We’ve celebrated the winter solstice in our house for many years now. The return of the light is such a thing to celebrate (literally and metaphorically) as are the beautiful rhythms of this planet. What we do is a bit different each year, but always involves light. Our plans mostly depend on the weather, really. Some years we’ve had bonfires, some we’ve enjoyed entire evenings inside by candlelight. For the past few years, we’ve played Waldschattenspiel after supper, which the boys look forward to.
Beeswax candles are the physical light and sweetness of summer, literally captured and preserved by the bees. Isn’t that just so wonderful? It seems fitting and magical that during the darkest night of the year we celebrate with beeswax candles, reminding us that summer will return. These ones, I actually dipped, which was so much fun - I hadn’t made candles this way before, and I will absolutely be doing it again.
I was looking up different solstice traditions over the past few weeks, specifically looking for food traditions, and came across solstice bread, made in a wreath shape to echo the shape of the sun. I didn’t have the time to make bread this time around, but settled on a few changes to my usual (simple and delicious) gingerbread cake recipe to make it round and seasonally beautiful, and included a bit of honey to once again remember the bees. I was so delighted with how it turned out that I thought I would share the recipe with you - it would easily be as perfect as a Christmas dinner dessert or served on New Year’s Eve, studded with sparklers.
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup hot water
Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a bundt pan really, really, really well. (See the lumpy bits of my cake? It didn’t release from the pan properly.)
I use a stand mixer - if you don’t have one, no worries - just do the rest by hand or with a handheld mixer. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses and mix well.
If you want to be proper, whisk together your dry ingredients before adding them (I almost never do, and it turns out wonderfully every time.) Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix briefly, being careful not to overwork the batter - you don’t want a tough cake. Add hot water, mix until uniform, and pour into bundt pan.
Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes, and release from pan. Dust with powdered sugar - shaken from a fine-mesh sieve is the trick - and garnish with pomegranate seeds and sprigs of greenery. I used dried rosemary from this summer’s garden, but if I hadn’t had that on hand I would have cut sprigs from our Christmas tree. This cake is even better the next day, so it’s a great make-ahead dessert. Just cool and cover well, then add the icing sugar and pomegranate seeds and greens before serving. Enjoy, served with whipped cream. Happy Holidays!