Sinikka's snippets

Finland and travelling, a woman's life, cultures, languages, photography plus family recipes


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Butterscotch cake – men’s favourite

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Or so they say. I can’t exactly say that the way to my man’s stomach was this cake, but I do remember that quite a few of his male friends used to praise this cake whenever they had a piece at my place, telling my then boyfriend (now husband) that I was a keeper.

I cut the recipe from a women’s magazine decades ago because it sounded good. Since then it has been “my signature cake”. Whenever there is a special occasion, I usually bake one. Especially if it’s to do with hubby’s special celebrations. The combination of hazelnuts and dark chocolate in the cake mixture is simply heavenly with the soft butterscotch topping. It’s actually so yummy and morish that hubby often hides some, to have more for himself before others eat it all up.

Hubby celebrated a special birthday just last weekend

Hubby celebrated a special birthday just last weekend

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 1/2 dl sugar
  • 150 g butter
  • 3 dl ordinary wheat flour (not self-raising)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 75 g hazelnuts
  • 75 g dark chocolate

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THIS IS WHAT YOU DO

  • Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy.
  • In a separate bowl beat the butter until light.
  • Combine the two mixtures.
  • Crush the hazelnuts (or buy a packet of ready-made crush) and chop the chocolate into small pieces
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, nuts and chocolate. Add to the mix.
  • Grease a low, preferably a springform, round cake tin. Pour in the mixture.
  • Bake at low temperature, 150° Celsius, for about 40-50 minutes.

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FOR THE TOPPING

  • 2 dl full whipping cream
  • 2 dl sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • chocolate sprinkles

Now this is the tricky part of this cake. Getting the butterscotch just right takes some practise and experience. I have failed in so many ways over the year. Either I cooked it too little, which results in a too liquid consistency that is immediately soaked in by the cake, and results in no topping at all. Or, trying to avoid the previous scenario, I cooked it too long, and ended getting it thick, grainy and horribly hard. I’ve also managed to produce a sticky, chewy consistence that almost breaks your teeth, just as the worst type of toffee! Anything is possible unless you know exactly what temperature to use on your cooker, and what the correct consistency is. Don’t lose heart, though – you may be a natural with this, or then, at least through trial and error you will get it right.

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Put the cream and the sugar in a saucepan and start cooking at medium heat. On my present induction cooker, I tend to have the temperature at 3.5-4 (out of 9). Keep cooking, stirring it quite often, so it won’t stick to the bottom. Make sure it’s bubbling a little all the time, but not too much! Just small bubbles like in the picture above. For me, the cooking time tends to be a minimum of 30 minutes, sometimes even more. Towards the end, the mixture starts thickening up and darkens in colour. A test that all the recipes advise is to put a drop of the mixture into a glass of cold water. If it dissolves at all into the water, it’s not ready yet. It’s supposed to form a nice, solid drop on the bottom of the glass. I usually always keep testing one drop after another, and never really know if it’s right or not. Nowadays, having baked this cake so many times, I just use my intuition (and still sometimes get it wrong!).

Anyway, once the butterscotch is ready (or you think it is), take the pan off the heat, add the butter, and let it settle for a while. Then pour it on top of the cake that you have removed from the baking tin. Start from the middle and keep moving towards the sides. The butterscotch is supposed to trickle down the sides of the cakes. You can help it with a knife if needed.

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Decorate with some chocolate sprinkles, and voilà, ready to be devoured!

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To serve the cake, a bunch of green grapes look nice, and go very well with the taste as well. The cake keeps quite well for several days, and stays nice and moist. If kept in the fridge, the butterscotch tends to lose its shine a little.

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ENJOY ON ITS OWN, OR WITH A CUP OF GOOD COFFEE!

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Runeberg’s cakes

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February. Still winter but finally, days are getting noticeably longer, and brighter on sunny days like today. The bare birch trees, with their white trunks against the winter blue sky, made me feel very Finnish today – blue and white being the colours of our national flag. A good day to feel slightly patriotic, too, as February 5th is celebrated as Runeberg’s day, commemorating the birthday of our national poet, Johan Ludwig Runeberg. Today, it’s 212 years since his birth in 1804.

We Finns are keen on signature pastries and baked goodies for special occasions. And so there is the “Runeberg cake” to enjoy today. Legend has it that it was Runeberg’s wife, a talented baker, who invented this cake for her husband.

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Bakeries and supermarkets start selling these small cupcake-like delicacies the moment the Christmas season is over. There is such a variety to choose from that you really have to know what you prefer. The main differences are the size, and whether they are “dry”, or moistened with some punch, or liqueur. Personally, I am for the dry version but hubby wants his drizzled with a spoonful of Swedish punch. Most years I bake my own, using a recipe passed down by my mum, another talented baker. Mine look more like cupcakes, compared to the more “tower like” commercially baked versions.

