Lapper is a traditional Norwegian flat cake similar to that of an American pancake, but by no means the same. Flat cakes have a long tradition in Norway, particularly in western Norway, which stretches back to the 1300s when the daily lives of most Norwegians were marked by poverty. Every ingredient was used to its fullest so as not to waste it. Sour milk, surmelk, was a common commodity and families would use the leftovers and mix with dry goods to be baked. The cakes were then served alongside Saturday coffee.
I would say lapper is a variation of svele. A sibling, perhaps. They’re family. They have similarities. They have differences. Sometimes they overlap. You may not be able to tell them apart. They have different facets depending upon the ingredients available in various regions of Norway. Yet, svele is the more-well known term deeply rooted in western Norway. Around the 1920s it began to be associated with ferry-travel and tradition stands that customers should eat one aboard as they begin their journey.
Recipes for svele more often than not include the use of natron (baking soda) and hornsalt (ammonium bicarbonate). Since my recipe does not include hornsalt and because the region of Buskerud where I live uses the term lapper more frequently, I have referred to this recipe as lapper.
This recipe pairs traditional lapper with a bit of ale, because dishes infused with beer in the autumn always seem appropriate and because beer has long held a central place in Nordic culture from mythology to home brewing. In fact, during the 1200s it was the law that farmers had to produce beer for Christmas for three years or they would be deprived of their farm and estate. The laws have changed over time, but beer still remains an important beverage in Norway.
Lapper is an ideal conduit for beer, as there are no other strong flavors to contend with. The short cooking time also means that most of the integrity of the flavors remains intact. These lapper are fluffy with sweet and nutty undertones from the beer. Depending upon your ale of choice, a good slice of brunost (brown cheese), some sour cream and jam, or some butter and sugar on top will bring a whole other dimension to these succulent cakes.
Lapper med Øl (Norwegian Flat Cakes with Beer)
(Makes a large batch, around 20-25)
- 75g (1/3 cup) butter, melted
- 250 dl (∼1 cup) beer (pale ale, brown ale or wheat beer work well)
- 750 dl (3 ¼ cups) kulturmelk/buttermilk
- 4 eggs
- 150g (3/4 cup) sugar
- 550g (just under 4 cups) flour
- 1 tsp natron/baking soda
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together.
Add the buttermilk and beer and blend gently.
Add the flour and baking soda and stir until smooth. Stir in the melted butter. Leave to rest for 20-30 minutes.
Add a little butter to a preheated takke, griddle or large skillet over medium high heat and push around until melted. Ladle the batter to form lapper about 6in/16 cm wide. Allow to cook until bubbles form in the center, flip over and cook until golden brown on the underside.
Serve plain or with a topping of your choice. Typical Norwegian toppings include: brunost (brown cheese), jam and sour cream, or butter and sugar. Lapper is usually served as a treat between meals.