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      Kransekake - Norwegian 'Wreath' Celebration Cake

      19th December

      Sitting at the desk in the study whilst everyone is asleep, I still put on the twinkly outdoor lights, so a little of their magic seeps in through the French door window and makes me feel just that little bit extra cosy and excited.  This morning the sky is that deep dark blue before the whole world wakes up and through the winter bare branched trees I can see am almost full moon effusing out its yellowy warm glow.  All feels calm and good with the world as I sit here in my little cocoon, not thinking of the reality of the world around me.  I think that is part of the charm of December, it is a time where you can try and forget all the rumble and grumble of life for a few magical minutes and it is these that I savour.


      Traditional celebration cake in Norway
      Today we are still in the kitchen and we make a very special and very traditional cake:  kransekake.  Both my father and Uncle, (not Norwegian,) just LOVE this cake and ask for it to be made just whenever, there is a standing joke that my Uncle always asks who has made the kransekake, mamma or I, as he prefers hers!!!!  Just to let you know Uncle K, mamma has made it this year! I was taking the photos!

      What is a kransekake?  A direct translation would give it the name of 'wreath cake', but even calling it a cake does not really describe it accurately.  I know of nothing to liken it to and a poor attempt would be a cross between an almond meringue, baked marzipan with a much lighter texture, but none of this is really true or correct.  You will just have to take my word for it, and hopefully have a go at making it, that it is unique and tasty.  If you have a sweet tooth and are OK with almonds, try this out!

      A kransekake is made up of 18 individual rings that are laid on top of each other to form a circular tower.  This cake is made for any celebration and features at most weddings, christenings, confirmations, birthdays, Christmas' and any other celebration that you can think of.  The beauty of this cake, other than looking stunning on a table,  is that people come up and serve themselves, making this for an English Christmas ideal for a Boxing Day buffet.

      No one really knows how the kransekae came about or indeed why it is so popular, but one story that is doing the rounds states that it all began in Greece.  The kransekake as we know it derives form a similar cake called overflødighetshorn, (horn of plenty) as it is basically a kranskake made out of rings but laid on its side to form a hollow horn and filled with chocolate and sweets.  So why Greece, well Crete actually.  The myth has it that the nymph Amalthea, raised Zeus (the God) in a cave and fed him goat milk. As thanks, she received the horn of abundance from Zeus where all her wishes came true.  A horn was chosen, as the symbol from the goat horn, from the animal that had given Zeus his milk.  From this time on the 'horn of plenty' was born and became a symbol of abundance, fruitfulness and fertility around the world.    From historical references and paintings it would appear that the horn of plenty, otherwise known as, cornucopia, first started to make its appearance as food around the mid 1700s. And it was here that the kranskake has its origins.  Whatever the true story, the appearance of this cake in Norway and Denmark too is wide spread.

      Kransekake - Wreath cake - makes one, or about 40 baking tray lengths of 'sticks'
      Pre heat oven to 170C

      500g ground almonds, ground preferably with skin still on, this adds to the colour
      500g icing sugar
      2 egg whites

      fine breadcrumbs or semolina, to stop sticking
      melted butter for greasing
      icing sugar for decoration
      1. Grind the almonds with the skins on too, if using bought whole almonds.
      2. Add icing sugar to the ground almonds.
      3. Add both egg whites to the dry mixture.
      4. Using both hands mix the dough together.  This is quite a sticky stage, be warned!  It will feel like the mixture will never come together, but I promise it will.

