Hungry? You soon will be, as we take a closer look at the most popular traditional cakes served up in Norway.
I think we can all agree, cakes are awesome! One of the great joys of travelling is discovering new foods. Cakes are one of those things that really allow us to zoom in on a country's culture. I'm delighted to say that Norway is no exception!
I do see a lot of similarities between ‘cake culture' in Britain and Norway. But then who doesn't love sitting down with a slice of cake a cup of coffee?
But the types of cakes served on specific occasions do indeed vary. Say “Christmas cake” to a British person and a spiced fruit cake, most likely covered in marzipan and fondant icing, will spring to mind. But in Norway, it's the seven types of Christmas cookies that are often called Christmas cake(s).
That's just one example. So as you can see, there's plenty to understand about cake culture in Norway! Let's get started…
Norwegian cream cake
Bløtkake is probably the best-known and most-eaten cake on this list. It provides the perfect sweet finish to any celebratory meal, and is eaten year-round.
The cake itself isn't difficult to make, but you'll need to practice your decorating skills to get it looking as good as those in these pictures!
A bløtkake is simply a sponge cake, horizontally sliced into three, filled with cream, and usually topped with icing. It's a very traditional recipe, and every grandmother in Norway will have their own variant!
The world’s best cake?
Kvæfjordkake is often labelled as ‘the world’s best’. The meringue, vanilla cream and almond-packed sponge cake is known and enjoyed throughout the land and considered by some to be Norway’s national cake.
The key ingredient is eggs. The whites are used to make the crisp, chewy almond meringue, and the yolks to make both the sponge base and the custard filling.
The cake originates from Kvæfjord, an area close to Vesterålen and Lofoten in the north of Norway. Despite much of the area being mountains and fjords, it's known for agriculture and farming, especially its strawberries.
Fun fact: A very similar cake is made in Sweden, although it tends to have more of a fruity kick. Berries are whipped into the cream, or added as a topping.
Norwegian birthday cakes
Bløtkake is also a typical birthday cake. Along with Kvæfjordkake, it’s also typically seen at confirmations, 17th of May celebrations, and other special occasions.
Many times when a bløtkake (or any cake, really) is made for someone's birthday, it is decorated with strawberries and blueberries to form a Norwegian flag. A nice touch!
Christmas is a special case. Traditionally a household should bake seven different types of Christmas cookies, which take priority over cakes.
That said, there are cakes commonly seen at Christmas too. Many of those on this page are suitable for the festive period, but perhaps the most common is this one, also seen at weddings…
Norwegian wedding cake
There is no one typical cake served at a Norwegian wedding, but there are some that are much more common than others. Perhaps the best known is the spectacular kransekake, also commonly served at christmas time.
Despite its initial appearance, the cake itself is relatively simple to bake. As you can tell, all the effort goes into the composition!
The concentric rings are made with almonds, sugar and egg whites – they should be hard to the touch but soft on the inside – and stuck together with white icing. A full kransekake is made up of 15-20 layered circles forming a cone.
Although its origins can be traced back to Denmark, this cake seems to be identified more with Norway these days. It's quite normal to see little Norwegian flags dotting the sides, along with small crackers at its base if used as a christmas cake.
Norwegian apple cake
Another cake that's super easy to bake and great for using up those spare apples, or when there's an offer on at your local supermarket!
Nothing tastes more like autumn than enjoying a slice of still-warm apple cake fresh from the oven, with whipped cream on the side. Invite over some friends and voila, instant koselig!
This is the kind of cake that's often found in smaller independent coffee shops and offered up as a dessert in the more traditional Norwegian restaurants.
Ask a Norwegian about suksessterte or suksesskake and chances are they’ll have fond memories of it from growing up. It’s one of the most cherished cakes in Norwegian society, and often features at office celebrations.
Layers of almond meringue with a vivid yellow custard cream made of egg yolks, sugar, cream and butter are the distinguishing features of this treat.
Because of the absence of flour in the recipe, it’s low-carb, gluten-free and freezes well. Unfortunately the high number of nuts and eggs in this one makes it one to avoid for many allergy sufferers!
Want to know how to make suksesskake? Check out our recipe.
Other popular cakes
While not especially Norwegian, these cakes are all common in Norway and deserve a mention on this list!
Marengskake is essentially pavlova, often decorated with fresh berries.
Sjokoladekake is chocolate cake. Nothing more to be said here, really!
Krydderkake is a spiced cake, usually flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. The method and texture is very similar to carrot cake.
Home baking in Norway
Like in many countries, home baking seems to be much less popular in Norway than it once was. Go into any supermarket and you'll see ‘instant mix' packets available for brownies, boller, and other simple baked goods.
Somewhat unusually for a 36-year-old man, I rediscovered a long-lost love for baking earlier this year and have been churning out cookies and cakes ever since.
But home baking in a foreign country always presents a challenge when you're used to the ingredients from ‘back home'! Some things I've noticed:
- Self-raising flour isn't a thing in Norway, although it's a fairly simple process to make your own by adding baking soda, baking powder, and a little salt to regular flour.
- They might not have self-raising flour, but there is a dazzling variety of other types of flour! This is especially surprising given how little choice there for most other products in a Norwegian supermarket. Get ready for havre, hvete, rug, spelt, bygg, fin, fullkorn, siktet, sammalt, and several more for those making specific types of bread. Phew!
- It's been a real challenge to find caster sugar, which is an extremely fine sugar very common in British recipes, but I've managed it! The supermarket chain Meny sells ‘engelsk sukker' (English sugar!) although they are frequently out of stock.
Are Norwegian cakes healthy?
Modern lifestyle preachers tell us to eat less, count calories, exercise more, reduce fat, and cut out anything even close to junk food. Cake? We may as well forget it, right? Not necessarily, says one researcher from the Australian National University.
Penny Wilson wrote on The Conversation that junk food is generally considered to be food that lacks nutrients but is high in calories mainly made up of fat and sugar, but that cake offers more.
“I’m not talking about the airy confection-infused types with chemical concoctions to preserve, flavour, colour and aerate. I mean cake as a symbol of joy and celebration; the conveyor of history, culture and tradition; as a token of love, belonging and social occasion.”
She goes on to say that some cakes have much in common with bread, and that regardless of content, cake is about bringing people together and helping to create a sense of place and connection.
“There is too much history and tradition bound up in cakes to eliminate them from our diet. Eat cake, not as a substitute for real food, but as a normal part of life and living. And perhaps as a bridge over conflict, discrimination and ignorance”, she says.
So what I'm hearing is that while cake isn't good for the waistline, a little every now and then is fine, and may actually be good for the soul. I can buy into that!
Do Norwegians eat cake?
Finally, it would be remiss of me to write a post about cakes in Norway without linking to my all-time favourite Tumblr, Erna Spiser Kake. Enjoy!
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