Recently I was chatting with my friend and fellow herbalist Thomas Easley about the many ways to approach food.
As herbalists we love to talk about food as medicine. We revel in our daily meals being a source of strength and healing. But, of course, this is just one viewpoint.
Have you heard that saying, some people eat to live while others live to eat?
For some, food is simply fuel: calories taken in order to supply energy needed to go about their day.
For others, food is a delight! The smells, tastes, and textures are all to be savored and perfected.
For many, food is a time to connect with family and friends. To break bread together is just as much about the food as about enjoying each other’s company. Beyond the casual, many traditions and holidays center around food. What would Easter be without eggs or winter holidays without your favorite treats?
Of course none of these perspectives have to exist on their own. And when food can encompass all of these approaches then we can enjoy it on many levels.
And that is what I set out to do with this rose hip cake recipe!
I wanted to create something that is healing and nourishing while also being delicious! Something that could be enjoyed with friends and family over a cup of tea. I also wanted this treat to be something to celebrate these colder months of the year by using seasonal fruit and spices. This could be your new winter tradition!
Before we get to the rose hip cake recipe, here’s a peek at what’s in it.
Rose Hips (Rosa spp.)
Well known for their vitamin C content, rose hips gifts go beyond this! They can help to modulate inflammation, support heart health, and even reduce pain. Studies that show the most benefits are when people eat fairly large amounts of rose hips daily. For example, in one study people were given 40 grams of rose hip powder daily for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, there was a significant improvement in blood pressure and plasma cholesterol in the people taking the rose hip powder as compared to the control group.1
If you want to get lots of vitamin C from your rose hips, then eating them fresh is the best. However, while dried rose hips may not have as much vitamin C as fresh ones, they still offer many benefits.
This recipe uses rose hip seed powder and dried de-seeded rose hips (that are rehydrated). I get both of these from Mountain Rose Herbs. If you’d like, you can harvest, de-seed, and use fresh rose hips for the frosting.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.)
Cinnamon is in practically everything I bake. Its delicious taste would be enough of a reason to frequently cook with it, but its health benefits make it all the sweeter. Cinnamon has been widely studied for its ability to reduce blood glucose levels, a benefit to those with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes. A recent study also showed that it could reduce fasting insulin for people diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).2
Another small study showed that cinnamon could improve glucose levels and insulin sensitivity in healthy volunteers.3 That study also concluded that results are best when cinnamon is used daily. Larger amounts are needed when using cinnamon for specific purposes (the study with PCOS used one and a half grams per day and the study in healthy volunteers used three grams per day), but we can still benefit from using small amounts on a regular basis.
Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
Nutmeg is a calming spice that is best when freshly ground. You can buy special graters for this or you can simply use the small side of a cheese grater. Warmed nutmeg milk is a common drink to help support sleep.
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
Cloves are the highly aromatic dried flower blossoms from an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. In herbal medicine they are famous for helping to stop the pain of a toothache. In baked goods they are used sparingly because their flavor can be so intense!
Spiced Rose Hip Cake
Deliciously aromatic with the fresh, tart flavor of rose hips, this rose hip cake is a delicious treat to enjoy with your favorite cup of tea (I love roasted dandelion root!).
What you’ll need…
- 2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup rose hip powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg powder
- 1/8 teaspoon clove powder
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup dried de-seeded rose hips
- 3/4 cup apple juice
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup honey
- Begin by rehydrating the dried rose hips for the frosting. Place the dried rose hips in a small bowl. Add the apple juice.
- Let sit for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight. Before using, taste a bit to make sure the rose hips have softened completely.
- When you’re ready to make the cake: preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 9-inch pan.
- Sift together the flour, rose hip powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and honey together. Add the vanilla and eggs. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. At a low speed (or by hand), beat in the milk until just combined (the mixture will look lumpy or curdled).
- Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated. If necessary, add a bit more milk. The mixture will be very thick (due to the rose hips). Do not over mix or it will become thicker and thicker.
- Bake until a knife inserted in center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool before frosting.
- To make the frosting, combine the rehydrated rose hips mixture, butter, cream cheese, and honey together. Spread evenly on the cake.
Yield: About 9 servings
Now I’d love to hear from you!
Do you have any food traditions around rose hips? Or other favorite herbal goodies you enjoy this time of year?
Please share in the comments below.
- U. Andersson et al., “Effects of Rose Hip Intake on Risk Markers of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Cross-Over Investigation in Obese Persons,” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 66, no. 5 (2012): 585–90, https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2011.203. ↩
- Mahdie Hajimonfarednejad et al., “Insulin Resistance Improvement by Cinnamon Powder in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo Controlled Clinical Trial,” Phytotherapy Research: PTR 32, no. 2 (February 2018): 276–83, https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5970. ↩
- Thomas P. J. Solomon and Andrew K. Blannin, “Changes in Glucose Tolerance and Insulin Sensitivity Following 2 Weeks of Daily Cinnamon Ingestion in Healthy Humans,” European Journal of Applied Physiology 105, no. 6 (2009): 969–76, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-009-0986-9. ↩