INGREDIENTS (for about 8 big ones, or 16 smaller ones)

  • 200 g butter
  • 2 dl sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dl crushed almonds
  • 2 dl bread crumbs
  • 1 dl wheat flour
  • 1 ts baking powder
  • punch (if desired)
  • raspberry marmalade
  • icing

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THIS IS WHAT YOU DO

  • cream the butter and sugar
  • add the eggs, one at the time
  • mix all the dry ingredients and add them to the mixture
  • spoon the mix into cupcake or muffin pans or moods (paper or other)
  • set the oven at 200 degrees Celcius, and bake for about 15 minutes
  • if you like, drizzle one tablespoonful of punch over the warm cakes
  • decorate with a spoonful of raspberry marmalade, with a ring of icing around it

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I’m a great fan of seasonal food and baking. Whatever you eat or drink only once a year never gets boring, and tastes extra delicious!

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February is also the time for colourful tulips. So here’s a bunch to wish “Happy Birthday Mr. Runeberg”!


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Want some cake in Turku, Finland?

Gaggui (Humalistonkatu 15, www.gaggui.com)

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Many of my female friends had been praising this new café for some time but it was reading the story behind it that finally got me to give it a try. Two identical twins, one a biologist, the other one an artist, joined forces to create this café, and change their careers at the same time. A brave move but apparently successful! It all started as one of the sisters wanted to create the perfect cake for her wedding. After lots of experiments, she had accumulated an interesting collection of different recipes, which the two of them then sold on one of the so-called “Restaurant days”. The cakes of these two sisters turned out to be so popular that they then ventured into business together.

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What I really like about this small café is that it’s really a local Turku place through and through. Their coffee is rosted locally, and a small tea shop up the road provides their teas. What’s more, they use our local dialect in all their signs. Even the name of the place “Gaggui” is a Turku variation of ‘kakkuja’ (‘cakes’). And cakes are definitely the speciality here, one more decadent than the other! Needless to say, all the cakes are their own original recipes and creations. How does “heaven on örth” (‘heaven on earth’ written in Finnish phonetics) sound to you? I can assure you, the cake really lives up to its name!

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This café is small and intimate, basically just one room. The decor is quirky, with nice little touches of originality, even in the restroom. If you visit around midday on a weekday, the place tends to be full of groups of mothers with their kids, and even dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for inclusion, and everybody’s right to go out to socialise. But if you are not accustomed to the Scandinavian lifestyle of public breastfeeding, and toddlers running around screaming, maybe you’d want to choose a time later in the afternoon or early evening to enjoy your coffee and cakes.

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Christmas baking: English-style fruitcake

Here is another family recipe that I found somewhere – don’t remember exactly where, some women’s magazine most likely – that has stuck with our family over the years. On the whole, I must admit I’m not too keen on the British idea of a fruitcake. Sorry to say but I just find them too dry and bitter, for some reason, even with the frosting! For example, I could never imagine a fruitcake for a wedding, no matter how nice the idea of keeping some of it for when your first baby is born. As a steadfast and stubborn Finn, I insisted that at our Finnish-British wedding, we had a Finnish-style cream and cloudberry cake, which would not keep for more than maximum one day!

But back the this Christmas cake recipe. I particularly like this one as it makes a lovely, rich and, most importantly, MOIST cake that just keeps maturing and getting better over the holidays. When I first baked one, 20+ years ago, it became an instant  favourite for my dear hubby. This year, the first time ever that we are spending Christmas just the two of us, I suggested what if we skipped the cake. After all, too many sweet things are not good for us at this age, you know. You should have seen hubby’s face of disappointment! Okey, I don’t mind, let’s bake one anyway.

Every year, the cake comes out slightly different. It depends on the amount and type of fruit, and the spirit I use. After many experiments, I must say dark rum works the best for me. But I’ve tried brandy – fine, or like this year, some rum punch from the Île de la Réunion in the Indian Ocean. Look forward to tasting this year’s edition! Another candle-lit baking session, here we go.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 240 gr baking margarine (or butter)
  • 240 gr brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbs dark syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 dl plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tbs dark rum (or spirit of your choice)
  • 250 gr mixed dried fruit – cut into small pieces
  • 125 gr raisins
  • 1 tbs candied orange peel
  • 1 dl crushed hazelnuts
  • 3 slices of tinned pineapple – cut into chunks
  • c. 20 red and green candied cherries

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THIS IS WHAT YOU DO

  • Cream the butter and brown sugar.
  • Add the syrup and eggs, one at a time. Add about 1 tbs of flour with each egg to prevent curdling.
  • Mix the flour and baking powder, dry spices, vanilla and salt. Add to the mixture.
  • Add all the fruit, the nuts and the spirit.
  • Spoon half of the mixture into a traditional round cake tin that has been carefully buttered and dusted with breadcrumbs.
  • Even the surface and stick the candied cherries in the middle. Then spoon in the rest of the mixture.
  • Bake in 150 degrees Celsius for 1.5 hours.
  • Leave to cool in the tin for a while before removing it onto a tin foil. Let it cool down properly overnight, before wrapping it in the foil, and placing in the fridge.
  • Let the cake “mature” for preferably at least one week before cutting the first slices.

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I wish I had a “scratch and smell” picture here as the spicy, aromatic, Christmasy smell filling our kitchen was so very inviting and festive. The sort of family memory that will hopefully stay in everybody’s minds for ever!

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 MERRY CHRISTMAS ❤