Cakes of Light recipe

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Most Thelemites are very familiar with Cakes of Light, the eucharistic cakes prescribed in The Book of the Law for the (Thelemic) Gnostic Mass:

For perfume mix meal & honey & thick leavings of red wine: then oil of Abramelin and olive oil, and afterward soften & smooth down with rich fresh blood. […] This burn: of this make cakes & eat unto me.

People are always looking for the perfect Cakes of Light recipe.  This one’s a bit unorthodox, but maybe, dear Thelemic (and other new-agey) friends, this will work for you.

Some people have felt that you could make “wine leavings” by reducing wine in a double boiler or the like to lose the alcohol and have a thick “goo” remaining.  Others have pointed out that the actual leavings of wine, or lees, are the crusty crystalline matter that forms in the bottom of the bottle, containing mostly potassium bitartrate – AKA cream of tartar.  Well, that gets used in baking; it’s a stabilizing agent.  But you know what else can be found in lees? Live yeast.  Yeast that can still be cultured.  And you know what that does?  It ferments.

So in theory, the author of The Book of the Law may have actually intended these things to rise.  When you consider the alchemy and symbolism of it, would it not make sense to use living cells to make the Cakes?  The Book calls for fresh blood, after all.  (In modern Thelemic practice, sometimes Cakes are made without the blood because of health/liability concerns; or the blood is calcined to ash before being put in the dough; or else the cakes are only used by people who knowingly consent to consume them.)

I would therefore argue that the use of a leavening agent is in the spirit (hah) if not in the actual letter of the Cakes recipe.  Now what to do if you don’t have proper wine lees?  Well, you could try yeast (and I intend to do exactly that in my next experimental batch sometime soon).  But for tonight’s batch, and since I’m hardly what one would call an “orthodox” Thelemite*, I went even simpler: homemade baking powder, made by mixing an acid salt (cream of tartar!) with a base (baking soda).  Here’s the recipe.

*Not even a “conservative” Thelemite.  Maybe “Reform.”

1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp extra light olive oil (I used the least olive-smelling of the brands I had easy access to)
4 Tbsp ( = 1/4 cup) honey (I used wildflower honey)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (unbleached)

I did not include blood (I don’t as a matter of course; see “Reform” above) and I did not include Oil of Abramelin in tonight’s batch because I was still experimenting with the “normal” ingredient proportions and Oil of Abramelin is not cheap.  But you’d want to add a few drops.  For a batch of Cakes this small, just one drop of Abramelin should suffice if it was made by Crowley’s method of blending essential oils.  If it’s a gentler Abramelin made from macerating herbs into a tincture (like the homemade Abramelin I’m making right now as well!) you might want a few more drops.

Mix the flours, cream of tartar, and baking soda together in a small bowl.  Mix the honey and oil together in a larger bowl, whisking/beating slightly to aerate a bit.  Fold the dry mixture in until you have a ball of dough.  Knead it slightly.  It should be reasonably firm.

Roll out until maybe 5 or 6 millimeters thick.  (The dough is very sticky because of all the honey, so I rolled it out on kitchen parchment paper.) Cut into small rounds.  (I got 31 out of my batch, and if that’s not good gematria for me I don’t know what is.) Put rounds on parchment paper and put that onto a cookie sheet.

Bake in pre-heated 350° F oven until just gently browned on the edges.  (I don’t think my oven heats very evenly, so I put the sheet in for 2.5 minutes, rotated it 180°, left it for another 2.5 minutes, rotated it 180° back to original orientation, and left it for just 2 more minutes.)

Cakes of Light made by my latest recipe, showing their crumb texture. Yum.
Cakes of Light made by my latest recipe, showing their crumb texture. Yum.

Slide parchment paper with Cakes onto cooling rack.  Get them off the hot metal sheet.  Now if you pick one up right away, it’s still a bit floppy.  Cooking 101: Stuff you just put on the cooling rack is still cooking! Let them cool!

When done, the cakes had a beautiful texture, just the right amount of crunch/snap versus chewiness to them.  When I broke one in half and put it in Port to simulate how it might get used in Eucharist at a Gnostic Mass, it behaved just like a perfect cookie in milk: it stayed together, didn’t fall apart in the wine, but absorbed the wine and when I drained the cup into my mouth, it chewed up very pleasantly.

The picture shows what one looks like on edge when broken.  (Click for bigger size.)

Love is the law, love under will.

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