Entries tagged with “Scandinavian baking”.


Citrusy. Fruity. Spicy. Zesty. Peppery. Creamy. An entire spectrum of flavours was packed into a just handful of simple and quick cakes this month. Proof that quick and simple does not have to mean boring.

I have reconnected with the fundamental joy of baking this month. Creating something by hand. Something very simple, but enormously satisfying. (And enjoying an ever fragrant kitchen in the process!)

Here is a round up of my recipes this month. I certainly now have started to build a repertoire of simple and quick cakes.

Lemon and sugar bundt cake small{ Lemon and sugar bundt cake } For me, the lemon and sugar bundt cake was hands down my favourite. Simple ingredients packed with flavour. If you are partial to a zesty, syrupy cake, you will not be disappointed with this one bowl wonder.  { Get recipe … }

Moist date loaf small{ Moist date loaf } The recipe was as traditional as date loaf can be. Delicious with a huge slab of butter and washed down with a cup of tea. The crumb is lighter than the more traditional cake, and as a result, the date almost has a marbling effect.  { Get recipe … }

Swedish visiting cake small{ Swedish visiting cake } It does not get any easier than this cake. It was quick and easy, and the hidden gem was the taste. The cake is light and airy, and with additional texture provided by the roasted flaked almonds, you are offered great crunch to each mouthful.  { Get recipe … }

zucchini and marmalade loaf small{ Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake } The cake is very moist thanks to the zucchini. The small addition of cinnamon draws out a warm spicy flavour that combines well with the sweet and bitter orange marmalade.  { Get recipe … }

Fresh ginger cake small{ Fresh ginger cake } This is the perfect cake to lure along some cooler days. The cake has a rich, spicy flavour from not only the large injection of fresh ginger, but the addition of rich spices such as cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.  { Get recipe … }

Chocolate chestnut cake small{ Chocolate chestnut cake } This cake is dense and rich, but not too sweet. More appropriately a dessert cake rather than afternoon tea cake. But in saying that, it certainly it is quick to prepare and bake.  { Get recipe … }

I also have scores of new ideas to test out in the future. Many of you have your own favourite go-to recipe. For my upcoming baking trials, I now have 25 suggestions.

Pound cake, Caraway Seed cake, Banana loaf, Friands, Chocolate and Orange Storecupboard cake, Wacky cake, Lemon bundt, Chocolate layer cake with chocolate buttercream, Chocolate chip banana bread, Black Magic Cake, Chocolate Applesauce cake, Cinnamon coffee cake, Devil’s food cake, Coffee cakes, Butter cake, Lemon glazed butter cake, Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake, Banana Date Tea Cake, Orange cake, Hazelnut cake, Yoghurt cake, Chocolate buttercake, chocolate bourbon bundt cake, Norwegian Pear cake.

Thank you, everyone. Looks like there is definitely room for a few more ‘Simple Cakes’ month in the future!

Swedish visiting cake single

For me, food and travel is inextricably linked.  Travel inspires my food exploration.  Food motivates my travel destination choice.  Some of my fondest memories of traveling revolve around food.  Food tells you so much about a place.  The culture, customs and traditions.  It is so central in defining a location.

I was fascinated by the history and origin of this Swedish Visiting Cake.  This Scandinavian sweet treat comes from Dorie Greenspan.  The recipe was passed on to Dorie by her Swedish friend Ingela Helgesson who said you could start the cake when you saw friends coming down the road and it would be ready by the time they settled in and sat down for coffee.

The key for me was how quick and easy this cake seemed to be.  The hidden gem was the taste.  The cake is light and airy, and with additional texture provided by the roasted flaked almonds, you are offered great crunch to each mouthful.

Mr Mélanger actually selected this cake for Simple Cakes Month.  Flipping through Baking: From my Home to Yours he noticed the photograph, threw his hand down and immediately pointed to the picture exclaiming, “Can you make this?”  We then eyed the recipe title, paused, then laughed.

Being half-Finnish, I figured he has some built in Scandinavian/Nordic food radar.  Or perhaps he recognised the style of cake from his travels through Sweden while living in Finland.  Either way, it was the best selection he could make.

Knowing this was meant to be served with coffee, I had to make one key adaptation of the recipe.  I removed all traces of the vanilla extract and almond extract and replaced with one generous tablespoon of ground cardamom.  Cardamom and coffee is one of the ultimate food combinations around.

Coffee is such a significant part of life in this area of the world.  I can vividly picture friends or family sharing this cake, sipping piping hot coffee and sitting around table tucked away in a cosy Swedish kitchen.

Swedish visiting cake set

{ Swedish Visiting Cake } Recipe by Dorie Greenspan, from Baking: From my Home to Yours

I omitted the vanilla extract and the almond extract.  As a substitute, I added 1 tablespoon of ground cardamom and folded into the batter along with the flour.  Original recipe below.

* Ingredients *
125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for preparing pan
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sliced almonds

* Directions *
Centre a rack in oven and preheat to 350F/180C. Butter a seasoned 9-inch/22cm cast-iron skillet or other heavy oven-proof skillet.  Pour sugar into a medium bowl. Add lemon zest and blend zest into sugar with your fingers until sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Whisk in salt and vanilla and almond extracts.  Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in flour. Finally, fold in melted butter. Scrape batter into prepared skillet or pan and smooth top with rubber spatula.  Scatter sliced almonds over top and sprinkle with sugar. If using a cake or pie pan, place pan on baking sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden and a little crisp on outside; the inside will remain moist.

Gingerbread house single

Each Christmas, Mr Mélanger’s mummo (Finnish grandmother) would make a gingerbread house.  Simply decorated with royal icing, it would burst with flavour from the obligatory warm, earthy spices for which Scandinavian baking is renowned.  Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger.  I was excited for this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, as it was my opportunity to carry on this tradition. 

There was no question which recipe I was going to use.  My faithful baking companion, The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, by Beatrice Ojakangas received a bit of a workout earlier this year during Finnish month.  I was very happy that Y selected this recipe as an option.

I thoroughly enjoyed making this, my very first gingerbread house.  Though it was not without a few hiccups.  As such, I title my effort, Ring around the Rosie Gingerbread House.  Why?  Because it all fall down.  Multiple times.  In fact, my little gingerbread house fell apart no fewer than four times.  The third time I almost walked away, but I finished.  I am not sure why it was so temperamental. 

Each time I put the gingerbread house together again, I needed to move the spot where I was going to take my photograph.  It was very overcast and the opportunity for natural light was very limited.  In the end, I managed to snap off a few dark and dirty grey memories.  Given what damage the little house sustained during my assembly (poor little bruised gingerbread house!), I really cannot complain about the outcome. 

Happy Holidays everyone!

Gingerbread house set

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

{ Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga) }
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

* Ingredients *
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

* Directions *
1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.
3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.
4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]
5. Preheat the oven to 375′F (190′C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.