Fall recipe: Acorn Cake
By Ellen Evert Hopman | November 11, 2019
(Excerpt from THE SACRED HERBS OF SAMHAIN by Ellen Evert Hopman, Destiny Books, 2019)
Every year in late summer and early fall I gather acorns to be made into cakes and breads. I have learned from experience that the best acorns are still somewhat green; the brown acorns are often already rotten inside.
I found several perfect stones at a local lake, the bottom one with a slight depression to hold the acorn and a heavy top stone to smash the nut. I smash each nut separately, pick out the meat, and toss it into a bowl of water as I work (the water prevents the nutmeats from oxidizing). I listen to music as I do this; it takes many hours of labor. I collect the shells and later spread them on the garden.
I have often thought how pleasant this task would be if done with a whole clan or tribe. When I did this with my herb students, we joked, laughed, and told stories all afternoon. That’s what it must have been like for our ancestors for whom acorns and hazelnuts were their main source of carbohydrates.
When I finish smashing the nuts, I strain out the water and put the wet nutmeats into the blender with a bit of fresh, cold water. I blend the nuts into a coarse gruel. I fill glass jars halfway with the gruel and top them off with fresh water. I place the jars in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, straining the acorn bits and changing the water every day.
When the acorns have finished leaching, I strain the gruel thoroughly and spread it onto a large baking sheet, which I place in a slow oven (about 250°F) to roast and stir at intervals, until everything is completely dry which takes between 1-2 hours.
I store the dry acorn meal in glass jars in the refrigerator until I want to bake, at which time I grind the meal in a coffee grinder to make a fine, powdery brown flour. The acorn meal lasts about 2 years under refrigeration.
If you do not have access to oak trees, Korean cuisine uses acorn flour, so you may be able to purchase it from a Korean grocery store or online. You can decorate your Samhain altar with whole acorns or make an acorn cake and offer some to the ancestors and visiting spirits. Here is my favorite recipe, from my book Secret Medicines from Your Garden.
1 cup acorn flour
1 cup other organic flour
1 teaspoon non-aluminum baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 free range, organic eggs
1 cup olive or coconut oil
1 cup raw, local honey
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup organic sugar
Organic confectioners’ sugar, to dust on top
Organic butter, to grease the pan
Grease and flour a bundt pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl.
Beat the eggs, oil, honey, applesauce, and sugar together in a separate bowl.
Combine the wet and dry mixtures and mix well.
Pour the batter into the bundt pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cake cool for 15 minutes and then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Once the cake is completely cooled, dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar.
Serve with maple walnut ice cream, vanilla ice cream, or freshly whipped cream as a decadent seasonal treat.
Ellen Evert Hopman teaches a 6 month Herbal intensive near Amherst, MA., October – April, every year. Find her workshops, books and blog at www.elleneverthopman.com