Old-school classic: Grunnlovsdessert

Grunnlovsdessert, or Constitution Day Dessert, is easy to make ahead of time with pantry ingredients

cups of grunnlovsdessert

Photo: Mari Svenningsen / MatPrat
Grunnlovsdessert celebrates spring and Norwegian Constitution Day with a rhubarb and dried plum compote, a luscious vanilla custard, and topped with whipped cream and almonds.


CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American

When it comes to Norwegian Constitution Day, desserts are an important part of the celebration. Pavlova is a favorite of the day (you can find my pavlova recipe from 2020: norwegianamerican.com/pavlova-new-norwegian-tradition), as well as bløtkake (cream cake), and, of course, ice cream. But I am excited to share a recipe that is new to me: Grunnlovsdessert!

Grunnlovsdessert is an old-school Norwegian dessert: A simple rabarbra- og sviskekompott (rhubarb and prune compote), layered with luscious vaniljekrem (vanilla custard), and topped with whipped cream and chopped almonds. You can serve it in individual serving dishes or a large glass bowl. Best of all, it’s easy to make the components ahead of time for an effortless dessert.

The origins of the name are a bit mysterious. I didn’t find reference to grunnlovsdessert in any of my Scandinavian cookbooks, and I found very little information available online. I finally found a hint at its history by Norwegian cookbook author Åsa Kongsvik. On her website Gardskjøkkenet, she writes:

“I found the recipe while working on my cookbook Ta Kaka in a cookbook that my mother had at husmorskole [home economics school] in the 1950s. I would like to believe that the dessert was just in the joy of spring with fresh flavors, especially after many years of occupation and war. The dessert was named grunnlovsdessert and has ingredients that were considered a luxury at the time: sugar, eggs, whipped cream, vanilla, almonds. Only the rhubarb was free, since many people had it in abundance in the gardens.”

Sugar and eggs are now everyday pantry items for most folks, but this recipe is a great reminder of how simple ingredients can come together to make a special dessert to celebrate spring and Norwegian ingredients.

Here are a few notes about this recipe:

Potato starch is a thickening agent that is often found in Norwegian dessert recipes. I don’t have much experience with it, but I really liked the texture of the compote by using it. You can find it at the grocery store in the baking aisle, and it’s a great grain-free option to cornstarch. 

This vaniljekrem (vanilla custard) is divine. I made several batches, and I am quite pleased with the final result. The key to its success is whisking constantly as you temper the egg mixture. If you don’t whisk, it can result in a scrambled egg consistency (learn from my mistake!). If you like this custard, it can also be served with fresh berries for an easy dessert, as a filling in skolebrød buns or cakes, or pavlova. You can of course buy store-bought vanilla custard, but I encourage you to give this a try! It’s so good.

This recipe is a great opportunity to use a real vanilla bean, but I use vanilla extract without hesitation. I frequently used vanilla beans in my kitchen a few years ago, but I can’t justify the cost with prices around $9 per bean these days. Vanilla extract still brings a delicious result, even without the vanilla bean flecks in the custard.

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do. Gratulerer med dagen! Happy Norwegian Constitution Day!

What do you like to serve for Norwegian Constitution Day? Do you know more about the history of grunnlovsdessert? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me at food@na-weekly.com.

Grunnlovsdessert

Constitution Day Dessert

(Gluten-free)

Serves 6 

By Christy Olsen Field

Vaniljekrem 

2 cups milk

2 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup cornstarch

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/8 tsp. table salt

2 tsps. vanilla extract *

Rhubarb and Dried Plum Compote

3/4 lb. rhubarb (about 4 stalks)

1 cup dried plums (make sure there aren’t any pits or pit fragments!)

11/4 cups water

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tbsps. potato starch

3 tbsps. cold water

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

To garnish:

1 cup whipping cream, chilled

1 tsp. sugar

3 tbsps. almonds, finely chopped

Here’s how you make it:

First, prepare the vaniljekrem. You will want to make this at least 4 hours before you prepare to serve it, so it has time to chill thoroughly in the fridge. 

In a saucepan, bring the milk and whipping cream to a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch, egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. 

Now, temper the egg mixture: Take a ladleful of the hot milk, and slowly pour it into the egg mixture while whisking vigorously. Repeat with two more ladles of milk, whisking constantly. 

Now gently pour the egg mixture into the hot milk, whisking constantly. 

Bring back to a simmer while whisking constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 3–5 minutes. 

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and pour the custard into a heat-proof bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface if you like so the top doesn’t thicken. 

Let cool at room temperature for an hour, and then place in the fridge until thoroughly chilled.

Next, prepare the rhubarb compote. If your rhubarb is tough, you might need to peel it. Cut the rhubarb into 2-inch lengths. 

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and water, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add in the rhubarb and prunes and cook until the rhubarb is just tender. 

Meanwhile, whisk together the potato starch and cold water in a small bowl. Gently pour it into the rhubarb mixture, whisking constantly, and cook over low heat until it thickens. 

Stir in the vanilla extract. Remove from the heat and let the compote cool completely.

Just before you assemble, whip the chilled cream and sugar to soft peaks in a medium bowl. 

Now you’re ready to assemble it: The first layer is the compote, followed by a generous serving of the vanilla custard. 

Add a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped almonds. Serve and enjoy!

* If you want to use a vanilla bean, slice in half lengthwise and scrape out the vanilla bean seeds with the back of the knife. Add the seeds and the pod to the milk and whipping cream and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes to infuse the flavor. Remove the pod, and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Omit the 2 tsps. of vanilla extract.

This article originally appeared in the May 7, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Christy Olsen Field

Christy Olsen Field became the Taste of Norway Editor in April 2019. She worked on the editorial staff of the Norwegian American Weekly from 2008 to 2012. An enthusiastic home cook and baker, she lives north of Seattle with her husband and two young sons. She is also a grantwriter for small nonprofits in the Seattle area.

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