On the 24th February, Romanians celebrate Dragobetele.

This is a different kind of Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate the end of the Winter, the first blooming of flowers…and the beginning of new relationships and love.

On this day, young girls wearing their best traditional costumes gather the last of the snow, melt it and wash their faces with it, so they become more beautiful and impress the young man they fancy. With flowers in their hands, they jokingly let themselves be chased down the lanes by the village young men under the watchful eye of the elders. If a girl likes someone in particular, she stops so he can steal a kiss. In this way, their family and friends are told that an engagement is imminent, and the village should get ready for a wedding.

There is also a popular belief that if a young woman places basil under her pillow on the night before the 24th February, the man whom she would marry, would appear in her dream. So I made this honey cake with basil and strawberries.

Honey is for the love to be sweet, strawberries are for it to be passionate, and basil is for finding the love that you are looking for.

These are the ingredients:

 

250g clear honey

225g unsalted butter

3 large eggs slightly beaten

300g self-raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate

2 lemons or oranges, zest and juice

1 tbsp clear honey

500g fresh strawberries

1 bunch of basil

1tsp clear honey

 

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease thoroughly a 23cm diameter bunt or cake tin.

Put the honey and butter in a pan and bring to a gentle boil. Stir to mix everything well, then set aside to cool for 20 minutes. Add the eggs and combine well, then add the flour, bicarbonate and citrus zest. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 35 minutes.

Make a syrup from the citrus juice and 1 tbsp honey by simmering together for 15 minutes.

When the cake is still warm, place it on a serving plate and gently push a skewer into the cake in 4-5 places. Pour the syrup over the cake. Allow to cool slightly.

Put the strawberries, apart from one or two, in a food processor with the basil, and blitz together until they are roughly chopped. Add the remaining tablespoon of honey and combine. Spread this over the top of the cake. Slice the remaining strawberries and arrange them on top.

Serve warm or at room temperature.