Norwegian Christmas Bread (Julekake)

Julekake, Norwegian Christmas Bread

The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

Prep: 45 mins
Cook: 50 mins
Rise Time: 110 mins
Total: 3 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Yield: 2 loaves
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
368 Calories
6g Fat
73g Carbs
6g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 368
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 7%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 2mg 1%
Sodium 225mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 73g 27%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 29g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 38mg 3%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 97mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The inviting aroma of fresh-baked bread is a wonderful addition to the holiday season. Julekake is a traditional Norwegian Christmas bread with a woody cardamom scent and candied fruit, and it's a fantastic recipe to try. This yeasted bread has a fruitcake-like taste and feel, but it's much easier and quicker to make. Often enjoyed during Yuletide, this holiday loaf is a delicious addition to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and is best when served warm or toasted with butter.

What to Add to Julekake

Originally, julekake was hearty rye bread, though modern recipes like this one prefer white flour. Cardamom gives the bread a warming spice, and you can use any candied fruit to make it as simple or colorful as you like. Raisins and candied citrus are most traditional; orange peels are a favorite, and lemon peels are a nice option. Anything you would add to fruitcake—including candied red and green cherries, pineapple, dates, and sultanas—are fun additions as well.

How to Store

The julekake recipe makes two loaves. They can be stored at room temperature for a few days inside a plastic bag or wrapped in foil. Once cool, you can also freeze the bread; thaw loaves at room temperature, and heat gently for a few minutes in the oven.

"This bread would be delicious sliced, toasted, and enjoyed with some jam or butter. This is a wonderful holiday treat with some warm spices." —Tracy Wilk

Norwegian christmas bread/tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1/2 cup warm water

  • 2 packages rapid rise yeast

  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) margarine, or butter, more for greasing

  • 2 cups milk, plus more for brushing loaves

  • 8 cups all-purpose flour, divided

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 2 cups mixed candied fruit

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make Norwegian Christmas bread

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. In a large bowl, mix the water and yeast to dissolve.

    In a medium saucepan, heat the margarine or butter and the milk on medium-low heat until the margarine melts. Let cool until the mixture is only warm to the touch or the temperature is no higher than 120 F.

    Melted butter and milk in a sauce pan

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. In a large bowl, combine 4 cups of the flour with the sugar, salt, and ground cardamom.

    Flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Add the yeast mixture and butter mixture, and combine with an electric mixer. Beat until the batter falls in sheets from beaters.

    Yeast and flour mixture combined in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. Fold in the candied fruit and gradually add the remaining 4 cups of flour.

    Additional flour and candied fruit added to the dough

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  6. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes.

    Smooth, kneaded dough

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl (note that the dough may be a little stiff, which is normal). Cover and let rise in a warm place (80 F to 85 F) until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

    A ball of dough in a greased bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  8. Punch down the dough and place on a lightly floured countertop.

    Punched down dough in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  9. Shape into 2 equal size loaves and place each in a greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.

    Two loaf pans with dough

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  10. Brush the tops of the loaves with milk.

    Dough in a loaf pan brushed with milk

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  11. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, 45 to 50 minutes.

    Dough in a loaf pan covered with a kitchen towel

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  12. Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375 F. Bake the loaves until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

    Baked Norwegian Christmas breads in loaf pans

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

  13. Turn the loaves out of their pans onto a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.

    Slices of Norwegian Christmas bread served with butter

    The Spruce Eats / Abbey Littlejohn

Recipe Tips

  • When adding the warm butter and milk mixture to the dough, make sure it isn't too hot or it could kill the yeast.
  • You can substitute active dry or fresh yeast for instant yeast, if desired.
  • A bench scraper makes working with dough easier. Use it to help you scrape dough from the work surface, to divide the dough, and to shape the dough.
  • When kneading and shaping the dough, use as little extra flour as possible. When too much flour is incorporated during kneading, it can make the finished bread tough and dry.

Recipe Variations

  • Use your favorite dried or candied fruits in this recipe. If your dried fruits are a little too dry, soak them for 30 minutes in hot water or brewed tea. Drain the fruit and pat it dry before adding to the dough.
  • For a little extra sweetness, you can drizzle the cooled loaf with a simple lemon or almond icing.