Goddess of Cake

Urban Gardener’s Life
June 24, 2010, 22:43
Filed under: Drinks, Guerilla Gardening, spring seasonal food | Tags: , , ,

Guess what? I’ve been busy. That’s why there has been no movements in this virtual space for a while. Spring is the time to start new gardens, and for a person or organization promoting urban food production and gardening it is crazy busy.  But now there are several new guerilla gardens and many new urban gardeners in Helsinki, gardening in places you never thought a carrot could grow in.  But that’s not my doing, but an effort of many people.

And, there is a website on urban farming!  Kaupunkiviljely.fi it is called. I’ve been one of the people making it. Unfortunately so far all the texts are in Finnish, but maybe later there will be something in English too.  But there are many pictures of all our projects, gardening tips for urban spaces and a blog, which you should order if you are interested in urban gardening, in Finnish.

And me? I’m a wreck.  Now, I’ve been cleaning my house for two days, and slept for fourteen hours, and finally I’m starting to come to my senses again. It’s not easy to be making a movement, at least for me. Urban gardening is a lovely activism: there are no contradictions, no conficts, and even the authorities are mostly in fave of a group of people turning every unused plot into a garden. We are like pandas, cute  and no threat to anybody. And a garden is easily removed when no longer liked.  It is very rewarding to be part of a movement that is really for everyone: the grandmothers can join, as well as activists, and everyone will love you for what you do.

I’ve always been a girl for direct action: no demonstrations or signing petitions for me, but actual deeds that turn the world into a better place. But of course, there is not that much that you can do with a shovel when it is about turning a whole city into more garden – then the work is done by email, phone and facebook instead of a garden – hoe.  And that is for a person like me very difficult, and takes up a lot of resources. And I do have to battle a lot of inner demons that tell me constantly that I have no right to do the things I’m doing, and especially not be successful with my actions.  Previously, I was never aware of such monsters existing in my mind! So, power is a new trip for me, and not an easy one. I feel like a dentist: having to yield nasty tools in order to accomplish something for a greater purpose.

Burnout or not, who cares? Now I can have a peaceful moment, sit by the open window, smell woodsmoke and grass clippings, and hear the birds chirping in hedge. Besides,  I dare say:  Helsinki is changed city because of us, the Dodo Urban Farmers!

Rhubarb and Spruce Tip Drink

There will be some recipes at the kaupunkiviljely.fi – website, with the emphasis on seasonal food. This is the first, for spring or early summer. At least in Southern Finland the spruce tips are already past their prime, and have turned to actual needles, but this recipe could be made with rhubarb only as well. Sweet cicely or garden myrrh is an almost forgotten, but really nice, aniseed – tasting perennial herb that thrives in many gardens. I’m a bit embarrassed to post a recipe which is definetely no more seasonal, but I hope my readers will forgive! There is a good reason for it!

2 l spruce tips

2 l rhubarb stalks

some leaves of sweet cicely

0,5 kg sugar

25 g citric acid (works as preservative)

4 l water

Chop the rhubarb and rinse the spruce tips, and boil them with the water and the sweet cicely leaves for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the citric acid, and let the drink cool down overnight. Following day, add the sugar and citric acid, and bring to boil again. When the drink has cooled, you can pour it into bottles that should be kept refrigerated.  The drink keeps two weeks.

Spruce tips should be harvested in Finland during May or early June, when they are still light green and tender. Never heard of spruce tips? They are the year – growths of spruce trees that appear in the spring. Later in the summer they turn into regular needles. Traditionally the spruce tips have thought to have medicinal properties, and used in cough – potions. Their taste is fresh and tangy, and in my opinion resembles somehow eucalyptus.

Rhubarb Pie and Sweet Cicely
June 18, 2009, 22:22
Filed under: Baking, spring seasonal food | Tags: , ,

rhubarb pie

Finally, the first rhubarb pie this summer! I spiced it with an old fashioned herb that I found growing in my yard. It is called garden myrrh or sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata). The taste is sweet, aniseed – like, and it is said that it could even be used as a sugar substitute. The leaves are really pretty too and can be used as decoration.

I made two versions of this pie: the first one I fed for a meeting of the environmental organisation Dodo, and the second, upgraded edition went to a party of another environmental organisation, called Luonto – Liitto. And I must admit that the second version was simply so good that even me, the most self – critical baker, couldn’t find a fault in it!

Rhubarb Pie with Garden Myrrh

The Crust

3, 5 dl wheat flour

1 tsp ginger powder

1,5 tsp baking powder

1 dl sugar

150 g vegetable margarine

1 tbsp cold water

I mixed all the dry ingredients in bowl, and then kneaded in the margarine. To the last I added the cold water and set the dough to the fridge to wait for a while.

The Filling

4 – 5 dl peeled, chopped rhubarb stalks

2 tbsp finely chopped garden myrrh

1, 5 dl sugar

2 tbsp potato starch

350 g soy yoghurt

I mixed all the other ingredients, except the potato starch and the chopped rhubarb. The potato starch I sifted in and then mixed carefully, in order to avoid lumps. Then I took the crust – dough from the fridge, and lined a pie – pan with it. Then I poured the chopped rhubarb and after that the yoghurt – mixture on the crust. I baked it in a preheated 200 °C oven for 45 minutes.

