Yay for May! And layer cakes!
With 17 May (syttende mai) soon approaching, there is always a heightened sense of enthusiasm and anticipation in the air. The National Day of Norway – with parades, national costumes, flags, drummers, sausages, games, family and friends – is one of the most special days in Norway. And the cake table is no exception.
When thinking of a dessert to share on this day, it’s simply impossible for me to pick a favorite. Between scrumptious pavlova, fruit adorned layer cakes, towers of kransekake, fluffy sheet cakes, creamy cheesecakes, simple trifles and the famous kvæfjordkake, how can anyone stick to only one? Desserts of all shapes, sizes, tastes textures and stories – a good analogy for the people that make up any great nation.
But alas, the bløtkake has won out. Mainly because it’s one of those cakes that always makes an appearance at any celebration. But also because it tastes amazing and just so happens to be my husband’s favorite.
Bløtkake has a long history. The sponge cake itself is referred to as ‘sukkerbrød’ or sugar bread. The name sukkerbrød, according to the classic, German book Deautshes Wörterbuch, refers to the general term of an old fashioned baked good as well as a bread topped with sugar. It was first introduced in a cookbook written by Helle Schrøders in Denmark in 1692. Here is a link to the earliest recipe to be found in Norwegian/Danish tradition.
This is a classic favorite. Light and fresh with a generous portion of fresh fruits. The great thing about bløtkake is that you can use what you have lying around the house. Pick your favorite berries, slather it with your favorite jam and go with or without custard. And, of course, if serving it on 17 May make sure it has all the colors of the Norwegian flag!
Bløtkake (Norwegian Cream Cake)
(Makes 1 cake)
- 5 eggs
- 175g (3/4 cup) sugar
- 175g (1 1/4 cups) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 egg yolks
- 55g (1/4 cup) sugar
- 2 Tb corn starch
- 5 dl (2 cups) whole milk
- ½ vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 650g (3 cups) heavy whipping cream
- 2 1/2 Tb powdered sugar
- Mix of blueberries, strawberries & raspberries (or other fruits/berries of your choice)
- Strawberry Jam
- Milk or juice
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 165°C/325°F. Place a parchment sheet in the bottom of a spring form cake pan so that it fits just right (cutting it into a circular shape and greasing the bottom so it sticks) and grease the sides of the pan and top of the parchment sheet. For this cake, I used a 22cm/9inch pan.
Blend the eggs and sugar together in a kitchen mixer on medium/high speed for 6-8 minutes, until it becomes stiff and light in color. This is really important because you want the sponge cake to rise when it bakes and become airy and light.
Sift the flour and baking powder over the batter and mix gently with a spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared spring form cake pan and place on top of a cookie sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.
When the cake is done, allow to cool. You can also freeze the cake for future use.
Begin making the custard by whisking together the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl. Add the cornstarch and blend until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.
Place the whole milk in a saucepan and add the vanilla beans by scraping them from the pod and discarding the pod afterwards. Warm the milk just before it begins to boil, without letting it boil. Take it off the heat.
Steadily and slowly, add the milk to the bowl with the sugar mixture, whisking constantly to avoid any curdling of the eggs. When you have mixed everything together, pour it back into the saucepan and return to the stove. Over medium heat, cook the mixture until it has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. If you wish, you can transfer the custard to a strainer and push gently through to remove any bits of curdled egg.
To make the whipped cream, place the cream and the powdered sugar in a kitchen mixer and whip on medium/high for a couple of minutes until the cream is stiff.
To assemble the cake, take your sponge cake and cut it into 3 even and separate (horizontal) layers. On the bottom layer, spoon over some milk or juice (this will help soften the cake) then spread a layer of jam on top. Top the jam with a good amount of the custard, followed by the whipped cream and spread it out to the edges of the cake. Place the second layer of sponge on top and repeat with the milk, jam and custard and some more of the whipped cream (reserving enough to cover the cake). Place the final layer of cake on top and cover completely with the rest of the whipped cream, sides and all. Decorate the top with the berries.
Bløtkake is one of those cakes that actually tastes better the next day because the custard and whipped cream has had some time to soak into the sponge cake. You can, of course, serve this cake immediately and it’s still delightful, but seconds on the day after will be even better. Enjoy!