Winner of a cake

Whip up a traditional sølvkake with orange zest and poppy seeds for an elegant coffee treat

Sølvkake

CHRISTY OLSEN FIELD
Taste of Norway Editor
The Norwegian American

This sølvkake is my victory cake, because my oven is officially back in commission!

In November, shortly after I completed the Christmas Cookie Extravaganza, my oven broke. (It turns out that if you crank up the temperature to 500°F to bake sourdough loaves a few times a week, it can stress out your oven and even lead to its untimely demise.) 

I went to the appliance store to pick out a new oven, and quickly made a decision, so we could get a new one installed as quickly as possible. However, COVID-19 has upended supply chains across the world, and there is an  unprecedented demand for appliances (because of people being at home so much and wanting to upgrade them). We were told repeatedly how lucky we were to find an oven even in stock. I had big hopes that the oven would be installed by Christmas, but then installation was delayed three times because of wiring issues and other annoyances.

Finally, in late January, the new 30-inch range was installed without a hiccup. I even hugged the oven after the installation team left. Since then, I have been baking up for lost time.

One of my recent bakes is sølvkake (silver cake), which is a traditional Norwegian cake and typically baked in a fluted cake pan or loaf pan. It is a winner of a cake, perfect for a snack with a cup of coffee or even dessert.

The sølvkake is a variation on formkake (pound cake), with a rich base of butter, cream, and sugar, but lightened with the addition of whipped egg whites. The “sølv” (silver) part of sølvkake is a nod to the use of egg whites, whereas the cake’s opposite is gullkake (gold cake), which utilizes egg yolks for the “gold.”

Surprisingly, there aren’t many food writers who have written about sølvkake. In my research, I learned that sølvkake was part of Henrik Ibsen’s family’s kakebord (cake table), and the Telemark Museum serves it as an option during the Easter holiday season. I also found many pictures of Norwegian winter athletes enjoying sølvkake after winning a medal. 

In a few rounds of recipe testing, I settled on adapting a recipe by Kristine Ilstad on her blog, Det Søte Liv (The Sweet Life), at detsoteliv.no. Det Søte Liv is a wonderful blog in Norwegian that features all things sweet, and she features many traditional Norwegian recipes. Her sølvkake calls for more butter and cream than other recipes, but it results in a tender, rich cake. I also added orange zest and poppy seeds, based on a recipe from MatPrat.no. 

A few notes about this recipe:

Add the orange zest into the sugar as your first step, and rub it between your fingers for a minute or two. This will help release the essential oils from the zest and infuse the sugar. It will be wonderfully fragrant and worth the effort.

I add the extracts, baking soda, and salt when I cream the butter and sugar. It’s an excellent way to ensure they are fully incorporated into the batter, and it won’t affect the creaming process.

This recipe calls for mixing the ingredients in a mixing bowl, transferring it to another bowl, and washing it thoroughly before whipping the egg whites. I am always looking for a way to simplify a recipe to wash fewer dishes. However, egg whites will not whip if there is any remaining fat in the bowl, so this is an essential step to the success of your sølvkake.

I learned that sølvkake can be frozen easily, but I wouldn’t know, since my test tasters enthusiastically devoured it!

Have you had sølvkake before? Do you know more about its history? I’d love to hear from you! Write to me at food@na-weekly.com.

Sølvkake
Silver Cake

By Christy Olsen Field
Adapted from Det Søte Liv blog (detsoteliv.no) and MatPrat.no

1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
Zest of one orange
10 tbsps. unsalted butter (1¼ sticks),
room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
2 tsps. baking soda
½ tsp. table salt
2/3 cups heavy cream
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsps. poppy seeds
5 egg whites, room temperature
2–4 tbsps. sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Powdered sugar to garnish

Specialty equipment: Mixer

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and the orange zest. Rub the zest between your fingers into the sugar for a minute or two to release the essential oils.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, and baking soda until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.
  4. Add in the heavy cream, and mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Add in the flour and poppy seeds and stir until the flour is combined. It will be a thick batter.
  6. Scrape out the batter into a large bowl and set aside.
  7. Thoroughly wash the mixing bowl. Any remnants of fat can prevent your egg whites from whipping properly.
  8. With the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, where they hold their shape when the whisk is lifted. It is easy to overwhip the whites, so keep a careful eye on it.
  9. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. It will feel like the two will not combine well, but persevere. It will come together.
  10. Scrape into the buttered loaf pan, smooth the top of the batter, and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes, and then remove the cake from the pan if desired.
  12. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and sliced almonds to garnish. Enjoy!

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 26, 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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