Maggie's Books & Recipes

in Memory of Margaret H.L. Lim

Summer Cake - Phaeton and Phoebus

To celebrate Midsummer, I made a pound cake delicately spiced with the specially mixed spice for Indonesian Layer Cake (Spekoek).

Summer Cake

250 gr. butter (approx. 9 oz)
¾ cup brown sugar
5 medium-sized eggs
11 oz. flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 heaped tbsp Spekoek spice

Beat butter with sugar till light and fluffy. Beat eggs in one at a time. Add flour sifted with baking powder, mixing well.

Turn half of the mixture into a pan (preferably tube pan). Mix Spekoek spice into the leftover mixture and carefully pour on top of the light mixture. Bake at 170 Celsius or 375 F for 50-60 minutes or till the cake is done.

Thoughts while the cake was baking...

PERSEPHONE UNRIVALED

This year finds Persephone, the goddess of the seasons, in a very capricious mood. A week after the summer solstice, June 21st or Midsummer, the chill of Hades’ underworld still clung to her. But that had a distinct advantage, for the flowers of Spring still bloomed for her.

Out of curiosity, I checked to see if Persephone has rivals  and came across two sites – Dyfed Lloyd Evans’ Creidyllad, a Cymric goddess and Thalia Took’s  Aestas in “Obscure goddesses”.

Legend has it that Creidyllad had two rivals, the Lord of Darkness and the Lord of Light, who fought over possession of her. Although one can find parallels in the myths of Creidyllad and Persephone, this ancient Welsh heroine of the Arthurian tales, according to Evans, is really a water goddess.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses – Of Gods and Men and Transmutation

Thalia Took’s Aestas, on the other hand, is not a deity. Aestas is Latin for summer or summer heat. But Thalia Took made a reference to Ovid’s Metamophoses or “The Stories of Changing Forms”, which sent me hunting for my own copy from bygone student days, an entertaining translation by Rolfe Humphries, Indiana University Press, 1969 (13th printing).

Aestas makes her appearance in Book Two, in The Story of Phaeton, as “naked Summer, carrying sheaves of grain”. She stands with “young Spring wearing a crown of flowers, Autumn, stained with trodden grapes and Winter, icy, with hoary hair”. Together with “the Days, the Months, the Years, the Centuries and the Hours, at even spaces” flanking the shining throne of Phoebus-Apollo, they make up his retinue, signifying the course of time.

The Story of Phaeton

Phaeton, not satisfied with his mother’s word that he is the son of Phoebus-Apollo, wants the Sun-god to acknowledge him personally. Again words are not enough for Phaeton. He demands, as proof of his progeny, to drive his father’s chariot of fire. The arrogance of youth and the love of horse power! High above the earth, Phaeton suffers from vertigo. He loses control of the god’s steeds and the chariot plunges downwards and scorches the earth. Cities perish, fertile plains burn and seas boil. Jove, the father of gods, saves the day by hurtling a thunderbolt at Phaeton who, though the son of a god, is a mere mortal. Phaeton dies. But he dies in splendour, falling across the sky in a blaze of burning star, trailing clouds of glory. His sisters mourn for him and turn into trees. Their tears, hardened by the sunlight, change into amber, to become the favourite jewel of Roman brides. Cygnus, a distant cousin but a kindred spirit, wastes away in mourning and metamorphoses into a swan.