Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Finnish February: the Runeberg Cake (aka: Runebergintorttuja)

Happy February!  I always breathe a sigh of relief when February rolls around because we've officially survived the grey month of January and can has holidays again! (yes, grammatical error intended.... I can has weird grammar?)  I know that many of you out there object to Valentine's Day as a Hallmark-invented, consumerist holiday, but I adore it, because it's just one more excuse to make more yummy-licious desserts.  *grin*  But, before we get onto the topic of Valentine's Day here on the blog, I first want to introduce you all to another February holiday dessert:

Runeberg Cakes!
(or more accurately: Runebergintorttuja)

Rune..what?  Okay, I admit it.  These are not American desserts, but Finnish-Swedish ones.  They are named after the Finnish national poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg, who apparently was especially fond of these cakes (no idea what they were called prior to being graced by Runeberg's fondness), and are traditionally consumed on February 5th, Runeberg's birthday.


Now, why in the world--you are indeed thinking--is this native Californian, Asian-American girl making a Finnish dessert?  Well, first of all, they are good.  But I didn't discover that until after I'd made these.  Nope. Here's the actual reason:


We have something of a Finnish invasion force in my department.  Both my main advisor and one of my secondary advisors are Finnish.  Now, to me, that's a lot of Finns in one place.  They're even teaming up with another Finnish professor in the Computer Science department this quarter to teach a whole class all about Finnish.  So, we hear a lot about Finnish where I am.


Of course, being the curious academic, I once asked my advisors about desserts that they missed from their native countries (naturally, because I talk about dessert way more than I talk about my day job), and my advisor told me about Runeberg cakes.  This was two to three years ago that we had that conversation.  Finally, when my advisor's birthday rolled around this year, I had an excuse to try my hand at these intriguing-sounding cakes.  They were even more fitting for the occasion because my advisor studies poetics, so why not make a cake named after his country's national poet for his birthday, which is incidentally right around the same time as February fifth?

So I did my research, reading up all about Runeberg cakes that I could find.  I even attempted some Finnish websites, but gave up very, very, very quickly.  (Despite being around Finns all the time, my Finnish knowledge is still nonexistent.)  I amassed a bunch of varying Runeberg cake recipes and studied all of them. Finally, I set out to make my own, keeping what I thought were the most important features of the cakes and then adding and adjusting things based on my own baker's intuition (or, however much baker's intuition I fancy myself to have).


This was the result: a super dense, super moist, super robust tower of individually-portioned cake, packed full of almond, ginger, and orange-y goodness, then topped with a thick and barely-tart raspberry reduction, a dash of lemon juice, and held in by a ring of sweet icing, with just the faintest hint of almond.  And boy, it was YUM.  But would it pass the true Finnish test?


Hell yes!  My advisor was so excited when he saw these that he would stop lecturing to take bites of the cake sitting in front of him.  The ultimate compliment then came when he said to me:

"You should go open a bakery... in Helsinki!"

Ohhhhh yeahhhhhhhhhhh. *grin.*



Read on for the recipe...
(I really hope you try these--according to the Finns, I hit the nail right on the head!)


Runeberg Cakes (Runebergintorttuja)
makes 8 3x3 round cakes

for cakes:
2 cups AP flour
1 cup finely ground ginger snaps
3/4 cup finely ground almonds
(to grind almonds, put almonds and ginger snaps in food processor at the same time.)
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1 tspn salt
1 1/2 - 2 tspn freshly grated orange zest
1 tspn ground cardamom
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tspn almond extract
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbspn molasses
3 eggs, at room temp

