Lagkage – Danish Layer Cake

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In Denmark you usually have a specific type of cake for your birthday, called simply ‘lagkage’ – layer cake. It is cake layers of an egg foam cake with fillings in between. The filling can be anything you like, really, usually it some combination of whipped cream, jam, fresh fruit or pastry cream.

It was recently my birthday, so of course I had to make one. I made a version with chocolate cake layers, chocolate whipped cream and apricot jam that my mom used to make. It is decorated with lots of chopped dark chocolate on top, and it is a rich and decadent chocolate cake, perfect since I love chocolate.

In Denmark you would rarely bake the cake layers themselves. They mostly just the vehicle for the fillings anyway, and you can buy vanilla or chocolate ones in almost any supermarket. Since I can’t get them here, I had to make my own, and found this very easy recipe on a Danish blog. I have been using it for years, and it really works well.The blog has some great pictures of the process, check it out even if you don’t read Danish.  The recipe makes about 4 layers, and usually you use 3 (since they come in packs of 3 when you buy). I made 1.5 portions and had 6 layers for 2 cakes.

Ingredients, cake layers (original recipe in Danish):

  • 6 eggs
  • 200 g sugar (7 oz)
  • 100 g all purpose flour (3.5 oz)
  • 40 g unsweetened cocoa powder (1.4 oz)
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients, filling:

  • 500 ml heavy whipping cream (1 pint + a little)
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • apricot jam, about 6 oz/ 180 g
  • 100 g dark chocolate (4 oz)
  • 1-2 tbsp rum or other liqueur (optional)

Method:

1. Use a plate to draw circles on parchment paper. I am using a lunch plate here. Draw 4 circles, or 3 bigger ones.

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2. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 390 F degrees.

3. Measure out the flour, cocoa  and vanilla sugar (if using) in a bowl.

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4. Put the sugar and the eggs in a big bowl, and start mixing with an electric mixer.

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5. Keep mixing until the mixture is light, almost white, and fluffy. You should be able to create a track with the mixer. It will take about 5-8 min for a regular portion, longer if you make a bigger one.

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6. Mix in the vanilla extract, if using that instead of the vanilla sugar.

7. Sift the cocoa, flour and vanilla sugar over the egg mass.

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8. Mix it very gently using a metal spoon. You want to be careful you don’t remove the air from the mixture.

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9. Spread the batter over you circle on the parchment paper. Again be careful to leave as much air in there as possible.

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10. Bake for about 7-15 min. They are a bit hard to see when they are done when made with cocoa. They will still be a little soft on the top when done, but should otherwise be firm. The bottoms can go dark careful, so keep hovering over your oven. The time is very dependent on you oven, I have found.

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11. Remove and let cool on wire racks. Do not remove from the parchment until you are using them.

12. You can store these for a day or so in a dry place. You can stack them on top of each other with the parchment between. The top of them will stick to the parchment, that is normal.

13. Make the chocolate whipped cream by adding sugar and cocoa to the heavy cream, and then whipping it.

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14. When you are ready to make you cake, place the first layer on your serving plate.

15. Sprinkle some rum over the cake.

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16. Cover the layer with jam.

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17. Spread chocolate whipped cream over the jam. Don’t worry if you mix some jam into the cream.

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18. Add another cake layer and repeat.

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19. Add the last cake layer and sprinkle with rum.

20. Spread whipped cream over the top (no jam) and down the sides.

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30. Chop the chocolate and add the chocolate pieces on top.

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31. Keep refrigerated until an hour before you eat it or so. It is best the same day, but after having been assembled for a few hours.

If you want to make vanilla layers, simply replace the cocoa powder with flour in equal weight, and 4 tsp vanilla. You can fill this cake with whatever you like, the apricot and chocolate is just one example. Plain whipped cream and strawberries is a great summer option, for instance.

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Mazarin Torte

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A Mazarin torte is a cake made with marzipan, or almond paste. It is a common type of torte in Denmark, where you can get cheap versions prepackaged in the supermarket (of dubious quality) to fancy little tarts at your bakery. It is a soft, moist cake with a strong marzipan flavor, topped with some sort of chocolate or chocolate frosting and usually baked in a sweet or flakey pie dough (pate brisee or pate sucre).

