Salty air and warm, fluffy sveler leave me nostalgic for summertime ferry trips in Norway. Every time we travel along the coast, we always order a griddle cake or two to satisfy our bellies as we wait to reach the land over yonder. It’s a traditional snack that has been associated with ferry travel since the 1920s and remains customary to this day. It’s a tasty indulgence, as travelers begin their journey and waves lap against the side of the boat. They are served plain, with a slice or two of brunost or with a good smearing of sweet buttercream inside.
Svele is a traditional, soft griddle cake similar to an American pancake, but by no means the same. Griddle cakes have a long tradition in Norway—particularly in western Norway—that stretches back to the 1300s when the daily lives of most Norwegians were marked by poverty. Every ingredient was used to its fullest so as not to be wasted. Sour milk, or surmelk, was a common commodity and families mixed leftovers with dry goods for baking. The cakes were then served alongside coffee on Saturdays.
Sveler (known by other names such as lapper and hyllkak – although slight variations do exist depending upon the region and recipes) are not only found on the ferries, but are a common treat at home, festivals and farmer’s markets. I like to make a large batch and choose the toppings to reflect the season and mood. Here, I am sharing a recipe for sweet buttercream to serve alongside, but you can also use fresh berries, jams, sour cream, brown cheese, honey or anything else you so desire.
Feel free to half the recipe, cutting down to 2 eggs for the griddle cakes. You can also use kefir instead of buttermilk.
Norwegian Griddle Cakes with Buttercream (sveler med smørkrem)
*Makes about 18 sveler
For the griddle cakes:
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (112 g) butter, melted
- 3 cups (720 ml) buttermilk/kefir
- 3 cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
For the buttercream:
- ½ cup (112 g) butter, softened
- 2/3 cup (80 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
In a large bowl, combine the eggs and sugar and whisk until fluffy. Whisk in the melted butter, followed by the buttermilk. Combine the flour and baking soda, add to the batter, and stir gently until combined. Let stand for about 20 minutes—the dough will swell.
Heat a takke to medium heat or place a large frying pan directly on the stove over medium heat, and lightly butter.
Ladle some batter onto the hot takke or pan to make several 6-inch (15 cm) round griddle cakes. Cook for 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on top and the bottoms turn golden brown. Flip the griddle cakes and cook for 2 minutes more or until the other side is golden brown. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Continue making griddle cakes, using the remaining batter and adding butter to the takke or pan as needed.
While the griddle cakes are cooling, make the buttercream by combining the softened butter, confectioners’ sugar, and granulated sugar in a bowl. Serve with the griddle cakes.
Store leftovers in an airtight container or cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days.