Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pentecost - decorating a memorable cake

This Sunday, May the 23, is Pentecost--the Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the greatest feasts of the Christian year, along with Easter and Christmas. It essentially marks the birth of the Church as a teaching, preaching, baptizing Body: from this day on, the Apostles went forth to evangelize the whole world.

I talk about the history and meaning Pentecost a good deal in A Continual Feast, and provide a number of delicious and appropriate recipes (pp. 210-215). But let me just focus here on the Pentecost cake--very memorable to me. It was when I was trying to explain the meaning of Pentecost to my young children some years ago that my eyes were opened to the usefulness of food in teaching religious ideas! I was talking away to them--and their eyes were glazing over (mothers and fathers well know that sort of glassiness). But when I suggest that we make a cake and decorate it with tongues of flame, and fruits, and rays of light, they brightened right up! We made a pretty amazing-looking cake that time--and many other times after that. Give it a try! Here are a few ideas:

Any kind of cake and icing that you and your family like will do.

Here are some Pentecost symbols, taken from Christian art. You can use as many of them as will fit onto your cake, and as you and your children want. (The decision-making process itself can be interesting and memorable.)

- Red flames--they hovered over the Apostles, as in the image above (and see Acts 2:1-4)
- A White Dove to represent the Holy Spirit
- Rays of yellow (gold) around the Dove, to suggest divinity
- Seven of some shape (doves? rays of light?) to suggest the Sevenfold Gifts of the Holy Spirit (taken from Isaiah 11:2): wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord
- Twelve strawberries or other fruits, to suggest the Fruits of the Holy Spirit (from Galatians 5): charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity

When they are through decorating this cake, your children will know what Pentecost means--and what is more, they will remember!


  1. And will surely have an instant emotional connection to/with the feast - you are amazing! Great ideas to apply! Simple and profound at the same time!

  2. may i use the above pentecost graphic as part of a cover of my book about the early christian church? - is it public domain? Delbert Mueller