A Polish Heritage Day was held in the Leeds Polish Centre on the first Saturday after 3rd May in 2017 & 2018.
The 3rd will take place on Saturday, 4 May 2019.
May 3rd is Polish Constitution Day – a National Holiday in Poland to celebrate – Konstytucja 3 maja 1791.
This was the first written constitution in Europe and the second in the World with the American constitution in 1789 being the first. It was very progressive for its time.
There was a hugh table with Polish cakes for sale – I contributed the iced poppy seed cake – makowiec on a glass stand in the middle of the photograph.
One of the ladies brought a cake I had never seen before which she told me was called Leśny mech – which means Forest Moss and it looked amazing as it was bright green!
Others certainly knew this cake and it very quickly disappeared!
I was amazed to find that the cake is made with spinach!
I have tried to find the origins of the cake as it is certainly not one my mother ever mentionned – all that I have found is that it is based on a Turkish cake – called Ispanakli Kek (Spinach Cake).
Short History of Spinach
Spinacia oleracea is spinach & the plant originated in Persia (modern Iran), ispanakh in Persian & ispanak in Turkish and szpinak in Polish.
Spinach was found in China by the early years of AD, where it is called Persian vegetable.
There are records of spinach in Spain by the 12th century.
Spinach came to England in the 14th century and was popular because it grew in the spring and helped to break the monotony of the Lenten diet.
Catherine de Medici who was from Florence in the 16th century married into the French royal family. She loved spinach and the term which is used till this day – à la Florentine, which is used to signify a dish with spinach, was coined in her honour.
Forest Moss – this cake with its amazing colours is meant to look like the forest floor with red berries growing.
I made this cake with 250g of baby leaf spinach which gives a light green colour. I have read that if you use full leaf older spinach this gives a darker colour and has more flavour – I have not tried this yet.
I also know that you can use frozen spinach -400g of frozen – squeezed out and patted dry – but I have not tried this.
I used frozen raspberries for the berries – when it is later in the year I will use fresh raspberries or alpine strawberries from the garden or whinberries(bilberries) from the woods. Many people use pomegranate seeds when making this in the winter months.
- 250g baby leaf spinach
- 240g of granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 185 ml sunflower oil (3/4 of a 250ml cup)
- 400g plain flour
- 3 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C.
Grease and line the bottom of a loose-bottomed (or spring formed) cake tin – 26cm in diameter.
- Use a mini-chopper/blender to whizz up the spinach – most likely in batches to get it all done.
- Mix the flour and baking powder together.
- Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence into a large bowl and use an electric whisk to whisk them together for 4 to 6 minutes till it is pale and fluffy.
- Gently stir in the spinach.
- Fold in the flour mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
- Bake on a lower shelf of the oven for 40 – 50 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tin.
- Lightly shave off any golden brown edges of the cake with a sharp knfe or fine grater.
- Cut off the top third of the cake and crumble it by hand into a bowl.
Place the bottom piece of the cake onto the serving plate or cake stand.
A sweet poncz (sweet punch for moistening the cake) can be used on the bottom layer. You can make one from 60ml of cold weak black tea, the juice of 1 lemon and 1 – 2 tablespoons of icing sugar. Mix the ingredients together and use a pastry brush to spread it on the cake.
Now add a white filling!
Some recipes use whipped double cream, sweetened with icing sugar and set with gelatine. Other recipes make a filling with mascarpone.
I used my own yoghurt cheese – you can use cream cheese.
- 500g yoghurt cheese
- 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence or fine grated rind of a lemon
- optional – a couple of tablespoons of soured cream – depending on the cheese and how soft you want the filling
Mix the ingredients together – adjusting the sweetness and consistency to taste.
Assembling the cake.
- Place bottom layer on a plate or cake stand.
- Brush on the poncz – optional
- Spread on the white filling
- Sprinkle the cake crumbs over the top of the cake to cover filling
- scatter red berries over the top (do this later if not serving straight away)
To decorate – red colours – raspberries, whinberries (bilberries) alpine strawberries, pomegranate seeds
Making this cake gave me a chance to use the beautiful Lead Crystal Cake Stand, which was a present from my cousin in Lanchester. It was just right for this large cake.
Made by Nachtmann in Germany – Tortenplatte (tort/gateau plate/ stand) – style name – Venus.
Plates used are La Prune by Jet for Ter Steege in The Netherlands.
Cotton napkin with a design of rhubarb was bought from the Hepworth Gallery shop in Wakefield (Sadly – No longer in stock – as I wanted to buy some more!).