This recipe is baked without a pie shell, and I really don’t think this type of cake needs it, usually I think the shell ends up tasting bland and serving no purpose, the almond flavor is not a ‘strong’ flavor unlike a fruit tart that needs some balance.

I found this recipe in a fun little cookbook from Henrik Boserup, a Danish celebrity chef. The book is more inspiration than anything else, a lot of the recipes contain approximations rather than measurements or timings – and for many things that is actually all you need. For cakes like this, measurements are given though, that is nature of pastry baking. The book is simply called ‘mad‘ (food), and he made two different ones, a black and a white. They are one of my favorite cookbooks, everything is so inspiring and simple, and the format is actually quite different from a usual cookbook. This recipe is from the black ‘mad’.

This is made with orange, but other fruits can be used. I doubled the recipe to fit it in a spring form, but not the amount of orange (I only had 1 in the house), which I think was a mistake, it could have used more orange flavor.

I made a chocolate ganache to go on top, and that was great choice. That basic recipe came from On Baking.
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Ingredients, torte:

  • 200 g almond paste (marzipan – the higher almond percentage the better) (7 oz)
  • 200 g sugar (7 oz)
  • 200 g butter at room temperature (7 oz)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 oranges

Ingredients, ganache:

  • 160 g dark chocolate, min. 60% cocoa (5.5 oz)
  • 150 ml heavy cream ( 0.6 cups)
  • 3-6 tbsp orange liquor, such as Grand Mariner (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 C/ 355 F and lightly grease a 20 cm across spring form.

2.  Peel and chop the oranges, removing as much of the bitter white membranes as you can.

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3. Simmer the oranges in pot until almost dry and let cool.

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4. Meanwhile, work together the marzipan, sugar and butter until smooth and homogenous.

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5. Add in the eggs.

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6. Add the flour (and a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter) and mix lightly. The consistency should be like a thick cream.

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7. Add the orange.

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8. Pour your batter into the prepared tin.

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9. Bake for 40-60 min. The cake should be golden brown, springy to touch and set all the way through when a toothpick is inserted.

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10. Let cool on a rack.

11. Make your ganache while the cake is cooling. Chop the chocolate very finely and heat the cream gently, until just boiling.

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12. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and mix  with a rubber spatula until smooth.

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13. Add the liquor and mix some more. Let cool slightly.

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14. Spread the ganache over the cake and down the sides. Make pretty swirls for decoration if desired.

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This turned out really, really well, except it could have more orange flavor. I really don’t think this cake need a shell, it worked out very well.

Danish sweets – ‘Træstammer’

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In almost any Danish bakery you can get these cakes or sweets, called træstammer or ‘tree trunks’. You can also get them packaged in supermarkets, usually made to last forever. Of course, the quality varies wildly, also from one baker to the next.
You would hardly never make them yourself, they are made from leftover cake or pastries. I love them and miss them, so I decided to see if I could make them myself. They are basically mashed up cake crumbs with rum flavor, covered with marzipan and decorated with chocolate.

I found a lot of different recipes, many using cake and buttercream, or cake and heavy cream, but the one I finally settled on got my attention since it used marzipan in the filling. It is courtesy of the biggest marzipan producer in Denmark, so it is no wonder you use a lot of it.

Ingredients (original recipe in Danish, courtesy of Odense Marcipan):

  • 400 g cake (14 oz)
  • 125 g marzipan/almond paste (4.5 oz)
  • 75 – 125g dark chocolate, melted (use less chocolate if using chocolate cake) (2.5  – 4.5 oz)
  • 2 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 2 tsp rum essesnce or 1-3 tbsp rum
  • For decoration:
  • 150-200g marzipan/almond paste (5 – 7 oz)
  • green food coloring
  • melted dark chocolate

Notes:
A couple of notes on the ingredients here.
Cake: Any kind of cake would do, muffins, sponge cakes, pound cakes and probably even brownies. Icing on the cake is fine too. Chocolate cake gives a deeper chocolate flavor, but it doesn’t have to be.
Rum/Rum essence: These treats are not boozy, and them rum is just to offset the sweetness of it all. It is not much, and I have no qualms letting my 2 year old have one, each one would have very little rum in it.
Marzipan: In Denmark, marzipan is often used in cakes and for decoration. You can get 2 different kinds easily, one with 60% almonds, which in the US would be called almond paste, and one with less almonds but containing ground apricot pits. This variant usually bakes better, and is cheaper. In addition, you can get ‘decoration ready’ marzipan, which has much higher sugar content, and only 20-30% almonds, this kind you also make yourself from the paste by mixing in sugar or glucose. This is what is often called marzipan here in the US, and is much easier to work with for decorative work, however I find it way to sweet. For these cakes, use almond paste, the ones with the highest almond content you can find (the one I found had 45%).

Method:

1. Crumble the cake and marzipan in a bowl, and add the melted chocolate and jam. Work it well together until a smooth mixture

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2. Add rum or rum essence to taste and work it in. Let the mixture cool a little bit in the refrigerator.

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3. Roll into long logs, about 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm)in diameter. Put these back into the fridge to set.

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4. Mix you decorating marzipan with the green food coloring. I used about 10-14 drops of green for my marzipan. You can add a bit of yellow instead of going all green for a more traditional spring green color.

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5. For your marzipan into a small rectangle and roll out. If you find it sticking to your rolling pin, dust with some icing sugar. The marzipan should be fairly thin, 1-2 mm.

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6. Take one log out of the refrigerator and roll up with the green marzipan. I found it easiest if you cut the marzipan to the exact length before rolling, them rolling up to a very slight overlap and cutting again. Put the log back in the fridge.

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7. Repeat with the rest of the marzipan and the rest of the logs. You will probably have some left over green marzipan.

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8. Cut the logs into 2-3 inches  (5-8 cm) long pieces.

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9. Brush each end with some melted chocolate, and make it cover part of the sides. You can also dip them, but I found it was easier to brush.

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10. Let set on a plastic wrap covered cookie sheet, or similar.

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In the end, these turned out pretty well. Because of all the sugar, you don’t have to store them in refrigerator, but you might want to if you plan on keeping them around for some time or live in a hot climate. They do taste better at room temperature, and they also taste better after a few days, when the flavors have had time to settle.

It was a lot of fun to see if I could make these treats, but a little more work with the decorating than I expected. I don’t think they tasted quite like the ones I would get at my local bakery, but it was close and they were very good regardless.

Hveder

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Hveder are Danish holidays rolls, literally ‘Wheats’ eaten at ‘General Prayer Day’ (Store Bededag). It is a holiday dating from 1686 as a collection of a number of minor Roman Catholic holidays which survived the Reformation (the transition of Denmark from a Roman Catholic country to a Protestant country), merged to one day. It is held on the 4th Friday after Easter, and is a bank holiday – everything is closed.

Most people in Denmark are not very avid church goers, but as Danish Protestantism is the state church, most people belong to it, and does some observations of the holidays, regardless of how much of the faith the choose to include in the celebrations.

When the holiday was introduced, work, travel, trade, gambling and play was forbidden, which meant bakeries was closed. Bakers would bake these rolls for people to buy Thursday evening for the next day. Today, most people eat them fresh Thursday evening as well as Friday morning, and they are great toasted.

The Hveder themselves were a specialty for a long while, and probably not common in the average population even when the holiday was introduced. Most people ate rye breads, as wheat did not grow well in most of Denmark due to the cold climate. It was only later more hardy species of wheat was introduced, and it was still an expensive specialty. Besides being made from wheat, the rolls also are made with butter, egg and milk, so they are an enriched bread, though not as much as challah or brioche.

This year, the Danish newspaper Politiken ran an online article (source of most of this information!) on them, with a bunch of recipes. I decided I should make some, even if the holiday had long past.

