The 24th of May is the Queen’s birthday.
If we don’t get a holiday, we’ll all run away!
It turns out we do get a holiday, but which queen, exactly, would that be, here in Canada?
Why it’s Queen Victoria, of course, the reigning monarch in 1867 when Canada became a country. Victoria was also key in choosing Ottawa over Kingston, Toronto or Montreal as Canada’s capital. So we Ottawans think she deserves a little fireworks on her birthday.
The weather is always a bit iffy on the Victoria Day long weekend in Ottawa, though. So fireworks are not always a possibility. But we can always whip up something special for the birthday table to honor the old queen, regardless of the weather!
The recipe I’m sharing on Victoria’s birthday is not for crackers of any kind, fire or otherwise. I can’t imagine busy moms baking crackers at home when there are so many varieties to choose from at the store, many of which are reasonably wholesome if you can believe the labels.
I’ve also rejected the classic Victoria sponge cake. It doesn’t have much going for it except sugar and butter, neither of which are cause for celebration, health-wise.
But how about a cake made by the young Elizabeth during the Second World War, before she became our current queen? At a time when sugar was at a premium and food was hard to come by in England, Elizabeth baked a sugar-free cake sweetened with dates.
I’ve up-dated the icing using goat’s cheese, low-fat cream cheese, and another British delicacy, lemon curd. Then I smothered the whole thing in berries, long-known as a super food, and super good too. Strawberries are nice and can sometimes be found fresh here (but not local) in May.
Victoria’s Birthday Cake
• 6 oz (170 g) dates, chopped and with stones removed
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 cup (240 ml) water or skim milk
• 1/3 cup (100 g) maple syrup, in honor of Canada
• 2.7 oz (75 g) butter, softened (about 1/2 cup)
• 1/4 cup (50 grams) coconut oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring
• 1 1/2 cup (190 g) whole-grain flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
• 150 g chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
- 5 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
- 4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 2 tablespoons lemon curd or lemon marmalade
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 pint fresh strawberries
- 1 tablespoon raspberry jam (to paint the maple leaf – optional)
How to mix it all up
1) Preheat oven to 350°F.
2) Prepare one square cake pan by spraying with oil and lining with parchment paper.
3) Combine in a small pot the dates and hot water or skim milk. Bring to a boil and allow dates to bubble for a few minutes, stirring until the dates become sticky, like a thick jam. Add the baking powder, mix slightly, and stand back! It makes a good show.
4) In a large bowl, cream together the coconut oil and honey. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy.
5) Whiz the flour, the second amount of baking powder and salt in a food processor for 30 seconds. Fold the flour mixture into the oil mixture. Pour in date mixture, and blend together gently.
6) Pour batter into the pan. Transfer pan to the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let stand.
7) You can freeze the cake at this point wrapped in tin foil. Thaw and frost it on the big day, as follows.
1) Cream all icing ingredients together in a medium bowl.
3) Spread the cheesy icing smoothly over the top of the cake and along the sides.
4) Make a cutout of a maple leaf. I reduced this image to half size.
5) Dilute 1 tablespoon raspberry jam with a little warm water or lemon juice until it is spreadable. Use the cutout and the jam to paint a maple leaf in the centre of the cake, then remove the cutout. Make a row of berries on each end of the cake.
6) Insert a sparkler in the middle of the flag and light it at the table. Use an old table cloth to protect the table from sparks.