Make kransekaker fit for a celebration
Put a ring on it
Christine Foster Meloni
When the kransekake workshop was announced in the Capital Viking, the newsletter of the Washington, D.C., Sons of Norway lodge, the response was overwhelming. Capacity was quickly exceeded and a waiting list created.
The presenter was Rannveig Fredheim, who grew up on a small farm in Stryn in Nordfjord, in western Norway. She learned how to cook at an early age and also took part in the yearly slaughter of animals for food.
Fredheim has lived in the United States since 1985 but still maintains many of her Norwegian traditions. As she says, food is a big part of any cultural heritage. Every year, for example, she salts and dries lamb ribs for the traditional pinnekjøtt for Christmas.
When Fredheim was growing up, kransekaker were never made in her home because of the expense of the ingredients. She started making them several years ago when she was asked to make some for a friend and then for the lodge’s annual Christmas bazaar.
Kransekake (“wreath cake”) is made of concentric rings of almond confection drizzled with frosting. The rings are firm to the touch, but delightfully soft and chewy. They are popular in Norway and Denmark as the crowning dessert for special occasions such as weddings, baptisms, and holidays like Syttende Mai.
Fredheim recounted an interesting wedding tradition. The bride and groom are often blindfolded and then given a knife to cut the cake horizontally. The number of rings above the cut signifies how many children the couple will have!
She admits that it is tricky to get a kransekake to turn out just right. She knows friends who have given up and thrown their rings away. She does not consider herself an expert, but she feels she must be doing something right since so many of her customers come back year after year.
Before giving the participants the green light to begin, she shared the following special tips from her experience:
• Spray the rings with baking spray and use a basting brush to get into every part. For a gluten-free cake, use spray without flour and lightly sprinkle pans with cornmeal, tapping out the excess cornmeal.
• Bake two rings on a cookie sheet for easy removal from the oven. This avoids thumbprints in the soft, fresh-baked dough!
• Bake only one set of two rings at a time and turn the cookie sheet midway through baking to ensure even color. Fredheim recommends 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes.
• You could use pre-ground almonds, but grinding your own gives better flavor.
• The baked rings are very crisp when they cool down after baking but become a bit chewy after standing overnight.
• The rings freeze well. To fit in freezer, stack half of the smaller rings first, then place a stack of the larger rings over them. That is, the small stack fits inside the larger. You can ice the rings the day you want to use them.
The enthusiastic workshop participants were then divided into teams to roll the dough, bake it to the right color (the key to success), frost, stack, and decorate the cakes.
Twelve-year-old Katarina Knight was one of the youngest participants. She enjoys attending the lodge’s events, because she is then proud to share what she learns with her classmates. In April, her school sponsored a festival called “A Trip around the World,” and she and her mother set up a booth about Norway. She came to the workshop to learn how to make the beautiful and unusual Norwegian wedding cake and prepared one to display at her festival.
Barbara Belseth Lopatin had joined Sons of Norway the day before the workshop and was excited to jump right in. All four of her grandparents emigrated from Norway as teenagers. She had made kransekaker before but thought that making them was a lot of work. She came to learn some labor-saving tips.
Lance Wright was one of three men at the workshop. He has no family ties to Norway but became interested in Norway because he has trouble dealing with cold weather and found that Norwegian sweaters were the best protection against the cold. The sweaters turned out to be a gateway to everything Norwegian. He had bought kransekake rings five years ago but had not yet taken them out of the box.
This was Fredheim’s first workshop, and it was a resounding success.
1 lb. almonds, ground into almond meal (use a food processor)
1 lb. powdered sugar
2-3 large egg whites
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white (pasteurized liquid egg whites are best)
Mix almond meal, powdered sugar, and egg whites very well. The dough should be firm, but not dry. Form dough into a ball and cool, overnight if possible, in the refrigerator.
Roll dough out into ½” thick ropes to the lengths that fit the kransekake rings. Bake at 350°F for 12 to 15 minutes until golden in color (not brown). Place forms in a cool place so they will cool quickly. When cooled, carefully lift each ring from the form, loosening the ring with the tip of a butter knife.
Mix powdered sugar and egg white to make the icing. Make sure it’s not too thin; it should be the right consistency to force through a decorating bag.
Stack the rings and decorate with the icing.
This article originally appeared in the May 3, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.