Pretty unwrapped the scrap of paper to reveal the steaming sun cake, with a sunburst cut into its top and raisins embedded in the center. Her mouth started watering at the scents of butter and honey and spices. Her family could never afford to bake with spices, so Pretty only tasted ginger and pepper once a year, at Dawn Festival. She blew on the hot roll, then broke it along the sunburst lines, popped a section into her mouth, and savored the burst of sweetness followed by the peppery aftertaste.

To make your own Sun Cakes:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3½ – 4cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoon black or white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • (optional) sesame seeds
  • (optional) dried or candied fruit, finely chopped
  • (optional) whole or roughly ground peppercorns
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a sheet pan or a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter, then stir in milk. Bring mixture to “bath-water” temperature, hot but not unpleasant to touch. Do not allow it to boil.
  3. Remove from heat and add yeast and honey; stir to combine.
  4. In a mixing bowl combine salt, ginger, pepper, and 2 cups of flour. Add milk mixture and egg and stir well.
  5. Add remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dough should remain sticky.
  6. With floured hands, shape dough into 10-12 rolls, and place rolls on prepared baking sheet.
  7. Cover and let dough rest for 10 minutes in a warm spot.
  8. Cut a sunburst shape in the top of each roll. Optional: decorate the tops of the rolls with sesame seeds, peppercorns, or dried/candied fruit.
  9. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.
  10. When rolls are done baking, brush with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Serve warm.

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