February is THE month to eat Runeberg’s Torte. But to be honest, the whole January and February are an open window and also an excuse to make these unique delicious little pastries.
Never heard of Runeberg’s Torte before? It’s a special kind of pastry in Finland which dates back to the kitchen realms of the mid-1800s. If you’re a fan of cardamom, you will love these. Imagine a rich almondy based tender cake moistened with liqueur & finally decorated with raspberry jam & sugar frosting. Did I already mention cardamom?
Runeberg’s Torte has a unique & distinctive appearance. If you’re visiting Finland anywhere January and February time, you’re most likely to spot these wonderful pastries in shops & cafes.
“The Porvoo Cake”
Food culture & national heroes. To sum things up, the history grounds in small city of Porvoo. Runeberg’s Torte is named after a Finnish-Swedish national poet J.L Runeberg and made famous by her wife Fredrika already during their lifetime.
The pastry, however, has its roots in the hands of a baker L.H. Astenius. Commercial baking soda was invented in the 1840s. I can only imagine the tricks Baker Astenius had in his pockets to succeed in making cylinder-shaped tall cakes. No original photos exist to my knowledge. The story goes that Fredrika herself decorated these with apple jam instead of raspberry jam. (Raspberry is so much better choice, trust me. Quality raspberry jam, of course.)
The pastry cake Finns bake these days is an evolved & elevated version of the torte enjoyed in the past. To me, the mentality of Runeberg’s Torte has always been to work with what you have in your pantry. Most importantly breadcrumbs. Gingerbread leftovers can also be utilized here.
This is the perfect way to get rid of the last Christmas cookies whether it’s speculaas or another type of spicy winter cookie.
The tradition lives strong & Runeberg’s Torte has seen many versions from modern raw cakes to swiss rolls and whatnot. My ring cylinders are 5cm x 6cm but you can easily prepare these in muffin tins, too. (Personally I prefer a lower cake as oppose to traditional tall cylinders so that I can have more toppings.)
I’ve often baked Runeberg’s pastries based on a recipe from Kinuskikissa. She is a Finnish baking Queen & I trust her recipes. Also, her blog well showcases the creative freedom with Runeberg’s Torte: she has 8 different versions of this pastry and counting!
This is not a direct adaption or translation from Kinuskikissa’s recipe as I used rum instead of punch & replaced gingerbread with breadcrumbs. The recipe below gave me 7 pastries with the aforementioned cylinders. It’s a good idea to prepare these a day pastries in advance because the flavors are amplified and the texture is better after a night in the fridge.
Runeberg’s Torte | Recipe
Decorating Runeberg’s Torte
Whilst the tortes are resting on a cooling rack, you can prepare the rum water and sugar frosting. Choose quality jam or marmalade for the raspberry kiss. The jam I used has 75% of raspberry consistency.
1,25dl water 1 tbsp sugar 0,5 dl rum (+ a hunch)
Boil water and sugar in a small saucepan. Add rum to simmer. Taste if the liquid mix is strong enough for your liking. Add a hunch more if you’re unsure but bear in mind how much bitter almond extract you used in the batter. Set the liquid aside to cool completely.
Prepare sugar frosting by mixing confectioners sugar (1dl) with a small amount of cold water in a teacup. Add water a few drops at the time.
Cutting and soaking the pastries
Once the pastries and rum water are both cooled down to room temperature, you can finish the cakes in no time. Carefully cut off the tops of tortes with a sharp knife (rolling gives more even look than top-down push technique). Check the bottoms of the tortes, too. If they look too dark, scrape those bits away.
Soak the pastries one by one in rum water. Place the torte top down into the liquid for 2 seconds, turn it on one side and roll 360 degrees. Set aside on a plate bottom down. Do not soak the bottom as the rum water will now run through the whole body of the pastry.
Finally the toppings for serving Runeberg’s Torte
Place a spoonful of raspberry jam in the top middle. Pipe frosting sugar around the raspberry kiss & the torte is done! Invite friends over & or take a box of these to the office.
Officially Runeberg’s Tortes are enjoyed on the 5th of February but to be honest, January and whole February are an open window and an excuse to prepare these.
Fun fact! Fredrika’s original recipe from the 1800s was found in 2004. The Runeberg home museum in Porvoo found it when dusting the bookshelves for the poet’s 200 years celebrations. Fredrika’s torte was based on shortcrust and requires a complex baking process. I can’t say I wouldn’t be intrigued to try it, maybe next year!
I hope you enjoy this recipe and pastry tradition! Do let me know if you bake some. 🙂 Next week’s Sunday sweet recipe also uses breadcrumbs and gingerbread cookies so stay tuned! In addition to breadcrumbs and cookies, potatoes and juice pulp are good ingredients when baking with leftovers.