February is THE month to eat Runeberg’s Torte. But to be honest, the whole of January and February are an open window to bake and enjoy these decadent pastries. If you have an excuse to make these unique delicious little treats already in December, I don’t blame you.
Never heard of Runeberg’s Torte before? It’s a special kind of pastry in Finland that dates back to the kitchen realms of the mid-1800s. If you’re a fan of cardamom, you will love these.
Imagine a rich, almond-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 in January and February time, you’re most likely to spot these wonderful pastries in shops & cafes. For the authentic feeling, go enjoy these in the Old town of the city of Porvoo.
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“The Porvoo Cake”
Food culture & national heroes. To sum things up, the history of the precious cake takes us to the small city of Porvoo. Runeberg’s Torte is named after a Finnish-Swedish national poet J.L Runeberg, but it was his wife Fredrika who made them famous 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 the poet’s wife herself decorated these with apple jam instead of raspberry jam. (Between you and me, raspberry is so much better choice. Trust me.)
The Runberg’s Torte pastry 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. But that’s not all.
This is the perfect way to get rid of the last Christmas cookies whether it’s speculaas or another type of spicy winter cookie. Use them in the batter instead of breadcrumbs.
How we bake Runeberg’s Torte today?
The tradition lives strong & Runeberg’s Torte has seen many versions from modern raw cakes to swiss rolls and whatnot. My ring cylinders, for example, are 5cm x 6cm and represent a shorter version of the pastry.
You can easily prepare these pastries in muffin tins too, for instance. Personally, I prefer a lower cake as oppose to traditional really tall cylinders because this way I can have more toppings, hehehe.
I’ve often baked Runeberg’s pastries based on a recipe from blogger Kinuskikissa. She is the 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 the pastries a day in advance. The texture gets better after a night in the fridge and the flavors strengthen.
Runeberg’s Torte | Recipe
My cake ring cylinders are 5cm x 6cm but you can easily prepare these pastries in muffin tins, too. There Ateco Round Cake Ring and Dessert Molds 3.125 x 3-Inches)* are similar but a tad bigger than my molds. If you don’t have hollow cake cylinders yet in your baking arsenal, I recommend investing in them because they are super versatile in pastry making. They don’t take too much space in the kitchen yet give you more freedom to play with recipes.
INGREDIENTS METHOD RUM WATER: 125ml water + 1 tbsp sugar + 50ml rum, punch, or similar liqueur | Boil water and sugar in a small saucepan. Add rum to simmer. Taste if the liquid mix is strong enough to your liking. Add a hunch more liqueur if you're unsure but bear in mind how much bitter almond you used in the batter. Set the liquid aside to cool completely.
RUM WATER: 125ml water + 1 tbsp sugar + 50ml rum, punch, or similar liqueur | Boil water and sugar in a small saucepan. Add rum to simmer. Taste if the liquid mix is strong enough to your liking. Add a hunch more liqueur if you're unsure but bear in mind how much bitter almond you used in the batter. Set the liquid aside to cool completely.
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.
Rum water | Ingredients
125ml water 1 tbsp sugar 50ml rum, punch or similar liqueur
Boil water and sugar in a small saucepan. Add rum to simmer. Taste if the liquid mix is strong enough to your liking. Add a hunch more liqueur if you’re unsure but bear in mind how much bitter almond you used in the batter. Set the liquid aside to cool completely.
Prepare sugar frosting by mixing confectioners sugar (100ml) with a small amount of cold water in a teacup. Add water a few drops at a time until you find the right consistency. Set up your piping bag ready for icing.
Cutting and soaking the pastries
Once the pastries and rum water are both cooled to room temperature, you can finish the cakes in no time. Carefully cut off the tops of tortes with a sharp knife. Rolling the knife around the pastry gives a more even look than the top-down push technique. Check the bottoms of the tortes, too. If they look too dark, scrape those burned bits away.
Soak the pastries one by one in rum water. Place the torte top down into the liquid for 2 seconds, then turn it on one side, and roll 360 degrees as quickly as you can. Set the torte aside on a separate plate bottom down.
Do not soak the bottom of the pastry as the rum water will now run through the whole body of the pastry. Again, you can set the pastries in the fridge if making them a day ahead before serving.
Finally the toppings for serving Runeberg’s Torte
Above all, these tortes are quick to serve. 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 pastries to the office.
Officially Runeberg’s Tortes are enjoyed on the 5th of February but to be honest, January and whole of 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 staff from the home museum of Runeberg found it when dusting the bookshelves for the poet’s 200 years of celebrations. The original 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 in addition to mini tortes!