Have you every approached a food, a recipe, a memory, a story that has so much meaning to you that you fail to find words to adequately describe it’s significance? Those overwhelming feelings and thoughts all compete for one another in the middle of your brain each declaring their need to be heard above the rest. So often when I write about Nordic food here I feel this way.
How to adequately describe something in this small space that will resonate, explain and enlighten; will neatly, beautifully lay it all out there? More often than not I fail miserably at this, but today I have to try. I have to do better. This post has been sitting on my computer for some time, for that very reason.
This cake, most often described as a Norwegian Wedding Cake is a cake of celebration. One that’s not served only at weddings, but at Christmas, on Norway’s Constitution Day and sometimes for birthdays or for anniversaries. It’s towering rings of chewy macaron like flavor never fail to impress. Very few people make this cake from scratch, their intimidating size and the necessity of special pans scare people away. But in reality they’re not that hard to make. Just a little time consuming. And if you’re lucky enough to live near one, they can be easily purchased (although for a steep price) at most Scandinavian bakeries.
I first tried my hand at making a kransekake when my kids were little. It was the beginning of many years of cake making that to this day shows little in the way of slowing down. The boys eyes would light up and they’d dance around the kitchen each time they’d spy it sitting on the counter. Their sweet little voices, high pitched and sing song, trying to say it’s name but failing miserably and hilariously. Their little hands would itch to cover it in flags and they’d plead, plead to break off just a little piece.
This cake has become such an integral part of our family celebrations that without it, things hardly seem as special. It’s probably a bit sacrilege but we find almost any excuse to make one. Last year I made THIS one for the USA vs Portugal World Cup match. If I could find a way to swing one for Halloween I would. I think the kransekake gods might have something to say about that though so I refrain.
Last week I was lucky enough to have the honor to bring a kransekake to a reception for the King of Norway. It was such a humbling and fantastic honor and was certainly something I’d never thought to experience in my lifetime. The Seattle Times, along with a contingent of the Norwegian Press were present and amazingly the cake and a small photo of me, made it into the paper. Wow. I’m still processing the whole experience. Again, words fail. If you’re interested you can check it out HERE.
I know I’m not alone in my crazy love for this cake. One year I made it for a Christmas party and an elderly Norwegian gentleman approached the table. As he bit into his piece of cake, his eyes said all the words his mouth didn’t. Tears gathered in the corners and memories and emotion went fleeting, chasing one another across his face. I got it. Words were completely unnecessary, would have been completely inadequate. It was the most profound and beautiful thank you I’d ever received.
A few tips to help you make the cake.
You can purchase your rings from Amazon or at any Scandinavian import shop.
This cookie press from Kuhn Rikon is my absolute favorite and the best way to get the dough into the pans.
Make the cake at least one day prior to serving it. It needs a little time in the freezer to become chewy.
This post contains affiliate links
- Norwegian Kransekake
- For the cake:
- 500 grams almond flour/meal or finely ground blanched almonds that you grind in a food processor
- 500 grams confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp. almond extract or almond baking emulsion
- 4 egg whites
- 1/4 C. confectioners sugar for kneading
- For the icing:
- 1 egg white
- 1 1/2-2 C. confectioners sugar a bit more if needed
- In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the ground almonds, and the confectioners sugar and mix on low until thoroughly combined.
- Add the egg whites and the extract and mix until thoroughly wet and combined. Set the work bowl in the sink, over a saucepan that has been filled with very hot tap water. Use a spoon or bench scraper to stir the dough and gently warm it. Replace the water at least once to keep it hot. ( This step is purely voluntary as the recipe will produce a nice cake without it. However I've noticed when I slightly warm the dough in this way, it helps produce a smoother more uniform surface on the dough.)
- Dump the mixture on to a board that has been lightly dusted with confectioners sugar. Lightly dust your hands and begin to work in the additional confectioners sugar. You may not use all of it, however, you'll need enough of it to ensure the dough is soft, but no longer wet.
- Cover the mixture with some plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Spray your Kransekake pans with baking spray that has some flour in it. Cover the pans thoroughly with the spray and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Time to get the dough into the ring pans. There are a few ways you can do this. The best and easiest way I've found is to use my cookie press. I use a Kuhn Rikon press (link in the post above) that has a 1/2" diameter icing nozzle attachment that is the perfect size for creating the rings, and super easy on the arms. You can also fit a cloth pastry bag with a 1/2" icing tip (one method I've used for years) and press the dough out that way. It gives your arms a good workout though, so be prepared. The third and most basic method is to roll each ring by hand. Your rings will be less than uniform, but you can still do this an produce a satisfactory result. IMPORTANT TIP: make sure the dough fits in each ring, with out any excess dough spilling over the ridges into the next ring. You will have a hard time separating the rings after cooking if you do.
- If you're going to use a cookie press, break off a small portion of the dough and fit it in the press. Lay the tip of the press in one of the rings and begin pressing, turning the pan gently as you go. Don't worry if the dough breaks, it's very forgiving. Just abut the two pieces together and continue pressing. Make sure the ends touch each other, but there is no need to press them together.
- Fill two pans and set them on a rimmed baking pan. Bake for 15-17 minutes until the dough is a light golden color. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Continue pressing and baking the remaining dough. Once the pans are cool enough to handle, place them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from the freezer and gently prize the dough from the pans with the back of a table knife. Freezing the rings helps them pop free from the pans with ease.
- Once all the rings have been removed from the pans, stack them in large plastic container with a lid and freeze for a minimum of 24 hours. The beauty of this cake is it's ability to freeze for some time and still turn out delicious. In fact, some say it tastes best after it's been frozen for 1 week or more.
- Freezing helps impart some moisture and makes the cake chewier. And in this case the chewier the better.
- Ice the cake the day you plan on serving it. Remove from the freezer, separate the rings and allow the cake to thaw at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the icing in a small bowl. Add enough sugar to create an icing that will flow, but will also hold it's shape. It will look fairly thick in the bowl. Place the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a round #1 tip. Or alternatively you can use the plastic bag method. It won't be as uniform, but still works in a pinch.
- When icing the cake you'll work from the bottom up. Turn the largest ring, upside down and place 4 dots of icing on the bottom. Set this on your cake plate or platter, bottom side down so it adheres to the surface. This is important as it will keep the cake from sliding around. (The rougher, lighter color side of each ring will actually be the part that faces down, when constructing each ring.)
- Top the bottom ring with a looping or zig zag pattern of icing. Place the second largest ring on top of the bottom ring and repeat. The icing obviously acts as the "glue" to hold the cake together.
- Once complete allow the icing to dry for a few hours. Place flags, ribbons or candles on the cake if you like. Serve and enjoy! On a side note: Norwegians do not eat this cake from the top down. Rather they begin by separating the rings from the bottom up. When ready to serve break the rings into bite sized pieces.