This year Lundulph's Mum (like my Mum earlier this year) is turning 70, so big celebrations are in the making, more on this later. But we also decided to have a small family get-together on the actual day and Lundulph kindly volunteered me to make a cake.
Now times are busy at work at the moment, so I opted to work from home during the birthdays, as Lundulph's Dad also had his birthday a few days before his Mum. Thus we stayed at their place for a few days and while Lundulph was helping out with the party plans, I sat in the guest bedroom working.
This also meant that increasingly Lundulph got more and more nervous about the cake - he hadn't seen any signs of a cake, other than some odd looking biscuity rings that had been in the freezer and had meant he wasn't allowed to rummage around for food. This because I'd decided to make it a surprise for everyone and I was quite worried that Lundulph would get upset because I hadn't made a "real, traditional" cake. But I decided to plod on with my plan.
And while Lundulph was enjoying the Ashes for a couple of days, I used the opportunity to make the kransekake rings.
1 kg "50/50"-type marzipan
300 g icing sugar
80 g egg whites (2 eggs approximately)
50 g butter
2 dl ground almonds
2 dl icing sugar
1 egg white
- Grate the marzipan coarsely into a large bowl.
- Add the icing sugar and stir together with your hand until the marzipan and sugar are mixed through.
- Whisk the egg whites lightly, then start adding to the marzipan mixture a little at a time, while kneading the marzipan.
- The mixture is ready when you can roll out a sausage of about 2 cm diameter and bend it into a circle without it cracking anywhere.
- Melt the butter and brush the moulds well, then sprinkle generously ground almonds and tap off the excess.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C and start rolling the marzipan mixture to about 2 cm diameter lengths.
- Gently lay onto each ring mould, splicing the two edges with diagonal cuts.
- There should be some marzipan mixture left over, use about a ping-pong ball sized piece and shape into a cone for the top of the kransekake.
- Bake all in the oven for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them and removing as soon as they start getting a bit of colour. Bake the top on an oven safe dish lined with baking paper.
- Leave to cool down complete on the moulds, before carefully removing the rings. If they've puffed up too much and stuck together, carefully first separate in the moulds with a knife.
- Place the rings on a large plate, with smaller rings inside the larger ones, perhaps 3 - 4 stacked. Place in plastic bags and freeze until the day before they're needed.
- The day before serving, remove from the freezer and let thaw in room temperature.
- A few hours before serving, make up royal icing by mixing about 2 dl icing sugar with some egg white. Add the egg white a little at a time into the icing sugar and keep stirring through before adding more. Continue until the consistency is such that it can be piped , but it won't drip or run.
- To put the kransekake together, start by stacking all the rings, with the largest at the bottom and the smallest at the top, to make sure you have the right order as it can be difficult to tell, the size difference between neighbouring rings is small. Then remove them one at a time and lay them out in order.
- Put the royal icing into a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle, then pipe four small blobs at the bottom of the largest ring and place it securely onto the serving plate.
- Pipe waves around the top of the large ring, always starting and ending in the inside of it, as this will get hidden with the next layer.
- Once the whole ring has completed, carefully place the next one on top, making sure it's centered and repeat the icing waves all around, before placing the next ring on top of that.
- Continue until the whole pyramid has completed - you may need to stand on a chair to reach the top layers. Finish with the little cone.
- The kransekake is eaten, by working your way down through the layers.
And indeed it was a great success - it's simple, yet impressive as it's so tall once assembled. It was also very sweet, so I'll try to reduce this next time. The idea with the freezing is that it will make the kransekake crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. What happened was that the 4 - 5 rings Lundulph and I took home with us, got chewier and chewier with every day they stayed in the larder. It was very nice to have a little nibble after lunch or dinner. And Lundulph was not at all upset, but how could he with all the marzipan to munch on.
Some will also melt dark chocolate and make fancy filigree decorations which are stuck in between the rings. It was my intention to do this as well, however I ran out of time and as I don't trust myself to be able to temper the chocolate, I thought I'd better not bother. Next time I will and I'll also try the alternative traditional shape - a cornucopia, with small petit fours or such spilling out of it. This, however, requires the rings to be glued together with caramel and looking at some professionally made ones, they even have special stands for support, like here from a Danish brand of marzipan, it's in Danish, but just look at the photos.
Key thing to keep in mind - there must be at least 18 rings and preferably more. At the Danish Bake-Off in 2012, the kransekake (Norwegian) or kransekage (Danish) was one of the technical challenges and had to have 20 rings. I highly recommend doing an image search on Google for ideas on how to decorate.
Finally a word on the "50/50"-type marzipan. The numbers indicate the proportions of ground almonds to icing sugar if you're making it yourself. Rather go for a 50% marzipan, which tends to be more expensive and is not as soft to work with, but that's how it should be. I actually baked my kransekake at 200° and thanks to the egg white, it puffed up. I think in my Swedish baking book, it's recommended to shape everything and then let stand for 24 h to form a dry crust, before baking. A bit tricky in the UK, especially when moving towards Autumn and there's lots of rain and moisture in the air. Might be worth a try.