Last weekend, my aunt and uncle wed in a rather lovely ceremony deep within the fjord-lands of Norway. To mark the event, what would be more fitting than the classic Norwegian cake, kransekake? Don't worry, the cake (not the mention the method!) might seem a little daunting at first – (mix the powdered sugar and almond meal, then add the egg and mix over low heat, allow to chill for many hours, then hack at the dough – it'll be stiff as concrete – and add an egg, then roll and knead) – but once you've tried it, it's all about mastering the technique.
People are never afraid to eat well at weddings, and we Norwegians eat well until we're stuffed and then some more. The entire culinary aspect of the wedding is centred around the kaffimat (lit. coffee-food, or food you eat with coffee). Forget the buffet dinner. It's all about the cakes. We have a very different wedding cake philosophy here. Naturally, we have a ''traditional wedding cake'', though I'm pretty sure it would be considered rude to only have the one cake. At my sister's wedding, for example, my mum made two cakes – including the wedding cake; as did two of my sister's friends, her mother-in-law and various other people. Usually my aunts would also bring cakes, but since my sister's wedding was far, far away from home (she lives seven hours away); she had to make due with a smaller cake-buffet table. At my confirmation, though, my aunts did bring cakes. I have twelve aunts. Can you imagine?
At this wedding, too, we had a veritable cake orgy. There were 17 or 18 cakes for 50-ish people, plus a whole table of fruit, biscuits, other desserts, chocolate etc. And all this after a buffer dinner and dessert! Viking madness. But it's a great pleasure. And it was all delicious. A homemade, three-story wedding cake (marzipan and cream); a marsipankake (marzipan cake), a firkløverkake (chocolate and hazelnut cake), a blautkake (whipped cream cake) and many more traditional, Norwegian cakes. The good ones and the not-so-good ones alike; all lined up next to one another.
But back to making the kransekake. It's my mum's. It took me a while to get the texture quite right. Throughout my life, my mother's has been the kransekake (within the family and beyond), so I guess you can say I learnt from the master. It has to have the correct texture: crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside. Not to be biased or anything, but most kransekaker I've tasted – apart from mum's – have either been crisp externally and internally or rather dry. But this one is just perfect (I'm not biased. Honest!) It does, however, require some specialist equipment: ring moulds. If you don't have these, you can make concentric circular patterns to shape the rings. Just don't make the rings too thick :-)
Traditionally, we decorate the kransekake with small flags and icing sugar, but you can decorate it whichever way you like. For my sister's wedding, we decorated the cake with white roses dipped in gelatine. The kransekake is your oyster.
500 g. almonds
500 g. powdered sugar
3 medium-sized egg whites
1 egg white, whipped
Semolina, as needed
100 g. powdered sugar
Small amount of egg white, as needed
1.Using a food processor, grind the almonds until you're left with a coarse almond meal. The meal shouldn't have chunks of almonds in it, though it shouldn't be as fine as the almond meal needed for macarons.
2.In a large casserole, mix the almond meal, the 500 g. powdered sugar and 3 egg whites together. Knead well. Warm the dough over low heat, making sure to work the dough so that it doesn't burn. The dough is warm enough when your knuckles burn slightly if you press them into the dough. Take off heat, cover with a lid and allow to rest until the next day.
3.The next day, blend the stiff and whipped egg white into the dough. You'll need to chop the dough (it'll be very hard after resting) before you can add the egg white.
4.Butter the ring moulds with melted buter and allow them to rest until the butter solidifies. Butter the moulds once more, the sprinkle semolina on.
5.Roll the dough into sausages, and place each into their individual moulds. The sizes have to be exact; this dough makes just enough for one cake and you shouldn't have any leftovers. Bake the rings in the centre of the oven at 180°C for 12-15 minutes. Bake them for a further 5 minutes in the lowest rack in the oven, or until they're golden. Let the rings cool.
6.Mix the 100 g. powdered sugar with as much egg white as you'll need to make a thick icing. It should not be runny! Decorate each ring individual, and place one on top of the other.