Kransekake - a Norwegian Celebration Cake

by Elizabeth Atia -

Shetland and Norway have very strong connections, and as celebrations are now underway in Norway to celebrate their National Day, so too will you find celebrations here in Shetland. I remember attending the Norwegian Independence Day celebrations at the Town Hall many years ago, with a meal and plenty of dancing afterwards.

I received an email the other day from my Norwegian mother-in-law. She wrote,

We had “dugnad” last Tuesday in the flats where I live, there are 24 flats all in all. We do this twice a year, Spring and Autumn. So now everything is nice and clean for 17th May.. Even the streets have been swept! We clean the outside area and inside, wash the walls in the staircases, the windows and curtains. Tidy up everywhere, put flowers outside the entrance doors.
The kids in the nursery across the road have been practicing for the parade. There has been a lot of “noise” music, mainly drums, and they have marched around the block waving flags. They look so cute waving their flags. The smallest ones have their march on the 16th so as not to get swamped in the larger parade. Early in the morning on the 17th, around 0600 hours you are wakened up by the canons being fired. Talk about starting the day with a bang….

Inspired by this email I thought I would share with you all her recipe for kransekake, a traditional Norwegian Celebration Cake, often eaten on the 17th of May. Made from ground almonds and icing sugar, this cake is soft and chewy on the inside, with a crisp outer and a taste not unlike marzipan. It freezes well, so you don’t have to worry about eating it all at once as it is quite a large, impressive cake!

You can buy the special ring forms online. Mine were gifted by my mother in law some years ago so I could make her son his favourite Norwegian cake. I sometimes make one for Christmas, filling it with sweets for the kids.

My half-Norwegian husband recalls:

The last 17th May celebrations I took part in was way back in the mid 90s around the time I graduated from secondary school. All the final year students wore what I can only describe now as boiler suits, the colour of which depended upon what line of studies you took. Red for general studies, blue for economics, green for agriculture to name but a few.

The final year students, better known as ‘russ’ in Scandinavia, played a fairly big role in the 17th May celebrations. They had their own procession and as a younger child I remember watching them thinking how cool and mature they were. The reality of it was probably a little different, at least in my own experience of being a russ!

I have fond memories of that time though, unlike my earlier memories of 17th May celebrations. Let’s just say that like my own son now, I hated dressing up and I’m sure my mother had a huge battle on her hands trying to get me to look smart. On the other hand I vaguely remember stuffing my face with ice cream and sweets on the day!

Kransekake - a Norwegian Celebration Cake

Course: Main

Servings: 20 servings

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients
for the dough
  • raw almonds - 500 grams
  • icing sugar - 500 grams
  • egg whites - 3 or 4
for the icing
  • icing sugar - 75 grams
  • lemon juice - 1 tsp
  • egg white - 1/2
Instructions
  1. Day 1: Bring a pan of water to the boil. Blanch almonds for 60 seconds only. Drain the almonds and plunge them into cold water. Drain and remove skins. Spread the peeled almonds out on a baking tray covered with a tea towel and leave overnight to dry.
  2. Kransekake - a Norwegian Celebration CakeDay 2: Grind the almonds and mix thoroughly with the icing sugar and one egg white. Transfer to a large saucepan and heat over a low heat. Slowly add two more egg whites, stirring until the dough is hot to touch. Add enough of the remaining egg white, if needed, to make a not too sticky dough. Place in a bowl, cover in clingfilm and chill in the fridge overnight.
  3. Kransekake - a Norwegian Celebration CakeDay 3: Roll the dough into finger thick circles, place into a kransekake ring pan and bake at 180 C for 12-14 minutes, until very light golden. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Kransekake - a Norwegian Celebration CakeMake icing and drizzle or pipe in a zig zag pattern over each ring. Assemble, starting with the largest ring first on the bottom and finishing with the smallest while icing is still wet. Fill kransekake with sweets, if desired, and decorate with mini Norwegian flags.
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