Delicately perfumed with the GORGEOUS scent of linden blossoms, this moist, crumbly cake truly is delicious. I couldn’t stop eating it – so now I have to bake a whole new one for solstice! But that’s okay, it takes no time to whip up and I’ll get to enjoy even more of it! In Latvia, Midsummer is the biggest holiday of the year and as linden usually blooms now, it plays a big role in festivities. So in tribute to my Latvian heritage, this Linden Sun Cake was born!
Linden is a graceful, stately tree in the genus Tilia. And right now hundreds of its tiny creamy white blossoms are bursting open. Hanging heavily from the branches, they fill the air with an intoxicating fragrance often compared to honeysuckle or jasmine.
Linden is often called the “Bee Tree” because of the hundreds of bees which buzz amongst its blossoms! Famous for its use in perfumes, soaps and creams, it has also been long infused in honey, teas, syrups and cordials.
Linden blossoms are also medicinal, best known for their calming, sedative effect (an old French remedy for hyperactive children) and can also be used to treat colds, flu and break fevers. The leaves are also edible, and when young and tender are delicious tossed into salads. They can be added to stews as a thickening agent, even dried and ground into a flour substitute. (Gotta try this!) And according to herbalist Susun Weed, they possess amazing anti-inflammatory qualities!
There are many varieties of Linden, all edible. Large tall trees, they are easily found on old city and neighbourhood streets, in schoolyards, and public places. They can be identified by their beautiful heart-shaped leaves. The small sun-like lacy blossoms have thin, papery, green”bracts” attached to the stem.
The Linden is the national tree of Latvia and is frequently mentioned in folklore, fairy tales, and the Latvian dainas (traditional songs). Associated with the feminine aspects of nature, linden was one of the most important ritual plants for celebrating the summer solstice. It was gathered and woven into garlands and wreaths that decorated the home, the garden, even the livestock. This protected from bad luck and negative forces.
And in traditional dances (around the midsummer bonfire) women dancers wore sprays of linden. In Estonia and Lithuania, women brought food offerings at a blooming linden tree asking for fertility and good fortune. Linden was the sacred tree of the Latvian goddess of luck and fate, Laima. She measures the length of the day, the length of a lifespan, and one of her most important duties is prophesying.
LAIMA SPINNING BALT MAIDEN GODDESS OF FATE, GOOD LUCK AND HAPPINESS Kārlis Zemdega (1936).
Part of midsummer magic was the making of round golden cakes to represent the sun. By eating this cake one strengthened the sun’s powers ensuring a good harvest to come! So baking this Linden Blossom Sun Cake will help ensure you abundance and prosperity, not to mention Laina’s good blessings of good luck and happiness.
It is made with semolina, a grainy textured “flour” made of durum wheat. Semolina is a traditional part of Latvian cuisine and was served in the form of a pudding with fresh berry compote at many midsummer feasts. (If you want to go nongluten you can also use cornmeal or rice farina.) Semolina is also a common ingredient in dry crumbly Middle Eastern cakes meant to be infused with syrup or honey.
And that’s where the linden blossoms come in. They are infused into the syrup, which is gloriously poured over this cake after baking. The syrup is simple to make, you just need a couple of cups of linden blossoms with the papery bracts removed. These will be infused into a simple syrup of sugar and water – you could also use honey which I’ve done before – but I think the flavour of the blossoms comes out more nicely in the syrup.
Semolina Sun Cake w/ Linden Blossom Syrup
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1/2 cup of semolina
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2/3 cup of soft butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- whipped cream to serve
- 3/4 cup Linden Syrup
Linden Blossom Syrup (Makes about 1 cup)
- 1 &1/2 cups sugar
- 1 & 1/2 cups water
- 4 cups of linden blossoms
- 2 tablespoons of finely grated lemon zest
Linden Blossom Syrup
- Start by separating the linden blossoms from their papery tracts.
- Boil an equal amount of sugar and water together until it thickens into a syrup.
- Once the simple syrup is ready, pour into a bowl and add the flowers and lemon zest.
- Give it a stir. Put it aside and let sit overnight (or at least a few hours) to allow the flavour of the flowers to infuse the syrup. Strain off the flowers before using.
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush a round pan with butter to grease. Dust with flour.
- Sift the flour, semolina and baking powder into a bowl.
- Beat the butter and sugar in another large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Stir in the flour mixture. Add the yogurt and stir until well combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let cool. Then using a toothpick or a skewer, pierce holes all over the surface of the cake. Pour 1/2 cup of syrup over the cake. Let sit a few minutes. Transfer the cake to a serving plate. Pour over remaining syrup and serve with whipped cream.
P.S. This recipe is a preview from Gather Victoria’s Midsummer Herbal & Magical Cookery E-book for Gather Patrons!