A Scandinavian Almond Cake pan has been tucked into my cupboard for several years. I remember tasting the sweet cake with texture of buttery pound cake and fragrant with almond at a friend’s house. She shared her recipe with me. I went straight to Stabo, the Scandinavian store at the local mall, to purchase one of the long, narrow, ridged and rounded pans of my own.
The week before I was scheduled to do a cooking demonstration at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes, I paid a visit to the farmers and food vendors to see what I would have available to cook with. It was there I met Elsa, bread-baker extraordinaire. She owns Bethlehem “House of Bread.” My eyes lingered over racks of fresh, puffy loaves of bread, alluring caramel rolls and bags filled with substantial-looking granola. My eyes stopped at a few small, clear plastic bags filled with bite-size cubes of Scandinavian Almond Cake. I immediately thought of strawberry shortcake made in parfait glasses for individual servings with layers of these sweet bits of almond cake, fresh juicy strawberries and light, luscious sugar-spiked whipped cream.
I commented on a what a nice seasonal idea this was to sell Scandinavian Almond Cake cubed, ready to be served shortcake-style or layered into trifle. Elsa explained the cubes were an accidental result of almond cakes that didn’t quite release from the pan in perfect manner.
I remembered something the store clerk told me on that day long ago when I purchased my Scandinavian Almond Cake pan. “Use margarine when you make the cake. Don’t use butter. The cake will stick to the pan if you use butter.” She was adamant.
Me use margarine? There’s just no way.
I used butter. I allowed the cake to cool completely in the pan. When I was ready to turn the cake out of the pan, I held my breath as I slightly twisted the pan. I tipped it over. The cake stuck to the pan as if it were held by dried concrete. I turned the pan upside down and started whacking it on the counter covered with a clean kitchen towel. After several whacks, each one getting a bit more heft behind it, the cake finally came out of the pan — all in one piece.
I cubed up a small portion of Scandinavian Almond Cake and carefully pushed them into strawberries (from a berry farm very near to where I live) that I’d sliced open with a sharp paring knife to form something that looked a bit like a tulip. A swirly squirt of an orange-almond-cream cheese topping completed the sweet little dessert.
Any cake with the texture of pound cake can be used for these one-bite strawberry shortcakes. For convenience, use frozen pound cake. I’d be tempted to brush frozen pound cake slices with some amaretto before cubing to give nice almond flavor.
Thanks, Elsa, for the inspiration. And, thanks to my friend Roberta for the Scandinavian Almond Cake recipe.
- Fresh Strawberries, rinsed
- Small cubes of Scandinavian Almond Cake (recipe below) or pound cake
- 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted, chopped fine or ground up in food processor
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 to 2 tablespoons half-and-half
- Mint leaves or thyme blossoms, for garnish
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with almonds and orange zest. Add half-and-half to thin the mixture a bit for easier piping. Spoon into a pastry bag with a number 10 metal tip, or a plastic zip-top bag with one corner snipped off.
With a sharp paring knife, slice stem end away from strawberries, creating a flat base. With flat side on work surface, cut 4 slits into tip of each berry, without going all the way through.
Gently push a cube of cake into the center of each cut berry.
Pipe cream cheese mixture over the top to cover the cake. Garnish with mint leaves or thyme blossoms.
Tips from the cook
- These Bites can be prepared early in the day you will be serving them. This will allow for the cake to absorb some strawberry juice. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.
- Toast slivered almonds in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes. Cool completely before chopping or grinding in the food processor.
Roberta’s Scandinavian Almond Cake
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- Powdered sugar, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease cake pan and set aside. (Roberta sometimes sprinkles some finely chopped almonds in the pan, too.)
In large mixing bowl, beat sugar, egg, almond extract and milk together. Add flour and baking powder, mixing at low speed to blend. Add melted butter and mix well.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 40 to 50 minutes. Be sure to bake until fully done.
Cool cake in pan. Cross your fingers and turn the cake out of the pan.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar, slice and serve.