Monday, February 12, 2007

Spicy Swirl Cake with Apples and Berries

Yeast-based, cardamom-flavored sweet buns are a mainstay of Finnish (and Scandinavian) baking. There's even the concept of "coffee buns" (kahvipulla), which are rarely (if ever) coffee-flavored, just something to be served with afternoon coffee. Sometimes they're made plain, sprinkled with almond flakes or nib sugar, other times they're studded with a "butter eye." For St Lucia (December 13th) and Christmas, the dough is flavored with saffron (lussekatter in Swedish), and on Shrove Tuesday the plain buns are filled with almond paste or, if you're an ungodly infidel with execrable taste, jam, and whipped cream (laskiaispulla/fastlagsbulle in Finland, semla in Sweden).

Personally, I rather hate making buns, because I can never make them as round and pretty as I think they should be. I have issues. But that's why we were gifted with cinnamon swirls ("korvapuusti" - literally "cuff on the ear"), for which you just have to roll out the dough, spread it with spiced butter-sugar mixture, roll it into a log, and cut into pieces.

For whatever reason, someone decided that baking a lot of cinnamon swirls close to each other, so they melt together, would make it a Boston Cake (Bostonkakku). Go figure. Your basic Boston Cake has a filling of sugar, butter (or margarine), cinnamon, and sometimes almonds or hazelnuts. Here it's been given some oomph with shredded apples and lingonberries (use frozen cranberries or redcurrants if you live in a part of the world where lingonberries aren't available) as well as some ground cloves and ginger. It's really the extra spices that make this cake - it's very far from the ordinary mild-mannered buns I'm used to.

Spicy Boston Cake with Apples, Lingonberries and Pecans
adapted from Glorian ruoka & viini 1/06

for the dough
300 ml milk (the original called for oat milk)
25 g fresh yeast
~800 ml all-purpose flour
&dec34; tsp salt
100 ml sugar
2 tsp ground cardamom
100 g butter at room temperature

for the filling
100 g butter at room temperature
150 ml light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
150 ml chopped pecans (toasted for a more pronounced nutty flavor)
1 tart apple, type Granny Smith, coarsely shredded
200 ml frozen lingonberries

1 egg, lightly beaten

for the icing
200 ml icing sugar
1 tbsp or so of undiluted, unsweetened berry juice - I used cranberry

Heat the milk to 37°C (finger-warm) and crumble in the yeast. Stir until the yeast has dissolved.

In a mixing bowl, sift together salt, sugar, cardamom and 400 ml of the flour, then blend in the milk. Stir until you have a gruel-like consistency, then work in the butter (this is easiest with a mixer with dough hooks, but it's nice and squishy by hand and I hate cleaning the mixer more than washing my hands, so). Knead in the rest of the flour (start off with a bit less than 4 dl and add as needed) until you have a nice elastic dough. (I know, I know! You get a feel for it. As a rule, you can't really overwork the dough if you do it by hand. In a mixer it's ready when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl.)

Cover with a kitchen towel or cling film and let stand until the dough's doubled in size, about an hour.

cardamom dough

Punch down the dough gently and let rest for a few minutes while you prepare the filling. (Cream together the sugar and butter and mix in the spices.) On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to a 30*40 cm rectangle.

Spread the rectangle with butter-sugar mixture, then sprinkle over the nuts, berries and apple, making sure to get filling right up to the edges. Beginning on the longer side, roll up to a log.


Cut the log into 6-cm-thick slices and arrange in a buttered, floured pan (about 25 cm in diameter), cut-side up. They'll rise and spread quite a bit, so you need to give them a bit of space. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for half an hour.

cut up

Brush with the egg and bake at 200°C for about 25 minutes, until nice and golden.

out of the oven

Let the cake cool completely (here is where the super cool weather we've been having came in handy) and remove from the tin. Mix the icing sugar with enough juice to make a fairly thick icing, and drizzle over the cake.


This actually works better if you let it stand overnight, as the whole thing comes together and becomes more sticky and yum.

A note on measurements: I'll probably be posting some recipes in imperial units and others in metric, depending on the original source. Most of my measuring cups have scales for both ml and cups, but if yours don't, Google is your friend and will ensure that you lose all ability to calculate conversions in your head. If you had any to begin with, that is, which I certainly didn't.


Astrid said...

Am I the first to post a comment here? If so, it's an honor! What a great post, good photos, challenging recipe. This blog is off to a great start!

Freya said...

Looks like I'm the second to comment! I found your blog through 101 Cookbooks! The first post is beautiful and I love the title!
I look forward to reading more!

deinin said...

astrid: indeed you are, and thank you for the compliments!

freya: I had SUCH trouble coming up with a title, you wouldn't believe it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I would have started blogging months ago if someone had just provided me with a blog title.

In the end I wound up just sticking two very Finnish ingredients together off the top of my head, but I think I can live with it. :)

Charlotte said...

Wow! I married a Finnish-American and live in Boston, so a Bostonkakku seems just the thing for Christmas. I first saw it in the Ojakangas cookbook, which has no fruit included. I'd like to makes yours but I'm worried about finding frozen lingonberries here in Boston. How essential is the fruit with your spices? Is there a substitution you would suggest?
Thank you very much for sharing the recipe and the very helpful photos!

Charlotte said...

Duh, I was so excited about the cake I missed the aside about the cranberries. That's something we have in spades here in MA.
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