Most Popular Traditional Danish Cakes & Cookies
This small Scandinavian country with only 5.8 million inhabitants is known for many things, including its delicious cookies and pastries.
One place with a significant history in baking is South Jutland, known for its traditional “coffee meetings”. But, even though the name reminds us of the famous Sweden’s coffee gatherings, it is not the same thing.
A South Jutland cake table consists of no less than 21 different dry, soft and hard cakes which will be served with coffee or tea. The 21 cakes consists of seven dry, seven soft and seven hard cakes.
The cake table became popular in Southern Jutland in the middle of the 19th century. The background in this story, was that coffee had become cheaper and ovens more reliable around those years.
After Southern Jutland became a part of Prussia in 1864, the Prussian authorities did not always grant liquor licenses to the inns where the Danes gathered. Assembly halls were therefore built where the Danish speaking could meet together.
Coffee and cakes were served here, and everyone brought different kinds of baking goods, delicious pastries filled up the long serving tables. There was sharp competition between bakers to see who could bake the tastiest and most eye-catching cakes. Pies or cream cakes tested their skills.
The tradition flourished during the Second World War, when it was forbidden to hold meetings, but since it was okey to have coffee meetings, southerners used this loophole in the law to meet. The large coffee gatherings flourished especially among independent farmers. They had plenty of eggs, sugar, flour, cream, and more.
The large cake selection was created at a time of hard physical work and sparse everyday food. It was common to dish up the full coffee table at all festive events, and there should preferably be so many pastries, that twice as many people could have been invited.
One reason why the coffee meetings in South Jutland seemed more voluminous than in the rest of the country was the particular serving technique, followed even in private homes well into the 20th century: cake trays were passed quickly around, one after the other, and everyone piled their side plate up with cakes, at least three or four different kinds.
An example from a 1950’s South Jutland coffee meeting: Freshly baked, buttered French bread, baker’s pastry, cream cakes, 1-2 pies, and 4-5 different cookies.
Let’s round-up some of the most popular traditional Danish cookies.
1. Brunkage (Brownie)
Description: Thin, circular or square, brown cookie with a rich spicy taste.
When invented: The cake’s seasoning is characteristic of the Middle Ages, and it was around this time that it was invented. Brown cake was formerly known as gingerbread, precisely because it, like the peppercorn, contained pepper.
2. Jødekager (Jutland Cake)
Description: Thin, round cookie with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
When invented: Recipes for Jutland cakes can be found as far back as 1856. The cake must have looked like a Jutlandish cake sprinkled with cinnamon or cardamom.
3. Napoleonshat (Napoleon Hat)
Type: Dry cake/Cookie
Description: Shortcrust pastry shaped like a Napoleon hat with marzipan filling, its flat base is coated with dark chocolate.
When invented: The age of the cake is not known precisely. It was probably invented in the second half of the 1800s, when many baked goods were named after Napoleon.
4. Fragilite (Fragility)
Description: Square cake consisting of thin layers of macaroon with a filling of thin layers of mocca buttercream. The top is sprinkled with icing sugar.
When invented: Ut was invented by baker Johannes Steen around 1910. That the cake has a French name is typical for the period because it sounds fine and classy – a bit like rice a la mande, which is, after all, a traditional Danish rice pudding, says food historian Bi Skaarup.
5. Hindbærsnitter (Raspberry Slices)
Type: Sandwich Cookie
Description: A rectangular thin cake made of 2 layers of shortcrust pastry with raspberry jam in between and icing on top.
When invented: In the 18th century. Originally, the raspberry slice consisted of many layers of shortcrust pastry with raspberry jam in between.
“Anna Anker’s mother was an expert of the cake and owned Brøndum’s hotel in Skagen, where it was served. H.C. Andersen came all the way to Skagen to eat her raspberry slices”, says food historian Bi Skaarup.
6. Genuine Christiansfelder Gingerbread (Ægte Christianfelder Honningkage)
Description: The dark brown cakes are sold in a wide range of shapes and sizes, with or without chocolate coating, icing, and cream or jam filling.
Wheninvented: 1873. Sugar baker Christian E. Rasch began producing the cakes that have made Christiansfeld famous both in Denmark and abroad.
7. Vanilla Wreath (Vaniljekrans)
Description: Vanilla-flavored cookie shaped like a circular wreath with a star-shaped cross-section.
When invented: The 1840s. The vanilla wreath is from the heyday of cookies in the 1840s, when households got iron stoves, allowing people to bake easily.
8. Pepper Nut (Pebernød)
Description: Small, richly spiced brown cakes.
When invented: The Middle Ages. Peppernuts are among the first cakes to be baked in Denmark. They are known from the Middle Ages, when they were probably baked from rye bread dough with added spices.
9. Wreath Cake (Kransekage)
Type: Dry cake
Description: Small oblong light marzipan cake with a triangular cross-section decorated with thin, transverse stripes of white icing, possibly with dark chocolate on the inside.
When invented: Cakes baked from marzipan can be found in the oldest Danish cookbook from 1616.
The wreathcake, as it is known today, originates from the second half of the 18th century, when the cornucopia became modern. The wreath cake has always been associated with celebration because almonds were extremely expensive.
Cakes baked with marzipan are known to go all the way back to the Middle Ages and originate from North Africa. This cake is always eaten in Denmark at New Year’s Eve.
Description: Light, thick, circular cookie.
When invented: It originates from when the iron stove was introduced in the 1840s. The name specie means species, says food historian Bi Skaarup.
11. Sarah Bernhardt
Type: Dry cake
Description: A brown chocolate cake shaped like a pointed mountain. Consisting of a macaroon with chocolate cream and chocolate coating decorated with a violet on top.
When invented: 1911. The cake was created by pastry chef Johannes Steen on the occasion of the famous actress Sarah Bernhard’s visit to Copenhagen
Type: Dry cake
Description: Flat circular lentil-shaped cake of shortcrust pastry with marzipan filling glazed with white or chocolate fondant glaze and decorated with a nut or a cocktail berry.
When invented: It appeared for the first time in a cookbook of 1888. The name alludes, for inexplicable reasons, to the French Cardinal Marzarin, who lived in the 17th century.
13. Klejne (Klejner)
Description: A fat-baked, curly cookie almost shaped like two parallel spirals gathered in a flat tip at each end.
When invented: The first recipes for klejner date from the 18th century, but the cake has been eaten as far back as the 14th century.
Cakes fried in fat or cooked in iron, like waffles and apple slices, were smart back then, when you couldn’t just turn on an oven.
14. Linse (Lens)
Type: Dry cake
Description: Flat shortcrust pastry cake with wavy edge and filling of yellow cake cream.
When invented: The recipe can be found in a cookbook of 1648.
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