When it comes to mouth-watering offerings from the bakeries across Scandinavia, spice often trumps sugar. Subtlety is King and the subjects fall in line to taste gently warming flavours that shine through in many recipes and this recipe is no different.
Some of the things I love most about Scandinavian cooking is the ease at which everything comes together and that most of the ingredients are household staples – fair enough, unless you’re me you may not have multiple types of cardamom in your pantry, but apart from that the recipes are based on wholesome, simple ingredients that are readily at hand.
One rule for this recipe is to be generous with your spices. If you love ginger, then up the amount. I quite like adding some freshly ground black pepper to mine for an unexpected spicy punch to shake up the Scandinavian subtlety just a little.
Finnish Spice Cake – Pehmeä maustekakku
225 grams of soft unsalted butter (melted)
225 grams of raw caster sugar
250ml of full fat sour cream
3/4 of a teaspoon of bi-carbonate of soda
225 grams of flour
Two teaspoons each of ground ginger, cardamom and mixed spice
(A few grinds of black pepper if you’re game)
Zest of one orange.
I stumbled upon a new variety of sugar at my local supermarket this week; Panela which is evaporated cane juice. Isn’t that just sugar…I questioned. Well yes it is, but this brand states that it is simply the result of evaporating the liquid from organically grown cane with no other refining process. Fair enough – in the trolley you go my sugary friend.
Health claims aside, it has a lovely caramel flavour and ultra-fine grain so I gave it a try in this recipe and it worked a treat. It added a deeper caramel flavour to the cake and really set off the spices. I can’t vouch for the nutrient factor, but give it a try if you see it.
Pre heat the oven to 200c.
Using a whisk attachment beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. You really want to get a fair amount of air into this.
Once whipped add the melted butter. If you’re using a stand mixer with multiple blades, switch to your regular cake batter blade now for the rest of the recipe. Add the spices and orange zest.
Mix the bi-carb soda into the sour cream and then add to the mixture and beat until combined.
Add the flour and mix well. The batter is forgiving but try not to over mix as the result can be a little too bouncy.
Pour into a greased pan. Traditionally a kugelhopf pan is used, but it will work just as well with a ring pan or angel food tin. Failing holey tins you could use a regular 20cm cake tin and adjust the baking time a little to allow the centre to cook through. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. The cake is cooked when gently browned and a skewer comes out clean when testing.
Once baked allow to cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out. If you can resist the extraordinary spicy aroma emanating from your cake allow to cool completely and dust with icing sugar. Or if you’re like me and lacking in willpower take devour a warm slice now and dust whatever’s left for everyone else.