We’re on the road. We’ve packed up the rolling pin and apron and are travelling around Scandinavia soaking in as much of the midnight sun as we can. While there hasn’t been much time for baking there has been plenty of time for tasting the traditional and delicious baked treats that are served up from cafes to kitchen tables right across Finland.
First stop Helsinki, one of my all-time favourite cities. From the moment you step off the plane, with its accents of Marimekko design, all number of Finnish delights are waiting.
You cant beat the tastes and smells of the market stalls overloaded with fresh berries, open air grills serving hot smoked salmon and tiny buttery summer potatoes and bakers windows filled with more varieties of bread and pastries than you can count. It’s a vibrant city that celebrates its local flavours, all with a dash of bright Marimekko colour.
This past week marked Midsummer and we celebrated in Oulu (the capital of northern Scandinavia) with a birthday, surprise wedding and of course some delicious baking under the endless light of the midnight sun. One of the things I love most about returning to Finland during the holiday season is the crowded houses filled with family, stories and so much food. All this paired with late evening walks in the forest and foraging for berries and birch leaves for the sauna. We were treated with home-made pulla, karjalan piiraka and the show-stopper, Summer Sitruuna Tortuu.
When it’s time to celebrate in Finland, nothing beats the sponge cake. Often overlooked for something showier, it’s the perfect base to showcase the flavours of summer on a lighter than air cake. This particular version has been making an appearance and family gatherings and my brother-in-law’s birthday for years and holds a special place in the hearts of the family, and now in mine. It’s beautiful in it’s simplicity, dressed with creamy lemon icing, praline and foraged summer flowers.
3 large eggs
75 grams of caster sugar
3 heaped tablespoons of flour, sifted
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
The rules are simple with a sponge. Treat it kindly and it will reward you. Also resist the urge to open the oven to peek at your creation. The eggs are the raising agent, but if you’re worried you can add a teaspoon of baking powder to help it along.
150grams of quark or cream cheese
75 grams of icing sugar (or more to taste)
Rind of one lemon 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
75 grams of caster sugar
35 grams of toasted hazelnuts
Summer Sitruuna Tortuu
Preheat the over to 175c. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until very light and fluffy, and considerably larger. The batter should be quite thick.
Gently fold in the sifted flour and baking powder (if using) by hand with a whisk or spatula, trying to keep as much air in as possible. Gently scrape the mixture into a greased and lined cake tin and bake 30-40 minutes. You can safely check at 30 minutes, but not before or the cake will fall. Once cooked and cooled slightly, remove to a rack to cool completely before icing.
Beat the quark, lemon zest and juice and sugar together until light and creamy.
This cake is meant to be served in layers. Gently slice the cake horizontally into the three layers and spread the icing mixture onto each layer, reserving half for the top and sides.
Sprinkle the nuts onto a lined baking tray. Gently heat the sugar in a heavy saucepan until it melts and begins to turn a deep golden colour. Avoid stirring too much as crystals will form. Once golden like the midnight sun pour over the nuts and allow to cool. Once cool and hard, shatter the praline and sprinkle over the iced cake.
Decorate with foraged edible flowers, we used viola petals, and it’s ready to kick off the celebration.
Happy birthday, happy holidays and Hauska Juhanuusta!