      5.  Form the dough mixture into a rough  sausage
      6.  For those with the both the metal
           piping equipment and round tins, you need
           to first melt the butter and then with a brush
           grease each of the moulds.  Finally spraying a
           thin layer of breadcrumbs on the tins.  This
           stops the mixture from sticking to the tins and
           allows you to remove them, hopefully,
           without breaking them! 
           Add the mixture into the piper quickly and
           smoothly fill each mould, being careful to
           ensure the mixture touches and joins to form
           a complete ring.  For those of you who do
           not have this equipment you have two
           choices:  a) roll out individual sausages of
           about 1-1.5 cm in diameter and place on a
           baking sheet with greaseproof paper.  The 
           mix will not swell so you can place these sausage 'sticks' fairly tightly on the sheet.  There
           should be enough mix to make about 40 lengths of a baking sheet.  The second option is long
           winded  b)  make free-form rings, rolling the dough into sausages, make the smallest first to 
           guide ring size progression. Make sure the rings overlap in size so they can rest on each other
           creating a pyramid shape when baked and cooled.
      7.  Bake in the oven at 170C for about 10 mins, but check as you do not want them to burn.  Cool
           on rack.
      8.  At this point you have two options a) freeze the cake until you need it, as this will make it
           lovely and chewy, so can make it some days in advance, or b) assemble it.
      9.  To assemble place largest ring on the plate and stack each ring on top.  You can use an aquavit
           bottle inside the rings and build them up around it, to ensure they do not topple over.  If you do
           not have aquavit, any medium spirit or wine bottle will do!

      10.    Once assembled it is customary to ice each ring in a curved zig zag pattern and to add mini
               crackers, flags, Twist (Norwegian equivalent of Quality street) to jazz up and give the cake a
               feeling of abundance.  My cake below has not had the icing treatment, as it is still several days
               before I want to use it.  I will ice it on the day, or perhaps the night before.
      11.    A great tip/trick to make sure the cake becomes soft and chewy on the inside is to add fresh
               white bread all around the outside of the cake and inside it too.  Cover it with a couple of plastic
               bags until ready to serve.  But remember to take the bread away, the number of times I have
               taken the bread away from the outside, but have left it inside in the hollow of the cake are too
               many to think about.  Doesn't look good, don't do it!  Best to leave the bread with the cake for
               24 hours if you can.

      To serve, place the kransekake, in a place where everyone can reach it and you lift it carefully up and take from the bottom rings, breaking them up and taking what you desire.  This cake never lasts long as it is so moorish.  For those who are making it with just the sticks of kransekake a modern twist is to melt chocolate and dip them in, Norway's version of a Spanish churro!

      It may seem like a phaff, but this cake is so delicious, it really should be made and tried.  And actually...it is not a phaff, just something very Norwegian and unique!


      1. It looks and sounds so tasty : ) Hope one day will try to cook but it seems a little bit complicated
        And here in Ukraine there is no special Christmas baking... Just everyone cooks pierogi for Christmas eve

      2. It sounds more complicated than it really is. Try it and let me know how it went. I have friends who make pierogi every year.Enjoy Christmas Eve and I hope to chat with you again soon, thank you for popping over ♥

      3. This sounds delicious ....and possible although if I give it a go I won't take any photos as I'm not confident on my construction skills :0) ...many thanks for the recipe!

        (Oh and I think you mean skins not shells in stage 1 )

        1. Yes! You are right! I do mean skins. Shall have to go in and change it, thank you for pointing it out. You should take photos and maybe you will be surprised. Have fun and glad you like it!

      4. Thank you so much for posting this. I'm going to try it as a surprise for my family.

        1. You are welcome. Hope they like it, let me know how you get on!

      5. That looks yummy

      6. Hi Eclectichomelife,
        Being part Norwegian, have been dying to have a crack at our great Celebration cake for christmas instead of the Standard iced Fruit Cake or pudding!
        Have been looking for the Kransekake forms but have only found them online still coming from US. Of course leaving the search a little late, DO you know of anywhere that stocks them in Australia?

        Yours looks almost too good to eat. But we would!

        Could you use almond meal rather than the ground?

        Merry Christmas!
        Karen & Tash

      7. Ooh I am so excited that you are going to give this a go. I do lot know where in Australia you could buy the rings but they are not absolutely necessary I will be writing a post about this during the week beginning 15th December. So look out for it and it will help you lots. It is too early to bake it now. Any time after the 15 would be when to make it for Christmas. As to using almond meal, I have not ever done that before. As long as you look at the package and the only ingredient in it is almonds then I cannot are why not. The only thing to bear in mind is that by grinding your own almonds you will be keeping the skins on and that adds the colour to the cake. It maybe that almond meal uses balanced almonds and therefor the cake would be much paler in looks. Not that that is a problem, but you should be aware of the fact. Very excited for you both. X


      I will always read all comments and will try to reply but it may take me a couple of days, do please pop back and lets get a conversation going...