I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Norwegians hold a record as one of the most enthusiastic cake bakers in the world. We also love to eat cake more often than not. I find our cake culture very special, particularly in Sunnmøre, where I’m from. This is where the tradition is particularly strong. It’s not uncommon to see 20 different cakes being brought out to the table at any one festivity such as baptisms, confirmations, weddings or holiday celebrations.
Why are cakes so popular in Norway? I feel there could be a couple of reasons. The coffee culture is well known in the country, and what goes better with coffee than a piece of cake or some other sweet pastry? It’s how we come together and enjoy each other’s company, and the chance to be a little ‘luxurious’ with decadent cakes and other baked goods. The other reason is that for a long time Norway was a poor country and now that we’re better off, we celebrate with making luxurious creations such as bløtkake (cream cakes), pavlova, chocolate and marzipan cakes. Because we can. Local competitions are run throughout the year on who can make the best cake, and the winning cake is always the one that disappears the fastest from the table.
There are endless varieties of cakes. From old school classics like fyrstekake, kransekake, Mor Monsen, eplekake, the aforementioned bløtkake and marsipankake, to more modern versions like pavlova, cheesecakes, blueberry tarts, firkløverkake and suksesskak, there seems to be no end to the vast selections you see across tables around the country.
Personally I like the simpler, more rustic cakes that are easy to make. One such cake that is popular is called langpannekake. This is essentially a cake baked in a rectangular, 13×9 inch form instead of a round shaped form. It’s never super fancy, but always super delicious and easy to make. From chocolate to vanilla, lemon, coconut, cinnamon, almonds and orange – you’ll find this cake in more flavors you can imagine.
Today’s recipe is one just like this: Simple to make yet incredibly juicy, flavorful and satisfying, this lemon and vanilla flavored cake is slathered with a cream cheese, lime and butter frosting, topped with fresh, seasonal and local strawberries. I had to find a way to use the last of the season’s fresh strawberries, and this cake ended up being a perfect choice. Strawberries from Norway are the best tasting in the world – and no, I’m not being subjective! The long, summer days and cool nights contribute to a slow ripening of the berries, resulting in sweet, refreshing berries that are like flavor bombs in your mouth. Consequently, strawberries have remained my favorite fruit and berry throughout my life, but I’m always disappointed when I taste them elsewhere. That said, I did manage to find some juicy and delicious ones at a farm in the neighboring town the other day, and here’s where they ended up
If you’re not a fan of strawberries, you can use other berries such as raspberries, blackberries and blueberries – or even cherries or red currants. This isn’t a “pretty cake” that’s picture perfect for Instagram, but once you bite into it you will see why these types of cakes are so popular in Norway. I just let the glaze flow and spill over the edges and the berries are put on in a non-symmetrical order. In my eyes, it’s imperfectly perfect, and looking at it brings me back to a cozy living room in Norway. I hope I can create a sense of koselig and hygge for you too by sharing my recipe.
LEMON-VANILLA CAKE WITH FRESH STRAWBERRIES
For the cake:
1 1/4 cup (250 grams) sugar
10 1/2 oz or 2 sticks + 5 tbsp (300 grams) vegan butter
½ cup (1.25dl) applesauce
2 tsp vanilla paste or vanilla extract
zest from 1 lemon
1 lb (450 gram)s all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups (3.5 dl) plain non-dairy yogurt
7 ounces (200 grams) vegan cream cheese (my favorite is Violife)
3 1/2 oz or approximately 1 stick (100 grams) vegan butter
10 1/2 oz (300 grams) confectioner’s sugar
Juice from 1 lime
3 1/4 cup or (500 grams) fresh strawberries, sliced in half
Line a 13 x 9 inch (30 x 20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper (paper should hang a little over the edges) and set aside.
Preheat oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius).
Make the cake:
Add the sugar and butter to a bowl of a stand mixer, and with a paddle attachment, cream until light and fluffy. In a small bowl combine the applesauce, vanilla paste and lemon zest. In a different bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together.
Add in the applesauce mixture, then slowly add in the dry ingredients and the yogurt interchangeably until you have a smooth batter. Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean from the middle.
Let cake cool on a rack while you make the glaze.
Make the glaze:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter and mix well. Add in the lime juice, then the confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
Spread the glaze on the cooled cake and garnish with the fresh strawberries.