Fyrstekake, A Recipe From The 1850s
Updated: Apr 26, 2021
There is a long list of Norwegian cakes that I love and this one is somewhere near the top. Fyrstekake (or Prince's cake) is more of a tart with a delicious soft filling of ground almonds that makes you want a second (or perhaps third!) slice. It is one of the most traditional cake recipes in Norway and is to be found on the dessert table and with coffee at nearly every celebration.
The original fyrstekake was baked at Erichsen's Konditori in Trondheim in 1856 and it's one of those fabulous recipes that elevates just a few ingredients into something special. At Erichsen's they always weighed out the ingredients the night before making it, after the bakers had gone home because there was so much secrecy about what was in the cake. Of course, everyone knew what the ingredients were but sugar and almonds were very expensive and it need to be a closely guarded secret. In fact the cake was considered so exclusive that it was sold in a wooden box with brass hinges.
When a pastry chef left the patisserie the recipe was handed to the next one, but in the most covert way. The pastry chefs would meet behind one of the big ovens, and in the wall was a lose brick. Inside the hole was written the recipe on a piece of aging yellow paper. Exciting stuff!!
During WWII with rationing and a lot of hardship, people still wanted to enjoy something that reminded them of luxuries and happier times. By 1941 there was very little food that one could get hold of without a ration card. And so fyrstkake was adapted into falsk fyrstekake (false fyrstekake) and instead of using almonds, which were impossible to get hold of, potatoes flavoured with almond essence were used instead. Before 1900 though cakes like this were fairly uncommon because not every household had an oven. After 1900 they became so much more popular and a staple of every celebration buffet table across the country.
So let's bake!
For the pastry:
200g/7 oz plain, all purpose flour
100g/3.5 oz butter
50g/2 oz icing or powdered sugar
For the filling:
130g/4.5 oz ground almonds
120g/4 oz sugar
15g/1 oz butter
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon rum essence
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or ground cardamom
Beaten egg for glazing
Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl or into the bowl of your food processer and rub in the butter. Gradually add the egg to make a light soft dough. Gently knead it into a ball, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 170C/340F
Place a baking sheet the oven to heat up. This will help your tart to get a nice crisp base when you bake it.
To make the filling, put the almonds and sugar into a food processer and blend together until a fine mix. Blend in the butter and gradually add the egg, milk and the rum essence.
Take two thirds of the dough and roll it out. Line a fluted flan tin with the dough (I use a 20cm tin) taking care to carefully push it into the edges. If you get a little split, just take a small piece of pastry and press it over the hole. Leave the overhang. Spread the filling mixture evenly inside the pastry base and dust with the cinnamon or cardamom. With the remaining dough roll it out and cut into strips and decorate the top of the tart in a lattice pattern. If you are feeling imaginative you can cut shapes instead. Trim off the excess pastry from the edge of the tart tin and paint the pastry with beaten egg.
Put the tart tin straight onto the preheated baking sheet that you've already put in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Cool for around 30 minutes in the tin before removing.
I like to dust mine with icing sugar, but that's a step away from tradition.
Vær så god!
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