This post is made in partnership with TINE.
As the snow settles across the landscape and the night approaches more swiftly with each passing day, embracing coziness has become the season’s pursuit. Cooking over open fires, sled races, ski trails, candles, woollen mittens, oversized sweaters, fuzzy blankets, fragrances of pine and rich spices, and baking sweet treats fill the days.
The warmth and comforting scent of baked goods permeating the house is welcome with open arms. Something magical happens when the oven is turned on, especially during the winter months. Our hands take on the role of the creator as a combination of ingredients transform into delectable goodies that will not only satisfy, but also entice the senses and fill the room with memories. We have the opportunity to breath so much into our baking, giving it a depth and richness that will carry on after the last bite.
Pepperkaker (Norwegian gingerbread) is more than just another baked good. It’s an imaginative dough of make-believe where dreams of candy houses and villages are an annual tradition, stories of runaway gingerbread men come to life, and windows and trees are adorned with warm greetings and decorations. It’s a world of one’s own making, where the imagination can dwell and the mouth can feast.
And it’s in this world where I ventured for the last Norwegian brown cheese recipe of the year – Layered Brunost Pepperkake Cake. I wanted to evoke the magic and sense of kos and hygge you will find in mountains of Norway as you wander through spruce and pine trees to reach a clearing to settle under the vast starlit sky.
A spicy and fragrant cake with layers of delicate whipped Brunost frosting are the foundation for the forest of pepperkaker cookies nestled above. A lavvo – inspired from the traditional dwelling used by the Sami people – awaits the sojourner with a fireplace nearby.
Three layers of gingerbread cake make up this cake. The frosting is made from a Brunost caramel sauce that is whipped with heavy cream and cream cheese. The cookies are from my favorite pepperkake recipe and a dusting of powdered sugar mimics the snow. I decided to hand-cut the trees in different shapes and sizes for a more rustic look. My lavvo stencil was hand measured and cut from a piece of cardboard, see the tips below. Feel free to decorate your Brunost pepperkake cake as you so desire to make it magical for you.
Layered Brunost Pepperkake Cake (Pepperkakekake med Brunost)
Makes one cake
For the Brunost caramel sauce:
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- 7 ounces (200 g) Ski Queen®/Gudbrandsdalen, sliced or grated
For the cake:
- 1 cup / 2 sticks (224 g) butter, softened
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup (50 g) brown sugar
- ¼ cup (120 ml) Brunost caramel sauce
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk (kulturmelk)
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 2 ½ cups (300 g) all-purpose flour
For the frosting:
- 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) heavy cream
- 7 ounces (200 g) full-fat cream cheese
- 1 cup (240 ml) Brunost caramel sauce
- Pepperkaker (gingerbread cookies), get my recipe here
- Powdered sugar
For the Brunost sauce, in a small saucepan, bring the sugar, heavy cream and Brunost to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the mixture is thoroughly combined, whisking frequently, and has thickened to a caramel sauce consistency (somewhat thick, but still a little runny), about 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Cut three round pieces of parchment paper so they fit perfectly in the bottom of three 8-inch (20 cm) springform pans. Butter the pans then add the parchment and butter the parchment.
In a stand mixer, cream the softened butter, sugar and brown sugar together on medium speed for a few minutes until fluffy and light in color. Mix in the Brunost caramel sauce. While the mixer is running, add one egg and whisk for two minutes. Repeat with the remaining two eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
In a medium bowl, combine the baking soda and buttermilk and let swell for a couple of minutes. Pour this into the butter mixture.
In a large bowl, combine the baking powder, ginger, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, pepper and flour. Add to the wet ingredients and fold together with a spatula until combined. Divide the batter among the prepared springform pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing the parchment paper and transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
In another large bowl, or the stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and the cooled Brunost caramel sauce then add it to the whipped cream, whipping until combined and thick enough to spread.
To assemble, place one cake on a serving tray and top with a generous amount of frosting spreading it to the edges of the cake. Arrange the second cake on top and repeat the process of adding the frosting, reserving enough frosting to cover the cake. Top with the final cake layer then cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. (Scraping the sides of the cake will give you the “naked cake” look. Placing the finished cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before decorating and serving will also help to set the frosting if you find it too loose.)
To serve, place pepperkaker/gingerbread trees and shapes around as desired. Sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar for snow and decorate with fresh branches.
Tips for this Layered Brunost Pepperkake Cake:
*For the lavvo: I made an 8 x 5 cm triangle cutout from cardboard. You’ll need it to make five shapes from the dough, with one of them being the entry way (cut out a little door to put next to the lavvo on the cake). I also made a circular pepperkake wide enough for the lavvo to sit on. When ready to assemble, take the baked pepperkaker shapes and use the leftover Brunost caramel sauce to stick the sides together as you create a lavvo around the base.
*For the trees: cut various sizes of triangles from the dough and use a knife to make incisions along the sides then fold upwards and carve out a trunk.
*Use a pastry brush to dust powdered sugar over the baked pepperkaker.
*Don’t use springform pans larger than 8 inches (20 cm) as you’ll end up with thin layers of cake.