Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy Walpurgisnacht!

or, if your German is as defunct as mine, happy May Eve!  It is the eve of the feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Germany. In German folklore Walpurgisnacht is believed to be the night of a witches' meeting on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, a range of wooded hills in central Germany between the rivers Weser and Elbe. The first known written occurrence of the English translation 'Walpurgis Night' is from the 19th century. Local variants of Walpurgis Night are observed across Europe in the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Estonia.
     Being a Pagan of Germanic, Swede and Celtic descent, I find the combination of Walpurgisnacht and Beltane so much fun: music, dancing, good food, faerie watches, all kinds of happiness and joy as we welcome the advent of summer. Granted, today doesn't feel very summer-like: gray, chilly and rainy, it's a typical April day here in New England, but sundown marks the season's change for me, and I'm looking forward to the next phase of the year! Happy Walpurgisnacht all!

Here's a lovely citrusy cake to celebrate your Walpurgis, Beltane or May Day...enjoy!!

Carrot Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting

1 c. finely grated carrots (squeeze out juice)
1 c. golden raisins
1 c. chopped pecans
2 large eggs
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbs. chopped clementine peel (white pith scraped off)
3/4 c. plus 1 Tbs. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350; grease and flour 2 8-inch round cake pans.
2. Mix carrots, raisins and nuts in a large bowl; set aside.
3. In another large bowl beat eggs and sugar, then add oil, vanilla and clementine peel; mix well.
4. Gradually add baking soda, salt, cinnamon and flour; beat well after each addition; pour into the carrot mix, stir with a wooden spoon until well-combined.
5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pans; bake 20 to 25 minutes. The cakes will be dark and springy to the touch.
6. Let sit in pans on racks for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool on racks. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Orange Buttercream Frosting

8 Tbs. room-temperature butter
2-3 Tbs. orange juice (2 to start, 1 extra as needed)
1 Tbs. chopped clementine peel (white pith scraped off)
up to 4 c. powdered sugar

1. Beat butter, 2 Tbs. orange juice, peel and 2 c. powdered sugar until smooth.
2. Gradually add the remainder of the sugar by 1/2 cups until smooth and creamy. (if too thick, add remaining 1 Tbs. orange juice.)

Makes enough frosting for one two layer cake or 15 to 20 cupcakes.

For an extra-sweet touch, garnish cake with chocolate-dipped candied orange peel. I don't make my own: I buy it from Richardson's Candy Kitchen in South Deerfield (MA), but if you are a super kitchen-maven and want to make your own, here's a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis:

Using a vegetable peeler, cut the orange part of the peel from the stem end of the orange down to the navel end, forming long 3/4 to 1-inch-wide strips. Bring a heavy small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the peels and cook for 1 minute. Drain and then rinse the peels under cold water. Repeat cooking the peels in the saucepan with fresh boiling water and rinsing under cold water.
Stir the sugar and 1/2 cup of fresh water in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Add the orange peels and simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the peels to a sheet of parchment paper to dry slightly, about 1 hour.
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir the chocolate in a small bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Dip 1 1/2-inches of each candied orange peel into the chocolate then place them on the prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 15 minutes.

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