On February 5th, Finland celebrates Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s birthday. Born in 1804, Runeberg is known as Finland’s national poet as well as the author of what what later became Finland’s national anthem, Maamme (Our Land). Legend has it that Runeberg was particularly fond of a certain almond-arrack flavoured, raspberry jam and sugar coated pastry and that he used to have it every morning for breakfast. Runeberg’s wife (and second cousin), Fredrika, is said to have created the recipe for the cake based off of a pre-existing recipe.
These cakes later become known as Runebergintorttu (Runeberg’s cake) and nowadays are a treat specifically enjoyed on the national poet’s birthday, February 5th. In light of this event, this year I decided to try and make Runebergintorttuja for the first time. I came across several variations of the original recipe, and ultimately decided to use one I found on a well-known Finnish baking blog, Kinuskikissa. This Runeberg cake recipe is very easy to follow, and although getting all of the necessary ingredients required going to three different supermarkets, I was able to find everything I needed locally.
According to the recipe, these ingredients make for around 12-14 cakes. My measurements must have been on the heavy side because I ended up getting 20 cakes.
What you’ll need
A) For the batter:
- 100g gingerbread cookies (Surpringsingly Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona sells gingerbread cookies year round, who knew!)
- 2,5 dl almond flour (I used crushed almonds and it seemed to do the job.)
- 3 dl whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp ground cardamom (I brought some over the last time I was in Finland.)
- 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
- 250g butter or margarine
- 3 dl sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 dl cream
B) For moistening the cakes:
- 2 dl water
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp arrack or almond liquor (For a non-alcoholic version you can also use diluted lemon juice.)
C) Decoration on top:
- Raspberry jam
- Sugar icing (Powdered sugar + few drops of water)
How to do it:
1. Crush the gingerbread cookies with a blender. I don’t have a blender so I just used the old ziplock-bag + something similar to a hammer technique. Worked like a charm. Then, mix the cookie crumbs, almond flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, ground cardamom and vanilla sugar.
2. Whisk the butter and sugar to make a froth. Add eggs one by one to the froth. Finally, add the flour-baking power-spice mixture as well as the cream little by little alternating a little flour mix, a little cream, a little flour mix, a little cream…
3. Ideally, you’re supposed to use specific Runeberg cake molds that give the cakes their characteristic cylindrical shape. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my hands on any such molds, so I just opted for silicone muffin wells. Later, I cut the tops off the muffins, turned them around and voilà, had semi-cylindrical shaped cakes!
4. Bake the cakes/muffins for 20-25 minutes at 200ºC.
5. Once you take the cakes out of the oven, let them cool down.
6. After the cakes have cooled down, cut the “hat” off the muffin to make it more even. Then, flip the muffins over so that the part missing the hat is facing down and the bottom is now facing up.
7. For the sugar-water-arrack syrup mix the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once completely cooled, add the arrack (or diluted lemon juice for a non-alcoholic version.)
8. Dip the muffin into the mixture for about five seconds. Turn the cake the other way round and repeat.
9. Finally, add about a teaspoon of raspberry jam to the top of the cake. Decorate with sugar icing. To make the icing, mix approximately 1 dl of powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of water. Less is more, so be careful to not add too much water!
10. Enjoy the (sweet) fruits of your labour and perhaps read some Runeberg while you’re at it!
These cakes are definitely not the most beautiful ones ever made, but for my first time I was pretty darn impressed with the result. And the taste was absolutely exquisite, even if I do say so myself!