Kransekake Norwegian Cake

Kransekake

Gunnar Bothner-By/Flickr/CC By 2.0

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 2 hrs 15 mins
Cooling: 12 hrs
Total: 15 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 50 servings

Kransekake, "Wreath" or "Ring Cake," is the signature cake of Scandinavia, earning a stellar place at weddings, birthdays, graduations, and holiday banquet tables. Made of several rings placed on top of each other and set in place with icing, a traditional Kransekake should have at least 18 rings, whereas more celebratory cakes can have plenty more layers. Danes and Norwegians alike love to make and eat this cake. Kransekake is easily found for purchase during the Christmas holidays.

Made from almonds, confectioners' sugar, and egg whites, this cake is a splendid flourless, gluten-free alternative to standard celebratory cakes. Crunchy outside and chewy inside, the cake is served by removing the rings, one by one, and cutting them into smaller pieces.

For this recipe, you need to rest the dough overnight, and for best results use Kransekake molds, available online or at specialized bakery shops. If you can't find the forms, there's the option of hand-shaping the rings.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 5 cups water

  • 1 pound raw, whole almonds

  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar

  • 3 egg whites

  • 2 teaspoons almond extract

  • 2 teaspoons potato starch flour

For the Frosting:

  • 3 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 2 egg whites

  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • Edible flowers, flags, or ribbons, optional

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Almond Flour

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and then add half of the almonds.

  3. Blanche almonds until nuts rise to surface and skins loosen, or about 3 minutes.

  4. Drain and rinse almonds in cold water.

  5. Then remove skins by rubbing them between two clean kitchen towels.

  6. Spread them to dry on paper towels–the nuts need to be completely dry before grinding.

  7. In a coffee or spice grinder, not a food processor, grind unblanched almonds to form a fine flour and reserve.

  8. Next, grind blanched almonds and reserve.

  9. In a large mixing bowl, mix two almond "flours" together along with confectioners' sugar.

  10. Then, grind combined mixture a second time.

Make and Rest the Dough

  1. Once almond flour is ready, place in a large saucepan and stir in egg whites and almond extract.

  2. Place pan over low heat and stir the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and shapes itself into a smooth, shiny dough with a pliable and soft consistency.

  3. Place almond paste in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Bake and Assemble the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Flour a pastry board or clean counter with potato starch flour.

  2. Butter and dust six kransekake forms with potato starch flour.

  3. Roll almond paste into 18 long "snakes," descending in length by half an inch increment from about 20 inches long to 12 inches long.

  4. Fit snakes into forms, pinching ends together tightly to form rings. Alternatively, if you don't have kransekake forms, shape each of the 18 lengths into a ring form and place them on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.

  5. Bake rings in the center of the oven for 15 minutes until rings turn a light golden shade. Watch carefully, as they will burn quickly if unattended.

  6. Remove forms from oven and allow rings to cool in pans.

  7. Carefully loosen all the forms, using a knife if necessary to separate the cake from the form.

  8. While rings cool off, mix together confectioners' sugar, egg whites, almond extract, and lemon juice to make a thick frosting.

  9. Place into a pastry bag with a small tip or in a plastic freezer bag with the end snipped off. Reserve.

  10. Invert largest ring and place on a serving plate.

  11. Pipe frosting in a wavy pattern around circumference of bottom ring. The frosting, while decorative, also serves as the glue that will hold the cake together.

  12. Repeat this step for each of the remaining rings, working from the largest up to the smallest, until you have formed a cake tower.

  13. Decorate completed cake with flags and candies, as the Norwegians do, or with ribbons and edible or crystallized flowers for a special occasion.

To Make the Best Kransekake

Here are a few suggestions to help you in making and enjoying this beautiful cake:

  • To loosen the almonds' skins, you can also put them in the oven at 170 F for 15 minutes, but be sure not to let them roast.
  • Using a food processor to make the almond flour will overprocess the nuts and possibly churn them into almond butter.
  • Kransekake, like fine wine, improves by "aging" a day or two before serving. Store in a tightly sealed container with a slice of apple or bread next to it in order to maximize this cake's unique soft-yet-chewy texture.
  • The ring tower can also be built in reversed order, with larger rings placed upon smaller ones, to form edible baskets. Scandinavian bakers also often invert the tower to form a cornucopia, which they fill with specialty cookies and candies.