As the tunes briefly ebbed in their weekend flow at the Grassroots Infield Stage, tightly knit friends and strangers spiraled across the vast lawn and harmonized in chorus “happy birthday to you!” When the sun dipped below the old-growth trees encircling the festival and the musicians began to pluck and tune their instruments, thirty-three sunbeam candles blazed mightily atop Shoshi’s birthday cake. Each spark of light was placed with love, gratitude and reverence by Shoshi’s beaux, David. Our picnic feast was prepared and shared with equal adoration by Shoshi’s cherished friends and self-titled Red Hot Divas. After all, this gal sees the world through a prism of strawberries and garnets.
What a scene to celebrate a real life goddess, who is devoted to friends and community and fills her life with beautiful art and uplifting music – whether discovered or created by her songbird voice or nine and a half fingers. What magic to devour our world in fine grassroots form, from the ground up, with the homegrown flavors and beats of the Finger Lakes. This is how Shoshi takes her cake.
As a food ecologist and PhD candidate in rural development sociology at Cornell, Shoshi studies how the various elements of food in a particular community – such as production, distribution, politics, tradition, memories and culture – are integrated and connected in the environment. Her most recent work took her to the vanilla farms of Madagascar. On a daily basis, Shoshi observes the patterns of food in her own microcosm, from her keyhole-patterned community garden plot at Wood’s Earth Living Classroom to a pickling workshop with the IthaCanners and a weekly cooking ritual filled with adventure and deep belly laughs with yours truly!
Adapted from The Beekeeper’s Bible, upon Mamma’s insistence on its delight after baking this treat with her own backyard honey! An absolutely gorgeous, simple gluten-free cake which can be adapted to the fruit of the season! Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or creme fraiche.
- For cake:
- Unsalted butter - 1 cup, softened
- Organic cane sugar - 3/4 cup
- Honey - 3 tablespoons locally produced honey
- Cornmeal or fine polenta - 1 1/4 cups ground cornmeal or fine polenta
- Almonds - 2 cups, ground
- Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
- Eggs - 3 large eggs, beaten
- For topping:
- Honey - 1/2 cup locally produced honey
- Rosemary - 1 two-to-three-inch sprig fresh rosemary
- Cherries - 1 cup pitted cherries
- Lemon - Zest of 1 lemon
- You can either buy pre-ground almond flour, or if you have a food processor, grind raw almonds as fine as possible (more affordable; a bit noisier).
- Preheat the oven to 350. Line the bottom of a spring form cake pan with a circle of parchment paper and grease the sides with butter. (Cut another circle for covering the surface of the cake halfway through baking.)
- In a large bowl, use a fork to beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy (or use a mixer with the paddle attachment).
- Add the 3 tablespoons of honey and continue to beat the butter mixture until it becomes paler in color.
- In a separate large bowl, mix the polenta, ground almonds and baking powder.
- Mix in a tablespoon of the polenta mixture with the butter mixture. Now add about one tablespoon of the beaten eggs and beat again. Alternate between the polenta mixture and beaten eggs until you have a thick, smoothly blended batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread the surface of the cake smooth.
- Bake for 30 minutes on the middle rack. After 30 minutes, Reduce the temperature to 325. If the top of the cake is browning quickly, cover it with the extra circle of parchment paper. Continue baking the cake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, combine the 1/2 cup of honey, the rosemary and the cherries in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for about 5-10 minutes, depending on if you want the cherries to remain whole or break down slightly.
- When the cake is ready, remove from the oven and place it on a wire rack while still inside the cake pan. Using a toothpick, make several holes in the surface of the cake. Pour the warm honey and cherry mixture over the cake so it soaks into the cake. Let the cake cool to room temperature.
- When serving the cake, garnish the surface with lemon zest and a fresh rosemary sprig, and offer the honey-rosemary-cherry syrup for extra moisture. Don't forget a dollop or whipped cream or creme fraiche! Simply divine.
Allergens: dairy, eggs