Norwegian Kvaefjordkake (World's Best Cake)
A joy to say and a joy to eat. This is Norway's national cake, named Kvaefjordkake after the modest municipality of Kvaefjord in Tromsø, Northern Norway. Norwegians affectionally refer to this cake as 'verden's beste', literally 'the world's best'. It might actually be, and I don't say that flippantly. There's something about this cake; it's so unassuming and homely in appearance yet delivers an exquisite performance with flavour.
Kvaefjordkake is a layer cake, made with a two-ply sort of cake made from almond-flavoured sponge bonded to a crisp almond meringue. These meringued sponges are layered up with billowing cushions of vanilla whipped cream. For a layer cake, it's actually very simple and not at all fiddly as it might sound - you're allowed to be a little scruffy with it in fact. That's the charm of it.
I get a real kick from feeding people this cake - it's a mind-blower. It's the soft, sweet nursery flavours of vanilla, almond, egg yolks and dairy, and also the compilation of pleasurable textures: moist sponge, crisp meringue, soft meringue, crunchy almonds, silky whipped cream. It's a good one to whip out during Spring or Summer - I usually make it every Norway Constitution Day (May 17th).
I don't usually serve Kvaefjordkake as a dessert - I believe it deserves solitary spotlight, on it's own with a cup of tea. Unleash it on people to whatever advantage you desire. One slice of this cake and they're enthralled.
- 120g Unsalted Butter
- 300g Caster Sugar + 1 tablespoon
- 4 Free Range Eggs
- 90g Plain Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Almond Extract
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 100g of Whole Almonds
- 600ml Double Cream
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Take a Swiss roll tin (or a baking tray with at least 0.5cm of a lip at the edges) and grease lightly with oil or butter, right into the corners. Take a sheet of baking paper and line the tray so that there is excess paper hanging over, pressing and sticking the paper well into the greasy corners of the tray. Don't be tempted to leave this stage until later, as once the cake batter is made it will need to be quickly transferred to the oven.
- Now for the meringue layer - separate the 4 eggs and place the whites in a mixing bowl, place the yolks in a small container and set aside for the sponge. Beat with egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff and cloudy, then gradually add in 200g of the caster sugar a spoonful at as time, while whisking, until you get stiff, glossy peaks that stand erect when you remove the whisk.
- Now for the sponge. Take 120g softened unsalted butter and whip it with the remaining 100g of caster sugar until pale and whippy. Add in the 4 egg yolks, teaspoon of vanilla and teaspoon of almond extract and beat until combined.
- Sift in the 90g of plain flour and 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Mix in with a wooden spoon until no lumps are visible. The sponge batter is now ready.
- Take a spoon and dollop the sponge batter in even portions around the tray. Spread them all around so you have an even covering all around the tray, right into the corners - don't panic if it seems a little thin in some places, it will expand and fill in as it bakes.
- Immediately spread the meringue over the top of the sponge in a similar fashion: spread it right to the edges. Once covered in meringue, take a knife and score 2 lines down the tray, effectively dividing the cake into equal thirds (use a ruler to help).
- Chop 100g of whole almonds into crunchy chunks then sprinkle over the meringue layer Place the cake into the oven to cook for 15-20 minutes, until the meringue is lightly browned. Once done, take the tray out of the oven and while hot and soft, take a knife and cut down the scored lines, cutting the cake into thirds. Then leave the cake to cool completely, so the meringue can harden.
- Once completely cool, whip the 600ml of double cream with 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla until you have soft peaks. Leave to one side while you assemble the cake.
- Gently left the cake out of the tin using the overhanging baking paper. Gently peel the paper away from the sides of the cake, then take a spatula or knife and gently slid under the cake to release it from the baking paper. Prepare your serving platter, then gently lift one third of the cake and placer onto the platter (I find the best way to do this is by using two spatulas, one slotted under each end of the cake).
- Using a piping bag or a spoon, dollop the whipped cream on top the bottom layer of the cake on it's serving platter. Then take the second piece of cake and gently sit it into the whipped cream. Repeat with another of whipped cream, before placing the final third of the cake on to crown the cake.
- Dust with icing sugar and transfer to the fridge until serving. Eat within 48 hours maximum.