The thing I did in another way I usually do, is that I added some potato starch in the filling. In non – vegan pies egg is quite often used to make the filling set, but I think potato starch worked really well, since the pie stayed together nicely. Also, in the “second edition” pie, which is not in the picture, I used brown sugar in the crust and ordinary white sugar in the filling. That had a positive effect on the look of the pie!

Summer Salad
June 6, 2009, 22:01
Filed under: Salad | Tags: , ,

I thought to combine the delicacies of early summer: green asparagus and rhubarb that is growing sonicely in my yard. So I made this salad with a rhubarb dressing, which was supposed to have a slightly Asian taste to it. I would have liked to have some fresh radish in the salad too, but sadly there were no available. Except for one that I found in the fridge and cut to flower for decoration…

Salad with Asparagus and a Rhubard Dressing

6 stalks of green asparagus

2 handfuls of different kinds of salad ( I had salanova and iceberg lettuce and some rucola)

1 avocado

mungbean sprouts

1 gherkin

some leaves of bloodwort for decoration

pumpkin seed

Rhubarb Dressing

2 stalks of rhubarb

1 dl water

1 tsp white balsamico

1cm x 1cm piece fresh ginger

3/4 dl muscovado sugar

1 little red onion

1 tbsp sesame oil


I made the dressing by chopping the onion, the ginger and the rhubarb. Then I put in pan the rhubarb, ginger, sugar, onions and water, and let the mixture boil until the rhubarb was quite mushed. Then I added the oil and some salt.  I guess I could have put the mixture through a sieve, in order to get a really refined consistency, but I ended up using it just as it was.

I peeled the asparagus and cut out a couple of cm of the fibrous part at the bottom of the stalk.  Then I threw the stalks to 1 liter of boiling water, and boiled them for about 3 minutes, then drained out the water and rinsed them in cold water.

Then I toasted the pumpkin seeds lightly on a dry frying pan.

I assembled the salad, and served it together with some fried tofu.  The rhubarb dressing was really nice!

summer salad

Cheesecake with Rhubarb and Halva

I have made now quite a few cheesecakes with this flavour combination, but previously I made on top of the cake a layer with pureéd rhubarb. This time I wanted to make two layers of mousse, first one with the taste of halva and the second one with the taste of rhubarb, and then put a thin glazing of rhubarb juice on top of the cake.

This cake was made for my friend Suvi’s babyshower.


The crust:

75 g vegetable margarine

150 g vegan digestive cookies

The mousse:

2,5 dl oat vanilla sauce

500 g soy yogurt

200 g soy cream cheese, natural

150 g halva, traditional flavour

2 dl pureéd, sweetened rhubarb

2,5 dl water

2 tsp rose water

7 tbsp agar agar flakes


1 dl rhubarb juice

1/2 dl sugar with added pectin

I wanted to make this cake so that I would have two different layers of mousse, one with halva and the other one with rhubarb. I started in the morning by putting the soy yogurt in a colander that was lined with a coffee filter. In the evening, I started with the cake.

First I made the crust by breaking apart the cookies in a plastic bag and then crunching them with a rolling bin until they became crumbs. Then I melted the margarine and mixed the crumbs together with it. Then I lined the bottom of a springform cake pan, about 24 cm in diameter, with baking parchment. I patted the cookie crumb and margarine mixture on the bottom of the pan tightly. Then I put the cake tin in the fridge (or actually outside) to cool and harden for a bit.

Then I whipped up the oat vanilla sauce (it was of the kind that can be whipped). It could of course be substituted with e.g.  whippable soy cream. Then I added the soy yogurt and the soy cream cheese. Then I divided the mixture in two different bowls, and added 150 g of halva to the other, which I then mixed with a hand held mixer, in order to get the halva evenly mixed in. Then I added the pureéd rhubarb to the other mixture. I used a brand of pureéd rhubarb that is on sale in Finland, which includes quite a lot of sugar, so I did not add any to the mousse.

The I put 1, 25 dl of water in a pan and added 3 and 1/2 tbsp agar agar to it. Then I boiled the mixture until the agar agar flakes were diluted, mixing it every now and then. I personally find working with agar agar quite nerve – wrecking, since it the amount you should use varies so much depending on the brand. So I stick to the same brand.

Then I let the agar agar mixture cool just for a minute or two (it sets amazingly quickly!) and poured it, little by little, to the bowl with the halva mousse mixture in it, blending it in carefully. It is important to concentrate at this stage, since otherwise you might get a lumpy mousse. Then I poured the mousse onto the cake crust, and put in the fridge.

After that I made the second mousse mixture, exactly like the previous one, but also adding 2 tsp rose water in the pan when I was diluting the agar agar. This mousse I then poured on top of the other mousse layer on the cake crust. The previous layer had had time to harden enough so that the layers stayed separate. Then I put the cake in the  fridge.

The following morning I made the glazing for the cake. I made it with rhubarb juice and sugar with added pectin, which actually exists for making jam, but can be used for this also.  I simply heated the sugar and the juice and then spooned it on the cake so that it formed a thin layer on top. Then I decorated the cake with fruit and mint leaves.

The cake was otherwise well done, but I was a little bit disappointed with the ready made rhubarb pureè that I was using, since it was too sweet. I would have liked to have a really nice fresh taste of rhubarb in the top layer, but now it tasted merely of sugar. The brand of agar agar I was using is Clearspring Traditional Japanese Agar Agar Flakes. And even if I tried to overestimate, the amount  agar could have been slightly more, because the cake could have been a little bit firmer.