I first became aware of Midsummer cake when writing The Cure for Summer Boredom.
Called “the most typically Swedish tradition of all,” Midsummer is an annual celebration of the summer solstice with all the Nordic trappings you might expect: maypole dancing, singing, flower crowns, booze, more booze, and cake. Traditional Midsummer cake is called jordgubbstårta and is usually made with strawberries. But in my book, the protagonist, Ruby, decided to swap the strawberries for something a little more glitzy.
Mama’s Midsummer cakes were drab, utilitarian affairs. What if, I suddenly thought, struck with inspiration in the middle of the Fack Sex employee grocery store. What if, instead of buying Mama the five-pound bag of workaday socker (translation: sugar) that she requested, I bought her the five-pound bag of glitter (translation: glitter) I’d noticed sitting on a shelf two aisles over?
Not only would Mama discover a lustrous Midsummer surprise when she tore open the bland white bag, her cake would astonish and delight all who partook of its sparkly goodness. She would be thrilled and I would be rewarded.
Would the family have been poisoned by the glitter and met a shimmery death, had this been real life? Not if Ruby used edible glitter.
Called “one of 2018’s biggest and most controversial trends” by The Washington Post, edible glitter was invented for the cake decorating industry to garnish display cakes. The shiny stuff gained a hashtag (#edibleglitter) and an Instagram following in 2017. By January 2018, the FDA had to issue an advisory warning consumers not to eat just any glitter found on the shelves of their neighborhood Joann or Michaels store.
As Eater explains, “there are two forms of glitter you’ll find topping cakes and drinks: edible and non-toxic. Non-toxic products won’t kill you, but they’re not considered food.”
The non-toxic variety is made of plastic, and while you needn’t take to your grave should you happen to scarf down a small amount, it’s definitely not going to do your digestive system any favors. According to the FDA, “there is no difference between this non-toxic decorative food glitter and the glitter that you poured over construction paper as a child.”
Edible glitter, on the other hand, typically contains sugar, gum arabic, maltodextrin, cornstarch, and appetizing-sounding color additives like mica-based pearlescent pigments and FD&C Blue No. 1.
To date, flavorless but stunning edible glitter has shown up on bagels, donuts, truffles, tarts, gum, and pizza. It’s been added to beer, lattes, jelly, smoothies, and, horror of horrors, gravy.
But never before has it made its appearance on Midsummer cake.
Now, for the first time ever, a complex, multi-step recipe for Ruby’s Midsummer glitter cake. Warning: this is a very difficult recipe, not for novice bakers.
The Ultimate Midsummer Cake
1. Buy a pack of Twinkies. Photograph and post on Instagram.
2. Buy edible glitter at a craft store. Photograph and post on Instagram.
3. Sprinkle edible glitter on the Twinkies. Photograph and post on Instagram.
4. Seek a natural light source. Seek a better natural light source. Position and re-position the dish several times. Photograph Twinkies. Edit photo. Re-edit photo. Add several filters. Junk the photo because the sunlight is just “too real.”
5. Reshoot the photo. Edit photo. Re-edit photo. Add several filters. Write a clever caption. Add the #edibleglitter hashtag. Post on Instagram.
I’m no baker. Happy Midsummer!