A coffee cake to honor a tradition

Nothing is as Norwegian as “Kaffi og Kake”

Photo: Sunny Gandara This coffee cake contains actual coffee—and is best consumed with coffee.

Photo: Sunny Gandara
This coffee cake contains actual coffee—and is best consumed with coffee.

Sunny Gandara
Arctic Grub

The first time I took my American husband to Norway, he was amazed at how much coffee Norwegians drink. Not only for breakfast, but once again before lunch, then after lunch, before dinner, and most importantly, after dinner, accompanied by a wide array of cookies and cakes. When you go for a visit at someone’s home in Norway, it is pretty much guaranteed that you will be offered a cup (or three) of coffee along with whatever homemade pastries are in the house. This is regarded as customary and is a big tradition and sign of hospitality in Norwegian homes.

According to my husband, all Norwegians should be super wired all the time (not to mention overweight!), but observing most people in that country, they are still pretty reserved and mellow and have yet to catch up to Americans in size. Everything in moderation (except maybe coffee).

Personally I no longer drink coffee at night, unless I’m visiting family and friends back home. I prefer other beverages, but nothing can really substitute that “cozy” evening coffee with all the wonderful baked goods found in the country. This phenomenon led me to research a bit as to why Norwegians are among the top coffee consumers in the world, delving into the history and background of the popularity of this beverage in my own country.

Coffee had arrived in Norway by the end of the 17th century, but it really didn’t become a hit until around 1850. Many people believed this was the case because in 1842 liquor became illegal in Norway and coffee filled the void. “The consumption of hot drinks, especially coffee, has increased, while liquor has decreased,” some doctors in Norway reported. Around 1860, several reports of excessive consumption and “abuse” of coffee arrived. Essentially, people had replaced alcohol and tobacco with coffee, and this was a big concern for the medical community, especially since children also were drinking coffee. Some people enjoyed this beverage so much, they gave up other household groceries in order to be able to buy more coffee. Coffee was considered a necessity even for poor people, and stories of “women drinking coffee night and day” were often heard. Because of this increased devouring of coffee, the amount of meals went up as well, since the morning and afternoon coffee were accompanied by bread and butter. During the Second World War, there was a shortage of coffee, and at one time imports completely ceased. This was because coffee was being exchanged in dollars, a currency that was lacking in Norway. The solution was to trade dried cod (abundant in Norway) for coffee with Brazil. To this day, you will find all kinds of regional “bacalao” dishes in Brazil, as a result of both the Portuguese and Brazilians trading dried cod with the Norwegians.

Norwegians have always had a restrained relationship to alcohol due to the aforementioned restrictions. Where other cultures might relax with a glass of wine after work on a weekday night, we usually resort to the coffee pot. This is slowly changing with the new generation, however, as wine and spirit consumption is slowly gaining ground and getting more accepted as a beverage not only to enjoy on weekends or holidays.

Some modern statistics from today: around 40,000 tons of coffee are imported to Norway every year, i.e. around 20 pounds per person. This translates into each person over the age of 15 years drinking on average four cups of coffee daily. This is 0.5% of all coffee being produced in the world. Not a bad number for a country of barely five million people! Every household spends on average $120 a year on coffee. There is a popular saying: “Without coffee, Norway will cease to function.” As Norwegians are getting wealthier, coffee consumption is growing in conjunction with people’s higher incomes. I should also mention that the rest of Scandinavia can also boast a high consumption of coffee—in 2010 Finland was the one who imported the most, translating into 33 pounds per inhabitant, compared to 21 pounds per person in Norway.

Coffee remains an extremely important part of everyday life for Norwegians, as can be seen in the explosion of new coffee shops being opened around the country. In 2012, Starbucks opened its first store in Norway at the airport in Oslo, with more stores planned going forward. A lot of people I spoke with were excited to see this happening, while others cringed at the thought of Norway becoming more “Americanized” and dominated by chains. Only time will tell if this will be detrimental to the survival of all the cute little independent coffee shops in existence now, or if Norwegians are thirsty enough for coffee to be able to support both outlets.

So far, my fellow countrymen are showing no signs of stopping their caffeine habit—there are far too many cold and dark days in the year for hot, caffeinated drinks to drop out of fashion.

Norwegians are also perhaps the most inventive people on earth when it comes to cake creations. There are so many different kinds, not just the traditional ones Norwegian-Americans might be familiar with (Mor Monsen, fyrstekake, bløtkake, kransekake, and marsipankake, to name a few). Feeling the pressure of coming up with a cake that I feel represents both Norway but also has a modern touch to it, I wanted to put together a creation that combines cinnamon and almonds (staples in Norwegian cuisine) along with one of my favorite ingredients: chocolate! I came across a delicious-looking recipe by The Vegan and the Chef for an Espresso Chocolate Coffee Cake, and I have to say I was not disappointed. This is one of the better cakes I’ve made in a while. I hope you will enjoy it—but don’t you dare to eat a piece without the accompaniment of a cup of coffee!

Photo: Sunny Gandara

Photo: Sunny Gandara

Chocolate Espresso Coffee Cake with a Norwegian Touch
Adapted from from the wonderful blog The Vegan and the Chef (www.theveganandthechef.com/espresso-chocolate-chunk-coffee-cake), this cake can be made vegan with ingredients such as a flax egg, vegan butter substitute, and dairy-free chocolate chips, if you’d like. If you don’t happen to have oat flour on hand, feel free to grind oats in a blender. Serves 10.

1 cup almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup oat flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. instant espresso powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup apple sauce
1/3 cup strongly brewed coffee
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or vaniljesukker)
1 tsp. almond extract
¼ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsps warm water, (a flax egg)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For Streusel:
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
5 tbsps. butter or vegan alternative
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder

For Glaze:
1 tsp. butter or vegan alternative
2 tbsps. chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsps. almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 10-inch springform pan or round cake pan, or line it with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the almond milk and vinegar and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oat flour, almond flour, all-purpose flour, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In another large bowl, stir together the apple sauce, coffee, vanilla and almond extracts, brown sugar, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flax egg and almond milk mixture and stir until combined.

Add the flour mixture to the apple sauce mixture and stir until smooth, then stir in the chocolate chips and pour into the prepared pan.

To make the streusel, mix the brown sugar, flour, almonds, butter, and espresso powder in a large bowl, using your hands to break down the butter and work it into the flour until it reaches a sand-like consistency. Sprinkle over the cake batter. Bake until a toothpick tester comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool for at least 15 minutes, then remove from the pan.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Sift the powdered sugar to remove any lumps, and set aside. Melt the butter and chocolate chips in the microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring as you go, until smooth. Scoop into a mixing bowl and alternately add the powdered sugar and almond milk in two batches, whisking until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and give it a final whisk to combine. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

Sunny Gandara has over 15 years experience in marketing and PR, both in the music and beverage industry. In 2008 she founded her own company, Fork and Glass, a food and wine event and consulting company, located in the Hudson Valley of New York. She now focuses on education, giving seminars and classes to private and corporate groups. Sunny, a native of Norway, is a professionally trained cook and holds a diploma in Wines & Spirits from the WSET.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 8, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.