This recipe is actually from my past, but it was so delicious I still think of it today.
At the time I had two girlfriends with whom I would celebrate the seasons. We usually would get together and eat seasonal foods, some from our gardens depending on time of year, and we do various things appropriate to celebrating the season.
I particularly love celebrating Winter Solstice because it’s about the return of the light of the sun after the cold dark winter, and with the sun comes the return of food that nourishes all the rest of life. Winter Solstice was celebrated in all cultures in pre-Christian times. For me, it’s a nice way to connect with Nature with my friends.
In 2011 year had our Winter Solstice gathering on Solstice eve, the night before Solstice. Linda had read something about having a birthday party for the Sun, to bake a cake with an image of a Sun on it, and sing Happy Birthday to welcome the rebirth of the Sun in the new year. She asked me to bake and decorate a cake for the occasion.
I thought about this cake for days in advance and considered many different options. What cake to bake? How do I get an image of the sun on top? I considered using yellow icing to pipe or paint a sun, and creating a sun with careful placement of golden raisins. But everything I thought of didn’t seem quite right.
Then on the very day that the cake was needed, the perfect cake just came to me. I knew exactly what to do, what elements to bring together that would be exactly right in every way. I made a gluten-free almond cake, topped it with mascarpone cheese* instead of sugary frosting, then “painted” a sun on top with ginger-orange marmalade fruit spread (sweetened with grape juice concentrate). The translucent marmalade caught the light and made the Sun “shine.” For a final festive garnish, I sprinkled the top with curls of lemon zest, from a lemon I picked off the tree in my backyard. I gave the Sun eight points with a beeswax candle at each point to represent infinity and the infinite continuation of the return of the Sun year after year.
It was a truly stunningly beautiful cake, and amazingly delicious too. With the fresh lemon zest, the cake just smelled like winter in Florida, where citrus trees are everywhere, in almost every backyard.
I was happy that this cake captured the spirit of the Solstice, in the place where I live. Everyone loved it. I think I need to make this cake again.
Here’s the recipe for my cake.
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup sifted powdered unrefined cane sugar (sold as "organic" powdered sugar)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1½ cups almond flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- ½ jar ginger-orange marmalade fruit spread (or plain orange marmalade)
- the zest of one lemon
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Line a 9-inch round cake pan with a piece of parchment paper.
- Whip butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, then add powdered sugar and continue to beat until well incorporated.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Add the almond extract.
- Stir the almond flour into the batter along with the salt.
- Pour batter into the pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
- Invert cake onto a cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.
- Spread the soft mascarpone cheese onto the cooled cake. Then put the cake in the refrigerator for about an hour to allow the mascarpone to firm up.
- To make the sun, put a heaping tablespoon of marmalade in the center of the cake. Then fill a teaspoon with marmalade. Starting from the center circle, place the marmalage in the teaspoon on the cake, and pull the marmalage out towards the edge, making the sunbeam narrower and narrower as you go. I starting pulling with the back of a teaspoon and then tipped the spoon as I want to make the line narrower.
- Top with lemon zest curls and a candle at each point.
* Mascaropone is a soft Italian cheese similar to our cream cheese but more delicate. It is usually sold in gourmet supermarkets and natural food stores, or in the speciality cheese section of supermarkets. If you can’t find it where you live, you can use whipped cream cheese or buttercream frosting.