Scandinavian Butter Cake

If I could pick one country to move to, for sheer choice of sweet treats alone, it would be Sweden. Well, anywhere in Scandinavia really.

Scandinavians have such a love for all things sweet and carby which is why Scandinavian baking and me, is the perfect match. After flicking through one of my favourite cookbooks, Fika and Hygge, I spotted a recipe for a butter cake that sounded like the perfect indulgence that I needed to cheer me up on a gloomy Sunday.

It’s a cake that isn’t really a cake at all, but I’m not sure what else you would call it. An enriched dough is filled with almond paste, creme patissiere and then topped with more dough filled with almond paste. Oh and don’t forget the sultanas in the middle and the flaked almonds on the top.

Best served at room temperature, this is a treat; a showstopper of a cake that has so many flavours and textures for you to enjoy. Perfect to have with a steaming hot cup of coffee in the afternoon, just as the Scandi’s would do!

A recipe that is unlike anything I have ever made before, it requires a few separate elements and a little bit of patience. At first I thought it would be complicated, but in fact, it’s quite simple if you do each part separately and don’t rush. First, you make a simple creme patissiere, something that is simple to master if you follow the instructions and take your time with. Next, an enriched dough is made (best to use your hands and get mucky!) and left to prove. While that is proving you can easily whip up the almond paste which is to be set aside. Three separate elements, which are simple enough on their own. Assemble of the cake is simple and after a final prove, it’s ready for the oven. Its a lot of waiting and faff, but I promise, the end result is worth it! 

Ingredients for the cake

  • 2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 150ml milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 400g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 50g sultanas
  • 25g flaked almonds

Ingredients for the creme patissiere

  • 500ml milk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste (or seeds from a vanilla pod)
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk (reserve the egg white for brushing over the cake)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 30g cornflour
  • 25g butter, softened

Ingredients for the almond paste 

  • 100g marzipan
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 75g light brown sugar

Method for the cake 

  1. Gently warm the milk in a pan until it reaches lukewarm – add the yeast and whisk together. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 15 minutes or until it starts to go foamy
  2. Add the yeast and milk mixture to a large bowl and then add the egg and sugar, whisk together
  3. Start to add the flour and butter alternatively, mixing using your hands, until all the flour and butter has been used up and you are left with a nice soft dough
  4. Leave to rise in a warm place for one hour

Method for the creme patissiere

  1. Gently heat the milk in a pan along with the vanilla
  2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and cornflour until the egg starts to turn a shade paler and no lumps of cornflour remain
  3. When the milk has reached boiling, pour one-third of the milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously as you do so
  4. Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the pan and on the heat, whisk the mixture until it starts to thicken
  5. Once thickened, pour through a sieve into a clean bowl – this is to get rid of any lumps. Add the butter and whisk until it has melted and thoroughly combined
  6. Place a piece of clingfilm on the top of the creme patissiere to stop a skin from forming – leave to cool.

Method for the almond paste 

  1. Grate the marzipan into a bowl
  2. Add the softened butter and sugar and beat until thoroughly combined – set aside.

To assemble and cook

  1. Grease and flour a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin
  2. Once the dough has risen, take out of the bowl and gently knead to bring it all together. Take one-third of the dough and roll into a circle that is big enough to cover the bottom of the cake tin – press into the tin (it doesn’t need to come up the sides, it just needs to cover the bottom)
  3. Take the remaining two-thirds of the dough and roll into a large rectangle about 15cm wide. Spread the almond paste on the rectangle, then roll into a tight swirl. Cut into eight equal portions until you end up with eight fat swirls of dough (you may need to flatten them to make them ‘plumper’).
  4. Spread one-third of the almond paste onto the bottom of the cake tin and then top with about half of the creme patissiere (save the other half to serve with it!). Scatter with the sultanas. Top with the eight almond swirls and then leave to rise for another hour
  5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180oc
  6. Brush the swirls with the leftover egg white from earlier, then scatter with the flaked almonds. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for the final 20 minutes
  7. Once the cake is cooked, leave to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar.
  8. Serve with any leftover creme patissiere.

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