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Kransekake, the Norwegian Ring Cake
Kransekake, Norway's justly famous almond ring cake, is easy to prepare and not as frightening to assemble as it looks. These photos help illustrate what some might consider a daunting baking project, with its tower of eighteen graduated almond paste rings. This signature Norwegian cake is a staple at wedding, anniversary, birthday, and holiday celebrations.
Inexpensive and remarkably easy to prepare, it offers the added benefits of being gluten-, wheat- and butter-free. The specialty Kransekake forms typically used to prepare this remarkable cake are worth the investment, because in addition to preparing special-occasion cakes, you can also use the cookie-like Kransekake rings to form one-of-a-kind edible baskets and cornucopias as lovely centerpieces for your table throughout the year.
If baking Kransekake for gluten-intolerant guests, you will need to avoid cross-contamination in your kitchen by making sure that any wheat-containing food items and flours are tightly sealed and closed away in your cabinets. Make sure that your counters, cooking utensils, pans, and grinder are scrupulously clean and sterilized. Check the labels of your ingredients to make sure that they were not processed in a plant that also manufactures wheat products. For more information about avoiding cross-contamination in your kitchen while preparing gluten-free foods, please seeContinue to 2 of 18 below.
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Blanching the Almonds
Blanche 1/2 a pound of the raw almonds in boiling water until the nuts float to the top of the pot. Usually, they start to float up after about 5 minutes in the boiling water.Continue to 3 of 18 below.
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Removing Almond Skins
Rinse the newly blanched almonds in a colander under cool water. Once they are cool to the touch, remove and discard the almond skins.Continue to 4 of 18 below.
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Drying Blanched Almonds
Your blanched almonds need to be completely dry before grinding. Place on a baking sheet and allow either to air dry or heat in an oven at a low heat, around 250º, for about 15 minutes. If you're drying them in the oven, be careful not to roast the almonds!Continue to 5 of 18 below.
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Grinding the Almonds
Grind a 1/2 pound of unblanched almonds in a coffee or spice grinder. Don't use a food processor for this step, because it will over-process the almond flour. Separately, repeat the grinding process with the blanched and dried almonds.Continue to 6 of 18 below.
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Mixing the Almond Flours
Mix together the unblanched and blanched almond flours and 1 pound of confectioner's sugar. Then, run this mixture through your grinder a second time.Continue to 7 of 18 below.
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Making Almond Paste
Next to make the almond paste, combine the ground almond-sugar mixture with 3 egg whites and 2 tsp. almond extract.Continue to 8 of 18 below.
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Kneading Almond Paste Into Dough
With a wooden spoon, knead the almond paste mixture in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat until the sides of the paste pull away from the pot, about 5 minutes. The paste will have the consistency of homemade play dough. Wrap the paste in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.Continue to 9 of 18 below.
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Rolling Out the Kransekake Dough
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Flour a pastry board or clean counter with potato starch flour; butter and dust six Kransekake forms if using with the potato starch flour.
Roll the almond paste into 18 1/2"-long "snakes." Each rope of almond paste should be a slightly different length, starting with one that is about 14", and in 1/2" increments, growing the others through a 20" long rope. Fit the ropes into the forms, pinching the ends together tightly to form rings.
Note: this dough is very forgiving, so you can easily reroll a few snakes if you've miscalculated the lengths so that they are evenly divided to fit the graduated rings of the Kransekake forms.Continue to 10 of 18 below.
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Filling the Kransekake Forms
Fit the lengths into the Kransekake forms as shown in the photo.Continue to 11 of 18 below.
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Alternative Free-form Kransekake Rings
If you don't have Kransekake forms, don't worry! Alternatively, you can shape each of the 18 lengths into rings and place them on a parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheet.
Bake the rings in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, until they turn a light gold. Watch them carefully; they can easily burn if unattended.Continue to 12 of 18 below.
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Freshly Baked Kransekake Rings
Once the rings are finished baking, remove them from oven and allow to cool in pans.Continue to 13 of 18 below.
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Constructing the Kransekake
Rap the pans lightly on a counter to loosen the rings, running a knife between the rings if necessary to separate. Then, carefully remove the largest ring, invert it, and place it on a serving or cake plate.
Mix together the confectioner's sugar, 2 egg whites, almond extract and lemon juice to make a thick frosting. Place into a pastry bag with a small tip or in a plastic freezer bag with the end snipped off. Pipe the frosting in a wavy pattern around the circumference of the bottom ring. The frosting, while decorative, also serves as the glue that will hold the cake together.Continue to 14 of 18 below.
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The Tower Rises
Repeat the step of layering frosting and rings for each of the remaining rings, working from the largest up to the smallest. The finished cake will look like a Fisher-Price ring toy, but will taste far better!Continue to 15 of 18 below.
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A Kransekake Surprise
If desired, place a "surprise" like a bottle of good champagne, wine or fresh flowers in the middle of the cake while constructing. The bottle will also serve as a nice support for the tower!Continue to 16 of 18 below.
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Norwegian Wedding Cake
Once you've finished the construction of the cake, it's time to decorate. You can garnish the cake with edible or crystallized flowers and ribbons if it's being prepared for a wedding or special occasion, as shown in this photo.Continue to 17 of 18 below.
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Traditional Kransekake with Flags
Or, do as the Norwegians do and decorate your tower with flags for a more patriotic flair.Continue to 18 of 18 below.
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An Edible Basket Centerpiece
Here's another way that you can use Kransekake rings. Instead of starting with the largest rings, build the Kransekake rings from smallest to largest into delicious edible baskets for fresh fruit or cookies. Ambitious chefs reverse the entire 18-layer tower into cornucopias, filling these with specialty candies and cookies.