Baker’s Solstice Countdown: December 18: Christmas Cake (Joulukakku)

Here is an unassuming little cake, awaiting its star turn tomorrow, when it becomes a Finnish Christmas Cake.

I learned of this Finnish traditional cake in Beatrice Ojakangas’ book, The Finnish Cookbook, but the cake recipe is my own. I adapted my mom’s buttermilk cake to add some Finnish flair, with lots of freshly ground cardamom and finely chopped dried cranberries. It only makes one layer, which is just fine for my small family, but if you want more, make another batch. Doubling cake recipes is not always a good idea, as there is chemistry involved that may not perform the same way when doubled.

Cranberries are the American cousin to lingonberries, a berry native to Finland and the Scandinavian countries, which you can only get in the form of lingonberry jam here in the United States. I have talked about cardamom before, so you already know how I feel about that.

The cake is baked and cooled. Then, the day it is to be served, it is sliced into two thin layers, filled with damson plum jam, or prune jam, and whipped cream, and also topped with whipped cream.

This is an easy, lovely cake for anytime, not just Christmas.

Begin with all ingredients at room temperature.

Cranberry-Cardamom Buttermilk Cake (Joulukakku)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg.F. Chop the dried cranberries into small pieces. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan on the bottom and sides.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the 1/2 cup shortening and the sugar on medium-high speed until they are light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy again. Add the almond extract and beat on medium speed to combine. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the mixing bowl between each addition.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together with a whisk or fork. Add the chopped cranberries to the dry ingredients, and toss to coat and distribute evenly.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, and beat on medium speed until combined and smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl between additions.
  5. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared cake pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow the cake to cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then carefully run a thin knife around the edge and turn the cake out onto the cooling rack to cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap if you are not using it right away.

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