10 years ago, 3 days after graduating high school, I packed up and moved to Sweden. I wanted to understand where my grandmother - who had died the summer before - had come from. I found a farm via the WWOOF website and after spending a few days with my grandmothers childhood friend, Kajsa, I made my way to the farm. It was two weeks before Midsommar, an celebration I had never heard of. When I asked Erik, the farmers son, what Midsommar was he explained it like this : "you have a big dick made out of poles and covered with flowers then you stick it into the ground to represent a new season". I was naturally very confused, but I had a big crush on him so I just went with it. (We ended up dating for a year-ish after that conversation. I fall hard for goofy awkwardness, I guess.) I found out that he wasn't too far off with his description. Midsommar morning, we decorated a large pole with flowers, plopped it on a tractor and began our sing song journey to the school yard near to the farm. (See the polaroid to the far left below) But first, as with any good celebration, was the food.
Food in Sweden is possibly my favorite thing in the world. When I'm there, my digestion is better and I just love a good caviar in a tube with cucumber and flatbread. I'm such a sucker for all of it. It makes sense though, my grandmother moved to New York from Sweden in her early 20's so I grew up eating this sort of food. It's a major part of my history, both belonging to me and my ancestors and it feels very natural for me to love this food. I came across a recipe for a Midsummer Cake and I knew I had to make it.
Elderflowers are one of the first tastes that come to mind for me when I think about Sweden. It reminds me of sunny mornings harvesting the flowers and making large buckets full of elderflower cordial to sell at the shop. It's one of my favorite flavors and anything with elderflower will instantly enhance my mood. I've heard of cake soaking before this, so I wanted to incorporate this classically Swedish flavor in with this cake. The rose buttercream was a last minute addition with the rose water I have tucked away in my kitchen. Plus, flowers are fantastic so why not add more, ya know?
Photos from my first Midsommar in Sweden, 2008
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup plain flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tbs baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp water
8 tbs (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbs milk or cream
1 tsp rosewater
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup strawberries, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup raspberries, cut in half
1 cup sugar
Set aside fresh, uncut berries to top the cake.
1 cup elder flower (I had to use dried because we don't have elderflower in Montana, so I hear. Just fishy smelling lookalikes.)
1 cup chamomile
3 cups boiling water.
Half a lemon, sliced
1 1/2 cups sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 and line two 7 inch cake pans with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Place egg whites and salt in a medium size bowl with an electric whisk. Whisk until the egg whites form stiff peaks, then set aside. In a separate bowl, mix yolks, sugar, water and vanilla extract with whisk until batter has become light and doubled in size. Gently fold in the egg whites, then sprinkle in flour 1/4 cup at a time. Once mixed, pour batter into lined tins and place in oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are a golden color and the cake has set.
While the cake is baking, get a clean bowl and combine cut berries in with the sugar. Set aside.
Get another clean bowl (you'll end up doing a lot of dishes with this cake. sry) and combine butter, sugar, rose water, salt, vanilla and milk. Whisk until thick, adding more powdered sugar if needed. Place in freezer or fridge to set and keep cool.
Once the cakes are done, let cool completely before removing the parchment paper. I usually set my cakes in the fridge for about ten minutes after taking the paper off to speed up the process; you don't want your cakes to be warm at all otherwise the frosting will melt off. Using a pastry brush, slather syrup onto cakes (use 1/2 - 3/4 cup total) and let sit for ten minutes or so. Transfer one layer to a clean plate or cake stand and start frosting. Once the bottom layer is frosted, scoop sugar and berries out and spread evenly. Place second layer and use remaining frosting. Pile on fresh berries, lemon balm, mint or whatever you fancy on top and serve.