The sound of wood crackling in the fireplace. A good friend stopping by for the day. The trickle of snow seen from the window. Folk music resounding and the smell of fragrant spices filling the air. The atmosphere seems too enticing, as if you could eat it all up. It can only mean one thing. Holiday baking has begun.
Quite recently I visited the Rollag Bygdekvinnelag, a wonderful group of ladies who meet throughout the year to swap stories, share meals, go on excursions, and maintain traditions, which have been shared and passed down through the women in the area. I was invited to look through some old cookbooks that had been kept within each respective family for generations. Some dated back to the 1800s and some were as recent as the 1970s. Mostly all were handwritten and well-used with smudges and small tears caressing the pages.
Pages filled with exciting and interesting recipes. Some still popular today, some forgotten, some a bit more unusual and some, perhaps, better left as ink on the page. With the holiday season fast approaching, a few of the traditional baked goods popped out at me. One of them being, sirupskake or syrup cake.
Sirupskake is a simple spice cake made with light syrup and is traditionally baked in a long pan or loaf tin. It is referred to as a ‘god gammeldags kake’, or a good old-fashioned cake. The kind of cake that tends to show up in cookbooks from grandmothers and great-grandmothers and has an aura of nostalgia around it. But hiding behind its simple exterior is a cake packed full of flavor.
The taste is reminiscent of gingerbread and closely related to krydderkake (spice cake) and molasses cake. Cloves, ginger, cinnamon and pepper give it that holiday touch.
While sirupskake is great on its own, especially served alongside a warm cup of coffee or tea, I think it deserves an exterior just as inviting as its flavor. I’ve given it a slight makeover and adjusted the recipe I found in one of the old cookbooks. Instead of a long pan or loaf tin, I turned it into a layer cake. And to give it that complimentary taste, a good portion of orange cream-cheese frosting is found within each layer. To top it all off, a crown of dusted, candied oranges. This is an elegant, yet rustic, cake and one that will definitely be a crowd pleaser. The edges are firm with a soft interior, although not moist, keeping with the classic texture of sirupskake. The flavor of orange compliments the spices perfectly and balances the whole cake. You can serve small slices as the cake is quite rich, meaning one layer cake should feed a small group.
Sirupskake (Layered Spice Cake with Candied Oranges)
(Makes one 4-layer cake with two cakes remaining)
(Makes six 6-inch cakes)
- 2 dl (∼1 cup) heavy cream
- 2 dl (∼1 cup) light syrup
- 125g (4.4oz) butter
- 2 eggs
- 300g (1 ½ cps) sugar
- 600g (4.8 cups) flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 dl (1 cup) water
- 2 dl (1 cup) sugar
- 1 ½ oranges, cut into thin slices about ¼ inch
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
- 150g (5.3oz) butter
- 250g (2 cups) powdered sugar
- 200g (7oz) cream cheese
- 2 tsp grated orange peel
*This recipe makes 6 small cakes. I used 4 in my layer cake and made a second smaller cake with only 2 layers. You can make as many layers as you wish but I found that more than 4 layers might make the cake topple.
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F.
In a saucepan, warm the cream, syrup and butter together over medium heat until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool.
In a large food mixer or bowl, cream together the eggs and sugar. Add the syrup mixture and combine.
Blend together all the spices, baking soda, and flour in a separate bowl. Add this to the syrup mixture and mix well.
Grease six 6-inch cake or tart tins. Divide the cake batter into each tin. Bake three tins at a time for 20-25 minutes (I found 22 minutes to be perfect for my oven). Let cool.
While the cakes are baking, prepare the candied oranges and orange frosting. Place the sugar and water in a large frying pan/skillet over medium-high heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, place the orange slices in the skillet ensuring they do not overlap. Lower the heat and keep to a very low simmer, turning the slices occasionally. The white pith of the orange should become translucent after 30-40 minutes and the syrup will be thick. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the pan.
To make the orange frosting, beat together the butter, powdered sugar and cream cheese until a nice frosting forms. Add the grated orange peel and fold into the frosting.
To assemble the cake, place one of the 6-inch cakes on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread a good layer of the orange frosting on top and place the second cake on top. Repeat this process until you have used 4 of the cakes. On the fourth and last cake, add a layer of frosting and place the candied oranges on top to decorate. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top and sides of the cake.
♥ Many thanks to the lovely Erin Haugen for helping me with the holiday baking. She also took the wonderful photos of me holding the cake and the candied orange!
♦ More Holiday Baked Goods:
Lefse from Mollas Bakeri
Lefse (Kling) from Uvdalsleiven Tradisjonsbakst