Cake as heavenly as a cloud(berry)

This cream cake comes together easily, even if you don’t have fresh cloudberries

Cream cake with cloudberries

Photo: Lindsey Johnson
This bløtkake (Norwegian cream cake) is made with chiffon cake layers, filled with a cardamom-infused custard, cloudberry jam, and cream, and frosted with a mildly tangy whipped cream.

Lindsey Rose Johnson
Cafe Johnsonia

When my husband and I were in Norway years ago, we took every opportunity to partake of local cuisine. Besides enjoying as much fish as we could, we stopped multiple times at local markets and stands to buy locally grown strawberries and cloudberries.

I had heard of cloudberries before, but I had never tasted them. My first cloudberry left me with mixed feelings—I loved the tart, bright flavor and juiciness, but the seeds! I wasn’t sure the flavor was worth picking seeds out of my teeth afterwards. The seeds are enormous compared with other berries. But I grew to love cloudberries by the time we left for home.

Cloudberries grow wild in alpine, arctic tundra, and boreal forest climates. Cloudberry is a common name for the orange raspberry-like berry, known as multe in Norwegian. They are also known by other regional names—in England as the knot berry, in Canada as bakeapple or nordic berry, and in Alaska as the low-bush salmonberry.

While cloudberries can be cultivated, outside of Scandinavia, they can be found growing wild in the marshlands and tundras of Canada, Greenland, Alaska, and the northernmost parts of Minnesota, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York. I have heard from friends that sometimes if you’re lucky, you can find cloudberries in higher elevations in Washington State and Oregon. I’m going to buy some seeds I found online and try my hand at growing cloudberries in my backyard in Boise, Idaho, where I live. I have a feeling it won’t be cold enough.

If you are lucky enough to find fresh cloudberries, reserve some for this cake. Because I can’t find fresh cloudberries, I rely on cloudberry jam. Luckily, IKEA carries cloudberry jam most of the time—I have come away empty-handed a few times. Also look for it at special stores or online. (By the way, other types of berry jam work well too—try lingonberry preserves during the holidays!)

Norwegian cream cakes are layer cakes made with sponge cake, fresh whipped cream, fresh or preserved fruit, and sometimes custard or pastry cream. My version uses a chiffon cake with a bit of almond flour mixed into the batter, and is filled with a cardamom-infused custard, cloudberry jam, and cream, and the outside is frosted with a mildly tangy custard-enriched whipped cream.

The cake is the very best after it has been sitting for a few hours or overnight—the flavors blend together, and it’s a little easier to cut into neat slices. Feel free to add fresh berries between the layers and on top as a decoration. I opted for more jam because it’s just too pretty to not show off.

Norwegian Cream Cake with Cloudberries Bløtkake med multekrem

Cake:

three 9” round cake pans

parchment paper rounds, for pans

8 large eggs, separated

¼ cup flavorless oil (canola, avocado)

13 cup water

2 tsps. pure vanilla extract

½ tsp. pure almond extract (optional)

½ tsp. cream of tartar

1 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup almond flour or almond meal

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

Filling & whipped cream:

15 oz. jar cloudberry jam

1 tbsp. honey or cane syrup (optional)

Cardamom-Infused Custard (recipe follows)

Custard-Enriched Whipped Cream (recipe follows)

Cream cake with cloudberries

Photo: Lindsey Johnson

Instructions:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350°F. Use one of the pans to trace three 9-inch circles on parchment paper. Cut and fit into the bottom of the cake pans. Do not grease pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with melted butter, water, and extracts. Set aside.

If egg whites are still cold, allow them to come to room temperature. Otherwise, start beating them on medium-low speed with stand mixer or electric hand mixer. Once the whites become a little foamy around the edges, add the cream of tartar. Keep beating on medium-low speed until very soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating on medium-low speed until egg whites form glossy peaks—do not overbeat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk or sift together the remaining sugar, flour, almond flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir vigorously with a whisk to incorporate some extra air. Add the egg-yolk mixture and stir just until combined.

Using a large spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter one-third at a time. Don’t over-mix. There may still be some streaks of egg white, but there should not be any dry ingredients that are unincorporated.

