"Norwegian Apple Cake"
To my disbelief, autumn has arrived in our little Norwegian town. I swear that the leaves began dropping as soon as I changed over the calendar with a new month. The air is crisp, we wake up with traces of frost on the ground, and apple season has arrived! If it were not for the first crop of Norwegian apples, I would soon be mourning the demise of the berry season. Luckily, there is a place, not far from us, that has begun trucking in their earliest apples. This place, Hardanger , is a region known for two things; fiddles and apples. While their famous hand-crafted Hardanger fele (Hardanger violins) have found their way into the hands of folk musicians the world over, their lesser-known apples made their way into my cake just last night.
My intention was to hold out on incorporating apples into my baking for at least another month; but, with evening temperatures dropping below freezing, and local apples making their way into grocery stores, there was no need to wait. I will admit that these first Hardanger apples of the season did not, aesthetically, look as nice as the ones sitting next to them on the shelf from Belgium and Spain. They were a little lumpy, a little small, and had funny crevices, giving them the look of pudgy children. Yet, I just couldn't resist! Look how cute they are:
Now, I feel the need to mention that I live with a man who claims not to like sweet things. He’s more of an “eat potato chips for dessert” kind of guy. This makes for a little difficulty when a girl is trying to maintain a baking blog. Not to say that my cookies and pies have been made in vain and have gone to waste. I assure you that they have all been eaten. At the same time, it saddens me a bit when the time has come to take my perfect loaf of bread out the oven and the man only takes one slice, rather than the 4 or 5 that I had hoped he would devour. Isn’t that what husbands are for??? To sneak a slice of chocolate cake while you’ve stepped out of the kitchen? To his defense, the majority of what I cook is greeted with warm applause, and, it’s always easy to tell when he actually does like something, because only then is his share larger than mine.
Today’s post is for a dessert made upon his request, Norwegian apple cake. Every grandmother has her favorite recipe for norsk eplekake, and with a little tweaking, this one will soon be our favorite. This cake is ridiculously fast to throw together, can easily be adjusted to suit your mood or the tastes of your loved ones, and it includes the necessary accompaniment to apples in a dessert; cinnamon! How’s that for a nice post-raking leaves dessert?
You’ll notice that there are three types of sugar included in this recipe. This may come across as a little excessive to most American grandmas who are only used to baking with Crystal granulated white sugar for their cake, and then perhaps blending a little powdered sugar into their frosting. Adding vanilla flavoring to a Scandinavian recipe does not mean breaking out the bottle of pure vanilla extract, it means opening up the container of vanilla sugar. You can come across vanilla extract in grocery stores here, but you might not be able to pay your next rent if you buy it in American proportions. Vanilla sugar is simply a vanilla scented powdered sugar. You could make your own by burying a dried, used vanilla bean in a glass jar full of sugar, then letting it stand for a couple of weeks. On the other hand, it might be easier to simply use you the vanilla extract that you are used to.
The other sugar called for in this recipe is another Scandinavian specialty, pearl sugar. Pearl sugar is exactly as you might picture it to be, large sugar crystals used to decorate baked goods. The beauty of using pearl sugar, is that they hold their shape after baking and give a slight, sweet crunch to anything you sprinkle them over. Luckily, pearl sugar is becoming easier and easier to get a hold of in the states, as they sell it at everyone’s favorite Saturday afternoon destination, IKEA.
Norwegian Apple Cake
(makes 6 servings)
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 sticks (1 cup/ 225g) butter, at room temperature
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. vanilla sugar (or 1 t. vanilla extract)
2 large, or 3-4 small, crisp apples- peeled, cored, and sliced into thin “boats”(like you
would for apple pie)
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 cup (25g) almonds, finely chopped
1/4 cup (40g) raisins, soaked in warm water for a few minutes, then finely chopped
- a handful of pearl sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Butter your favorite baking dish (I used a 13”x9”x2” oval dish, but I think any dish roughly that size will do, it will simply adjust your baking time a bit).
2. In a large bowl, cream the granulated sugar and butter together. Fold in the eggs, one-by-one, until well blended.
3. Sift the flour into the mixture, along with the baking powder and vanilla sugar. If using raisins, blend them in now.
4. Using a spatula, pour HALF of the batter into the baking. Layer half of your apple boats over the batter. Pour the remaining batter over, then lightly press the remaining apple boats into the top of the batter; preferably in an attractive design.
5. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top (and optionally, sprinkle the chopped almonds, pearl sugar, and any extra raisins, if desired).
6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, checking with a toothpick for doneness.
7. Serve with either fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, giving your significant other a slightly larger portion than your own.