For the sun-worshiping Swede this past weekend/holiday is perhaps one of the highlights of the year. The Last Day of April, Eve of May Day, Walpurgis Night, there are many names for this holiday and in Swedish we simply say Sista april, Valborgsmässoafton or Valborg.
This long awaited holiday definitely puts an end to winter, no matter what the weather is like. It’s now the hibernating Swede is brought back to life again.
The name of the holiday originates from the English missionary and nun, Walburga, who was canonized May 1st (about 870), but that is the only connection there is to this saint Walburga.
This is also the time of the year when the cattle are let out to pasture for the first time after the long winter and far back in the 18th century huge bonfires were lit to protect the livestock from both predators and supernatural beings.
The tradition with bonfires still lives though, but nowadays Valborg is just another opportunity to bring friends and family together, have a bite to eat and later in the evening take a walk to the nearest local bonfire and welcome SPRING with speeches, songs and eventually some very colourful, but perhaps not so eco-friendly, fireworks.
So, what do the Swedes eat on this holiday? Well, if the weather is nice Valborg marks the start of the barbecue season and when you pass by the gardens you’ll most likely find the whole block wrapped up in smoke and smells pretty close to the famous London fog. Besides that, the meals can be anything from a fancy three-course meal to just a nice piece of pie or a bowl of soup.
With 1st of May (International workers’ Day) as a public holiday in Sweden this weekend is really long lasting. For me and Devoted husband and some of our friends this is the day when we bring out our bikes and do our first three hour tour to Vada Church where we have our lunch in the lee of the church wall.
To surprise our friends I got up early this morning to bake and bring along this May Day (not Mayday) cake, commonly known as Ambrosia cake. This is a true Swedish classic when it comes to cakes.
May Day cake aka Ambrosia cake
- 150 grams of butter
- 3 eggs
- 2 deciliter of sugar
- 0.5 tsp baking powder
- 2.5 deciliter of flour
- (optional: zest or juice from half a lemon
- 2 deciliter of icing sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons of orange juice (or water)
- about 50 g candied orange peel
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
- Grease and flour a ring mold, approximately 22 cm in diameter.
- Melt butter and let cool.
- Beat egg and sugar until fluffy.
- Stir in flour and baking powder.
- Add melted butter and stir until batter is smooth.
- Pour batter into mold and bake for about 40 minutes.
- Cover with waxed paper if the cake tends to get burned.
- Mix icing sugar with orange juice and spread on top of the cool cake.
- Sprinkle with candied orange peel.
- Leave in the fridge for the icing to harden, then eat and enjoy.