Divide the batter evenly among the three pans, smoothing the tops with an offset spatula. Place in oven, making sure to leave a little space between the pans. Bake for 16 minutes, or until centers spring back when lightly pressed, a cake tester comes out clean, and tops are lightly golden brown. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on wire cooling racks.

Once cakes are cool, run a very thin spatula around the edge of the pans to loosen the cake. Gently turn the pans over one at a time, keeping a hand on the cake, and un-mold the cakes. Peel away the parchment paper and place cakes back on racks.

Lightly wrap with plastic wrap and chill until very cold. This helps keep the delicate cake from crumbling during assembly. At this point, the cakes can be wrapped well with plastic wrap and refrigerated (for 2-3 days) or frozen (1-2 weeks wrapped a second time with foil) until ready to assemble cake.

To assemble:

Split the cakes in half horizontally to create six thin layers. Handle them very gently. (If they do break apart, just fit them together over the filling, and they should hold together just fine.)

Place first cake layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread 1/2 cup custard evenly to the edges. Place its other half on top and gently press down. Spread 1/2 cup whipped cream over the layer.

Stir the jam to loosen it. If it’s a little too thick, add the tablespoon honey or cane syrup. Spoon 1/4 cup of the jam over the top of the cream and lightly spread it out. Top with third cake layer.

Repeat process with remaining three layers: spread with 1/2 cup custard, top with another layer, spread with 1/2 cup whipped cream, and spoon 1/4 cup jam over the cream, etc. Reserve the remaining jam for the top.

Place about 1 cup of the whipped cream on top of the final layer. Spread it over the top and allow some to fall down the sides. Use a thin icing spatula or bench scraper to smooth the tops and sides. Spoon jam into the center and spread it out to cover the top.

Place in fridge for about 15-20 minutes. Frost cake with remaining whipped cream. If desired, pipe a decorative border around the top and bottom of the cake or sprinkle slivered or sliced almonds around the edge.

Allow to chill for at least an hour before serving. This will allow the cake to set up and will make it easier to slice.

Will keep for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. Can also be frozen, well-wrapped, for up to several weeks, but the texture may be affected.

Cardamom-Infused Custard

2½ cups whole milk

3-4 green whole cardamom pods or pinch ground cardamom

6 large egg yolks

½ cup granulated sugar

5 tbsps. cornstarch

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch salt

2 tbsps. butter, cut into 4 cubes

Place whole milk in a 2- to 3-quart sauce pan. Turn heat to medium and allow milk to almost come to a simmer. There will be small bubbles around the edge of the pan. Turn heat off. Add cardamom pods, cover, and allow to steep for 20-30 minutes. (If using ground cardamom, skip this step.)

Remove the pods and discard. Heat milk again over medium just until very hot to the touch, but not boiling.

While milk is reheating, whisk egg yolks with sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, ground cardamom (if not using pods), and salt until thick and smooth.

While whisking, gradually add the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture. Pour everything into the saucepan. Turn heat to medium. Cook, stirring or whisking frequently, and making sure to get the bottom and sides to prevent scorching.

Once the mixture starts to bubble all over, keep whisking or stirring and cook for three full minutes. It will become very thick. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, one cube at a time.

Transfer to a clean bowl. Press waxed paper or plastic wrap against the surface of the custard. Let cool for a bit, then place in fridge until cold, about 3-4 hours.

Custard-Enriched Whipped Cream

3 cups heavy cream, very cold

1 tbsp. powdered sugar

¼ cup sour cream or crème fraîche

¼ cup Cardamom-Infused Custard

Beat heavy cream and powdered sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the sour cream or crème fraîche and custard. Beat again until thick enough to spread.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble cake. If making ahead, beat or whisk briefly before assembling cake.

Lindsey Rose Johnson is the granddaughter of a full-blooded Norwegian raised in the Dakotas. Lindsey, her husband and children, and their two adorable pups live in the beautiful city of Boise, Idaho, where she earns her keep by developing recipes for her clients, photographing the delicious results, and freelancing as a cookbook photographer. More of her recipes can be found at CafeJohnsonia.com.

This article originally appeared in the July 26, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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