Strawberry Magic relates to the sweetness of memories. Their season may be fleeting, yet the moments we share with them are long lasting.
Strawberries have had many magical, mystical, and mysterious associations throughout the ages.
The first time I ate wild strawberries, my daughter was just a baby. Growing under a birch tree at our Vermont homestead, those bright, juicy morsels were just the right size for her to pick and eat. I have such happy memories of those sunny afternoons, red juice running down her chin.
Strawberry Magic Moments
The strawberries didn’t last long, but the memories are still so dear. Although the moments were as fleeting as strawberry season, the effect the fruit had on me still carries on. At the moment, I appreciated the special, carefree afternoon spent with my daughter. To this day, her face lights up whenever I present her with a box of her favorite fruit. Does she remember eating them as a babe for the first time? Perhaps not consciously, but that joy imprinted itself on her psyche.
Let Them Eat (Strawberry Cake)
That summer day long ago inspired me to create a cake to honor the strawberries growing on our land and the joy they brought us. As I thought about what kind of cake I wanted to make, I was reminded of the strawberry cravings I had when I was pregnant with her and how strange it seemed to me because I had never been a strawberry fanatic. But my husband was always a big fan of the fruit. I think that was the first time I realized that our baby would inherit things from both of us, that we were co-creators.
My goal was to create a delicate cake with sweetness in mind to celebrate women, motherhood, and the creation of life. I also made it to honor the people in my household, a gift to celebrate our bond as a family. Those memories still make me smile. The cake recipe ended up in the 2nd edition of my cookbook, Love in Every Bite.
Love in Every Bite
Love in Every Bite is all about how cooking for the ones we love is a gift; how someone eating the final dish can taste the energy and intentions we infuse in the food we make. I lovingly created all the recipes, and they feature ingredients associated with magical properties such as love, health, and well-being. The hope being whoever samples the recipes can taste the love in each bite. When you sign up for my mailing list you get a free sample of the book.
Strawberries as Magical Currency
In Bavarian folk tradition, strawberries are gathered and hung in baskets then placed on the horns of cattle. This ritual is an offering to the local nature spirits, who are believed to love strawberries. This gift of strawberries adorning cattle is a meaningful ceremony. The strawberries draw attention to the cows. The fairies bless the cows and take the strawberries as a form of payment. Strawberries are the currency of exchange for healthy calves and cows who will produce an abundance of milk to be shared between calves and humans. All come away satisfied.
In Robin Wall-Kimmerer’s book Braiding Sweetgrass she uses wild strawberries as a symbol of the gift economy. She says:
“Wild strawberries fit the definition of gift, but grocery store berries do not…in the gift economy, gifts are not free. The essence of the gift is that it creates a set of relationships. The currency of a gift economy is, at its root, reciprocity. “
This relationship and memory-building quality is the magic of Strawberries, sweet gifts from the Earth that provoke tender moments between people that act as a catalyst for our own generosity, gift-giving, and reciprocity.
The Gift of Health
I think strawberries are ingrained in our psyche as a special gift. They ripen in the Spring, the first of the berries. What a blessing they must have seemed to our Ancestors who might have suffered brutal winters.
Their jolt of Vitamin C helps restore our bodies and boost our immune systems after a taxing winter. Wild strawberries, bright red and juicy, are full of new life. As some of the first gifts of Spring, they remind us that the sweetness of life continually cycles back to us, and one day we will cycle back to the Earth as well.
Strawberries, Fruits of the Otherworld
I imagine the Otherworld is filled with deliciously ripe strawberries. A gift of welcome one can enjoy preparing us for the next stage of our existence. Maybe that’s why strawberries are so closely tied to the Germanic Goddess Freyja. They are said to be her favorite food, and many devoted to her give her offerings of Strawberries.
Freyja is both the Goddess of love and beauty and also war and death. It is her right to receive the first choice of the fallen warriors on the battlefield to join her in her hall. I imagine that her Valkyries might use strawberries to beckon the warriors and sweeten their journey to the Otherworld.
April Ritual Recipe: Strawberry Magic
You can find more strawberry lore and magic in April’s Ritual Recipe: Strawberries, exclusively available to my Patrons. We will create a beautiful spell together to weave more sweet moments into our lives by making a sublime dessert featuring fresh seasonal ingredients: strawberries, fresh cream, and wild mint. (hint: it’s not strawberry shortcake!)
Find out more on the Old Ways for Modern Days Patreon Page.
Today I want to share a recipe from Love in Every Bite, and I hope you experience lasting joyful memories when you share it with your loved ones, be they family, friends, local nature spirits, or Freyja, Herself.
Strawberry Sponge Cake with Swiss Meringue and Coconut Cream
Prep time: 8 hours to chill coconut milk, 30 minutes of kitchen prep
Cook time: 30
Yield: 8-10 servings
The Indigenous peoples of the Northeastern United States (like the Cherokee & Iroquois) plus Ojibway, Shawnee, and hundreds of others) refer to the strawberry as the “heart berry” and is a fruit strongly linked to women.
The berry is shaped much like a heart, and of course, it is red, the color of love, the color of the actual human heart.
Don’t be disheartened by the many steps in this recipe; each part is very forgiving. The first time I made it, my oven broke, but it still turned out perfectly.
Share this with your loved ones, which include spirits of the land, or maybe Freyja.
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour
- ¼ cup tapioca flour
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature
- 3 large eggs
* ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 large egg whites
- ¼ cup maple syrup
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 cups of the freshest, ripest strawberries, sliced thin, plus 1 cup of whole strawberries for garnish
* 1 can of coconut milk that had been in the fridge overnight to separate the cream from the water
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Grease and line a 15×10 inch cookie sheet with sides, with parchment paper, grease paper too.
- In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat. When melted, set aside to cool.
- Mix flours and sugar together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, whip three egg whites until foamy.
- Then add ½ teaspoon cream of tartar and continue beating on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form– about 8-10 minutes, longer if you are using a hand mixer.
- Scrape into a clean bowl.
- Return the bowl to the mixer (no need to clean it) and switch to a paddle attachment. Place the flour mixture, three whole eggs, and the cooled oil into the bowl and beat on medium-high until it has increased in volume- about 3 minutes. Remove bowl and gently fold in egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.
- Transfer batter to prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until cake springs back when gently pressed. Let cake cool completely.
While the cake is cooling, make the meringue:
- Place three large egg whites, maple syrup, and cream of tartar in a large heatproof bowl—place bowl over a small saucepan with 2 inches of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
- Heat mixture whisking constantly, so eggs don’t curdle until it reaches 160 F (71C) use a cooking thermometer to check the temperature. Eggs are considered food safe at this temperature.
- Remove from heat and transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
- Whip at low speed, gradually increasing to high over the course of 30 seconds. Beat on high until the mixture is stiff and cool. This step could take 8-10 minutes or longer if you use a hand mixer.
Make the Coconut Cream:
- Remove the can of coconut milk from the fridge and remove the cream on the top and leave the water in the can (you won’t need this for the recipe), and whip it quickly with a hand mixer, so it looks like whipped cream. Then fold this into the Swiss meringue very gently.
- Trim the edges of the cake and then cut the remaining big rectangle in half, then in half again, creating four equal-sized long rectangles.
- Place one cake layer on a plate, then top it with ¼ of the meringue/coconut cream and ¼ of the sliced strawberries. Do this two more times. Then finish it by adding the final layer of cake with the rest of the meringue and then the strawberries. I garnished it with a few whole berries and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving.