With 17 May and Norway's National Day coming up I have been thinking a lot about cakes (well, maybe a lot MORE). 17 Mai in Norway just isn't the same without Kvæfjordkake. In 2002 it was named as Norway's National Cake and it's so popular here that it even has it's own fan club (www.kvaefjordkaka.no) It's often referred to Verdens Beste (the world's best cake) and it certainly is very delicious, but not always the most photogenic cake you will on the kakebord.
You will find Kvæfjord in the north of Norway by Hinnøy, Norway's largest island. It's a sparsely populated area but was famous for fishing and is now known as Norway's northern potato and strawberry area.
The story of cake says that two recipes were bought by Hulda Ottestad in the 1930s. One of the recipes was for a cake called Kongekake (king cake). Hulda and her sister started up a café in Harstad and sold the cake in slices to their customers. It was one of the city's better cafes and the cake became a firm favourite with their guests. Eventually the cake was modified and became Kvæfjordkake. Before the 1960s almonds were terribly expensive and that is why they are not many in it.
Kvæfjordkake is a heady blend of light almond meringue, flaked almonds and a creamy filling. The cake itself is in two parts; a cake base with meringue on top. This is what makes Kvæfjordkake so unique (and not to mention very tasty!).
The recipe I am sharing is the very same recipe that was used by Hulda and her sister and is the "official" Kvæfjordkake recipe from the fan club. Some things just shouldn't be adapted and this is one.
I've included a recipe for crème patissiere as part of the filling. You can use a store bought custard instead if you prefer, but crème patissiere is an incredibly useful basic recipe to have for fillings for cakes and tarts, and bases for sweet soufflés and mousses.
So let's bake!
Kvæfjordkake (serves 8 people)
For the cake:
100g /3.5 oz butter, softened
120g / 4 oz sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk
160g / 5.5 oz plain, all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
For the meringue:
4 egg whites
200g / 7 oz sugar
75g chopped or flaked almonds
200ml / 6.5 fl oz double or heavy cream
115g / 4 oz sugar
60g / 20z plain, all purpose flour
0.5 lt / 1 pint milk
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 170C/335F
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with baking paper or greaseproof paper.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in colour. Gradually beat in the egg yolks adding a little flour if it looks like it is splitting. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the egg and butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the milk and vanilla essence. Spread this mixture in the prepared baking sheet, carefully spreading it out to about 20cm x 30cm. Don't worry about it spreading when it bakes, because it doesn't very much.
Whisk the eggs whites until very stiff. Add one spoonful of sugar at a time whisking really well between each addition. You want to whisk the sugar in until it has blended completely. If you take a little of this meringue mixture between two fingers and rub them together it should feel smooth not gritty. If it's gritty continue whisking.
Spread the meringue mix over the uncooked cake base getting right to the edges. Sprinkle the whole thing with the chopped or flaked almonds. Bake for about 20-30 minutes in the centre of the oven until it is a light golden brown and cake edges are starting to crisp up a little. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the baking sheet without removing the baking paper.
Whilst the cake is cooling make the crème patissiere (if you are using that). Heat the milk up to the point where it is steaming. In a bowl place the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, flour and vanilla essence and beat together with a spoon until well blended. Pour the milk onto this and using a balloon whisk blend it together. Pour it back into a pan (it helps to prevent the mixture sticking if you rinse the pan out with a little water beforehand but do not dry it). Gently heat the crème patissiere stirring constantly until it boils. It will go lumpy as it heats but don't panic as it always does that and it'll lose the lumps as it cooks. Simmer for a few minutes until the flour is cooked out (you can taste it and it should be sweet and not floury). Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and cool completely. If you feel there are a few lumps it's a good idea to pass it through a sieve as you put it in the bowl.
Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks and fold into the cooled crème patissiere or custard.
When the cake is completely cold cut it in half across the short edge making two equal sized cakes. Carefully peel off the baking paper and place one on your serving plate and cover with the filling. Place the other cake half on top and you are ready to serve. The cake is delicious served immediately, but sets a little and is easier to cut if put in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Vær så god!
If you enjoyed this recipe and the history behind it you might like the Living a Nordic Life Facebook Group. We'd love to see you there!