Every day, on my way to work, I pass a small flower shop. I’ve never gone inside, but I always stare as I walk by. They have all the usual arrangements of roses and baby’s breath, daisies, lilies. They have little ceramic pots housing colorful delicate orchids. They have ferns and cactus. The only thing that ever tempts me to visit inside is a small basket of lavender that sits on a table outside the main door. I smell the perfume as I pass, always thinking “maybe I’ll pick some up on my way home.”
May Day is an ancient European celebration of spring. It has its origins in pagan religious ceremony, but in modern times has become a secular celebration revolving around flowers and dancing observed on May 1st. My Irish great-grandmother taught me to make May Day baskets filled with flowers and candy. I was to drop them off on neighbors’ doorsteps, ring the door bell and hide from sight. They got the gifts, but I got the pleasure of giving.
One May Day when I was very young, I came home to a mochiko cake (bibingka) cooling on the counter. I made a basket with paper and tape and filled it will dandelions, lilacs and lily-of-the-valley. I wrapped a slice of warm cake in foil and place it in the center like a jewel. I dropped the basket on my favorite neighbor’s doorstep, rang the door bell and dashed back to my house.
I compromise. No fresh lavender, but I spring for dried lavender from the food co-op. The dried lavender blends into sugar and I beat the sugar into another May mochiko cake. The cake is chewy and dense, rich but not too sweet. The edges are pleasantly crisp straight from the oven. Lavender flower fragrance laces the cake underneath a crunchy coconut crust. A gift for all this May!
|2 cups glutinous rice flour (about half a box of Mochiko brand)||New York Mart on Ave U|
|3/4 cup coconut milk (about half a can)||C-town on (Coney Isl. Ave.)|
|3/4 cup evaporated milk (about half a can)||C-town (on Coney Isl. Ave.)|
|1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)||ShopRite|
|3 extra large eggs||Y & F Fruits and Vegetables|
|1/2 cup granulated sugar||ShopRite|
|1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract||C-town|
|1 tablespoon dried lavender||Flatbush Food Co-op|
|1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut||Pharmacy and Food Mart (on Coney Isl. Ave.)|
- Pre-heat oven to 385 degrees F and line a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish with baking parchment.
- Mix sugar and lavender in a blender or food processor, until the lavender flowers are ground up and the sugar takes on a light purple color. It’s okay if the blender isn’t strong enough to completely blend in the lavender.
- Whisk together coconut milk, evaporated milk and melted butter. Beat in eggs completely. Add lavender sugar and beat to a smooth consistency.
- Beat in rice flour a 1/2 cup at a time. Make sure to add the flour slowly to achieve a smooth consistency and no lumps. Fold in vanilla.
- Pour batter into lined baking dish. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven. The cake will look like it has risen, but will deflate quickly at room temperature. Give it 30 minutes to cool. Cut the cooled cake into 2 inch squares and serve with tea for light afternoon snack.