Ingredients: (Original in Danish from politiken.dk)

  • 500g bread flour* (17.6 oz, about 4.2 cups)
  • 100 ml milk (0.4 cups)
  • 100 ml water (0.4 cups)
  • 50g butter (about 1/2 stick)
  • 50g yeast cake (3 tsp active dry yeast)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 tsp ground cardamom
  • milk for brushing

*Though you don’t normally use bread flour a lot in Denmark, it is well suited to these rolls, as they are meant to rise a lot.

Method:

1. Gently melt the butter and mix in the milk and water. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let stand until lukewarm ( 90-100 F / 32-37 C).

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2. Beat the egg together.

3. Add the yeast to the lukewarm butter, milk and water mixture and mix well until dissolved.

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4. Mix in the sugar, flour, salt, cardamom and egg.

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5. Transfer dough to a work surface and knead well, about 5 min or more. This dough does not have a high water content, so it will feel a little hard.

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6. Form a ball and place in the bowl, cover with film and let stand to rise until doubled, about 30 min.

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7. Punch down dough and knead well again.

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8. Spilt the dough into 12 equal pieces, and form small rolls from them.

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9. Place the rolls fairly close together on a baking sheet, they should be touching when they are done rising. I ended up with mine just a little too far apart. Let rise for 20-30 min more.

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These ended up a little too far apart

10. Preheat oven to 390 F/ 200 C. If your oven is part of your stove, it is great to let the rolls rise on top of your stove for some extra warmth.

11. Brush the rolls with milk.

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12. Transfer to oven and bake for 20 min, until risen and golden.

13. Let cool and break apart to eat. Toast well if you eat them the next day.

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Someone couldn’t wait

I was happy with how these turned out, it is an easy luxury bread. They are traditionally a little more square, but they were well risen and delicious.

Danish Pancakes

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Danish Pancakes are basically crepes, but they are usually made on a regular pan and not a fancy crepe pan. My husband calls them ‘real pancakes’, as opposed to American pancakes. He enjoys these a lot more than the soft, risen American ones that I prefer to make.

This is a basic batter you can use for savory or sweet fillings, as these are not sweet in themselves. My husband decided to make these for dinner and dessert the other day, and I quickly snapped some shots of it. Making heaps of them is a practiced skill, and he is quite good at it, much better than me.

Recipe adapted from the Danish basic cookbook, Politikens Nye Kogebog.

Ingredients:

  • 125 g all purpose flour (4.4 oz)
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 300 ml milk (1 1/4 cup)
  • 50-100 ml water (1/4 – 1/2 cups)
  • butter for frying

Method:

1. Line up 2 pans on your stove, and a plate to keep the cooked pancakes on, with another plate on top to keep them warm. Get your butter ready too.

2. Whisk all the ingredients together. In the end the batter should be a little thicker than heavy whipping cream, but not by much. Add a little more milk or some water if it is too thick, and continue to check the thickness as you cook the pancakes.

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3. Melt a little bit of butter in one pan, about 1/4-1/2 tsp. When melted, pour batter on to cover your pan, tilt the pan to distribute it evenly. You should use just enough batter to cover the pan in a thin layer.

4. While the first pancake cooks, melt butter in the second pan and repeat. Flip the first pancake, and pour batter in the second pan. You want to stagger the cooking a bit.

5. When the pancake is nicely browned on both side, lift it to your prepared plate. ( You can keep the plates in the oven at a low temperature if you plan to make lots and lots to keep them warm). Don’t worry if your first one breaks apart or looks strange – usually the first one does.

6. Keep staggering your pancake making on the pans, buttering for every second pancake.

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7. Serve warm!

You can make any sort of filling to go with it, like spinach, mushroom and cheese,  ham and cheese or even meat sauce and cheese for savory fillings. Fill them either by putting the filling on a quarter and them folding them twice, or put the filling down the middle and roll them up (the square fold you see for crepes are not really done with these small pancakes).

For sweet fillings we have lots of favorites, like fresh berries, whipped cream, jam, sugar, icecream, nutella, bananas and any combinations there off. Sugar & lemon juice is really good too!

Sorry there are no pictures of the rolled up pancakes, we were too  busy eating!

Enjoy!