Beltane Cake (and the Beltane Carline)

For those who can remember as far back as the May 2007 Recipe File, you will recall I wrote about the celebration of Beltane which marked the return of summer. We live in hope that Beltane, which falls on 30 April and 1 May, will indeed bring some longed for fair weather.

Accounts of the Beltane festivities mention a Beltane Cake. This spicy cake was prepared on the last day of April in readiness for the evening’s festivities. The cake was broken up and distributed to the crowds. The person who received a specific blackened portion, referred to as the Beltane Carline, was condemned to symbolic doom. Made to leap three times through the fire, the unlucky person would then be considered a symbolic sacrifice and referred to as being dead for the rest of the evening. Come to think of it, I’ve been to parties like that!


12fl oz milk 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3½oz oats 7oz white unbleached flour
4oz butter 1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
14oz soft dark brown sugar ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 eggs ½ teaspoon ground cloves


  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk with the oats, butter and sea salt. Cook until thickened then leave to stand until it reaches room temperature.
  2. Mix in the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and spices and mix well.
  4. Grease a 9 inch x 13 inch baking tray and pour in the mixture.
  5. Bake in the centre of the oven pre-heated to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 for 30 mins.
  6. After cooling to room temperature the cake should be covered tightly until ready to serve.
  7. When ready to serve the top of the cake can be dusted with icing sugar then cut into squares.