical pentacle) around the sun in the heavens every eight years, the rose was sacred to Goddesses everywhere. For Isis, known in Egypt as the Queen of Heaven, she symbolized the secrets of regeneration and immortality. In India, Lakshmi goddess of beauty and prosperity, was said to have been created with rose petals.
Pre-Christian France worshipped Rosemerth (Rose Mother) in fertility rituals on sacred mounds and hills, and in Greece, Hecate goddess of witchcraft, wore a crown of roses. Altars in the temples of Aphrodite and Venus were piled high with roses and floors strewn with petals. Priestesses adorned their bodies with rose oil and wore rose garlands around their necks and head.
I’m pretty sure that these ancient priestesses were using the scent of the rose to enter altered states. Today we know the rose contains chemical compounds that release “feel good” endorphins while reducing cortisol and blood pressure, causing the brain to enter the deep calm, dreamy states of Theta and Alpha. Her anti-depressant qualities and ability to uplift the heart and spirits are well-known.
And according to Dr. David Stewart, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, rose oil has the highest electromagnetic frequency of all flowers, raising human vibrational frequency when inhaled.
Is this why the revery inducing rose was decreed by early Church Fathers as damnable? When Christianity became the new official religion of the Roman Empire, the goddess temples were closed and ancient rose festivals like the Rosalia (held May 23rd in honour of the Goddess Flora) were banned. But it wasn’t long after that the five petal rose (Rosa Mystica) emerged as the emblem at the heart of secret mystical societies said to continue the spiritual (and sexual) rituals of the goddess traditions.
During the medieval era of courtly love, the wild rose became the chief symbol of the newly re-emerging feminine principle and was equated with the Holy Grail. The Knights Templar built the Gothic cathedrals with their famous rose windows and were said to secretly worship Mary Magdalene. There is a legend that the Magdalene created a Sisterhood of the Rose, composed of twelve groups of twelve women who work for the betterment of mankind, and are wisdom keepers of the sacred knowledge.
So cupcake feminism indeed. I invite you this Rosalia (May 23rd) to put on your frilly apron. Much more than an overindulgence in either sugar or the New Domesticity, these divine confections are a direct connection to a feminine spiritual heritage thousands of years old. Bake these cupcakes in honor of the ancient priestesses whose mystical practices were outlawed by patriarchal religions. Allow their aroma and flavour to uplift your spirit and nourish your soul. Consider them a sacrament to the Magna Mater (Great Mother) Queen of Heaven and Earth, “the one who makes all things flourish”.
Wild Rose Cupcakes w/Buttercream Frosting
Makes Approx. 24 mini-cupcakes
Ingredients (for cakes)
- 3 cups of rose petals
- 2 cups organic unbleached flour
- 2 cups organic cane sugar (1/2 cup for cakes, 1& 1/2 cups for rose syrup)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup organic or grass-fed butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
- 4 tablespoons finely minced lemon balm (optional but nice)
For Buttercream frosting
- 1/2 cup rose syrup (you will make for cupcakes and reserve some for frosting)
- 2 cups (or 3) cups of icing sugar (organic if you can get your hands on it)
- 1/2 cup of butter
General Harvest & Prep:
- Harvest your petals in the morning before the heat of the sun, but after the dew burns off. Take only four of the petals, leaving one as a signal for pollinators. This will ensure bee’s are happy and there will be rosehips for fall!
- Take petals home and place in a sieve/colander and gently shake to release the little critters. You may want to do this several times! (Washing will dilute the volatile oils).
- Make syrup. Boil 1 & 1/2 cups of sugar and the water together. Reduce until thickened into a syrupy consistency. Remove from burner, let cool slightly (enough to make sure the petals don’t COOK when you add them) then add 2 cups of rose petals to syrup. Let cool completely, then strain the liquid from the petals. Now you’ve got rose syrup.
Directions for Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 375 and line cupcake tins with papers. Should be mini-cupcake size.
- Finely mince1/4 cup of rose petals & lemon balm
- Cream 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
- Add flour, baking powder and salt. Then slowly add 1 cup of the rose syrup (reserving the remaining for the frosting) beat well; stir in vanilla. Lastly, stir in the finely minced rose petals and lemon balm until well blended.
- Divide batter evenly among pans and bake for 18 minutes. Let cool in pans.
- Frost with Buttercream Icing and then roll each cupcake in Rose Sugar Sprinkle. (recipes below.)
Voila. Cakes fit for the Queen of Heaven. P.S. They won’t last long!
Buttercream Frosting and Wild Rose Sugar Sprinkle
Wild Rose Sugar Sprinkle:
- Take the remaining 3/4 cup or so of rose petals and place in food processor with 1/2 cup of remaining sugar.
- Grind until petals are dissolved in a moist crumbly pink sugar.
Butter Cream Frosting
- Beat remaining 1/2 cup of butter until creamy.
- Slowly add icing sugar, little at a time, continuing to beat.
- Slowly add remaining 1/3 cup rose syrup, and keep beating until well mixed.