On the 24th February, Romanians celebrate Dragobetele. This is a different kind of Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate the end of the Winter, the first Spring flowers…and the beginning of new relationships and love.
Young girls would gather the last of the snow and wash their faces with it, to become more beautiful and impress the one they liked. According to tradition, they were not only gathering the snow, but Spring flowers such as snow drops and wild hyacinth, as symbols of new life. With flowers in their hands, and wearing their best traditional costumes, they would run down the village lane, jokingly chased by young men. If a girl liked a boy, she would stop so that he could steal a kiss. In this way, they were telling the family and friends that an engagement was imminent, and the village should get ready for a wedding.
There is another tradition for the night before the 24th February. A young woman would put basil under her pillow to dream about the man whom she would like to marry.
To celebrate this tradition, I made a honey cake with basil and strawberries. Honey is for the love to stay sweet, strawberries are for the love to be passionate, basil is for those who are looking for love, to find it.
250g clear honey
2 tsp of honey for the whipped cream
225g unsalted butter
100g dark brown sugar
3 large eggs slightly beaten
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate
2 punnets of fresh strawberries
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 bunch of basil
Prepare the strawberries: put the strawberries from one punnet in to the food processor with half of the basil. Blitz for 1 second and set aside, add the juice from the half a lemon.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease thoroughly a bundt cake.
Make the cake: put the honey, butter and sugar in a pan and bring to a gentle boil. When the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat and let the mixture bubble for 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes. It doesn’t have to be hot to cook the eggs.
When the mixture is ready, add the eggs and stir well. Then add the flour and the bicarbonate, and mix until everything is incorporated.
Pour half of the mixture into the bundt cake tin and add the macerated strawberries in an even layer at the top. Add the rest of the mixture and bake for 50 minutes. Leave to cool, then turn on to a cooling rack.
Whisk the double cream: to a soft peak consistency together with 2 tsp of honey. decorate the top of your cake, then add slices of fresh strawberries and young leaves of basil.