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Oil and flour the 3x3 cake rings and set on a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, ground ginger snaps, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange zest, and cardamom. Whisk to mix. Set aside.
3. In a measuring cup, stir and combine milk, orange juice, and almond extract. Set aside.
4. Place butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.  Cream on medium low for about 4-5 minutes.
5. Add molasses to the butter mixture and cream until fully incorporated.  Make sure to scrap down the sides if necessary.
6. Add eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, mixing thoroughly to incorporate each egg between each addition.
7. Gradually add the dry ingredients (flour mix) and wet ingredients (milk mix) to the butter in three stages--dry followed by wet followed by dry followed by wet, etc.  Mix until thoroughly combined.
8. Spoon batter into cake molds until about 3/4 of the way full, being careful not to touch the exposed sides with batter.  Tap the baking sheet lightly on the counter to get rid of any large air pockets.  Use a small spatula or a spoon to smooth the tops of the batter.
9. Bake for 25-35 minutes (shorter if you have smaller ring molds) until a toothpick removed from the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from molds. Then glaze with...

for rum syrup:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbspn rum or cognac

1. While the cakes are baking, make the syrup.  Place sugar and water in a heat-proof measuring glass.
2. Heat the sugar and water in the microwave on high for a minute and a half.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.
(or, Heat in a pot on the stovetop until sugar dissolves.)
3. Add alcohol and stir into the syrup.
4. When the cakes are unmolded, poke the tops with a few small holes.  Use a pastry brush to brush the syrup on the tops and sides of the cakes.

for raspberry topping:
1 cup frozen raspberries
4 Tbspn sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tspn cornstarch, sifted

1. In a nonreactive saucepan, saute raspberries on medium high until they begin to release their juices.
2. Add the lemon juice, sugar, and sifted cornstarch, to the raspberries, making sure to whisk to combine the cornstarch.
3. Stirring constantly, bring the contents to a boil and simmer until the raspberries have reduced and are slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let cool.  Set aside.

for icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 Tbpsn milk
1/4 tspn almond extract

1. Combine powdered sugar with milk and almond extract. Mix well until a thick icing forms.
2. Spoon icing into a squeeze bottle or piping bag fitted with round tip.  Use immediately.

Assembly:
1. Use a sharp knife and cut a shallow cone out of the top of each cake, like filling a cupcake, but make a very shallow cut, about a centimeter in from the edge.  Scoop out the cone piece.
2. Using a pastry brush, brush more syrup in the cut-out hole.
3. Fill the hole with raspberry topping, about 2 tablespoons per hole.
4. Use the prepared icing in the piping bag to pipe a generous circle of icing around the raspberry topping.


Enjoy!

8 comments:

  1. I'll have to forward this to a friend of mine. Her husband is part Finnish, and she's been wanting to surprise him with a Finnish-type dish. But she's only found fish-type things so far. With her sweet tooth, I think this will be more up her alley. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. WOW! What else can I say... They look better than in bakeries here in Finland, no wonder you got such a compliment, you fully deserve it!
    Actually when comming here from Taste Spotting I was sure Im entering a finnish food blog :D You should think about repatriation :P

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great recipe. I substituted a little, got rid of the almond extract 'cause my finnish wife doesn't like the bitterness (also added a little less sugar to make up for it) and since I didn't have cognac or rhum I substituted with a splash of tequila (which coupled nicely with the orange taste of the cake).
    Got to say, my wife loved them, found them better than the ones you buy at the bakery in Turku.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Luis: I'm so thrilled that you tried the recipe and liked it! The tequila is quite an interesting addition--I'll have to try it next time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just baked these..and they are fantastic!!! I would like to use your whole recipe on my blog and link you, or half post it and link the rest to you.. I have my owm pics..

    I found this recipe in a cookbook but yours is better :)

    Please let me know:0 Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  6. I just baked these..and they are fantastic!!! I would like to use your whole recipe on my blog and link you, or half post it and link the rest to you.. I have my owm pics..

    I found this recipe in a cookbook but yours is better :)

    Please let me know:0 Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  7. WOW! What else can I say... They look better than in bakeries here in Finland, no wonder you got such a compliment, you fully deserve it!
    Actually when comming here from Taste Spotting I was sure Im entering a finnish food blog :D You should think about repatriation :P

    ReplyDelete
  8. Being one of your Swedish readers, I am smiling with you and your success with the not-so-easy-to-please-Finns! :D

    ReplyDelete

I love hearing from you and reading your comments! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. Happy feasting!

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