This Swedish Toscakaka is the platonic ideal of afternoon tea cakes. It is light and buttery and moist in texture, with intense flavours of vanilla, caramel and almond. Toscakaka and coffee are a match made in Norse Heaven, which, if my rewatchings of the movie are anything to go by, is called Valhalla. I have always had a huge pash for Norse mythology (nerd alert). It’s just so cool! Their gods and their philosophy – it’s all about partying super hard, and fighting super hard, and doing everything super hard. Obviously they use different terminology, but you get the gist. In Swedish they have a word “fika” which doesn’t translate directly into English. Wikipedia says that it means coffee break, but from other information I’ve picked up, it has a more complex implication. It expresses the importance of taking time out to spend time with friends, or colleagues or loved ones in an informal setting. Fika is both a verb and a noun. To fika is to sit and have something to eat, and something to drink and to enjoy them both immensely. Frankly, it would save me a lot of time to have one word to describe this act, as I find myself doing it so often, and wanting to do it so often! Come over and fika with me! I could say. When my Dad rings me up and asks what are you doing? Fika-ing, I would answer! When I’m staring down the barrel of a huge pile of work, and planning out my day, I could add a half hour break – for Fika. And yes, I am aware that I am using this word in a hideously inconsistent way, but rest assured that it’s just because I am in the first flush of Fika-love. Scandinavia is enjoying a huge renaissance in the food scene at the moment, with restaurants like Noma, and the excellent food writers from the area, such as Trine Hanneman, and Signe Johansen. I have always had an abiding love for the cold North of Europe; I love their food, their design, their style. But now more than ever I would love to go and visit! I think that a blanket of snow outside and crackling fire inside would suit me just fine. In fact, it sounds like the perfect time to fika. Internet food community, do you have a favourite fika recipe? And what do you think, is there still time in our hectic fast paced lives for fika? And should there be?
Toscakaka Caramel Almond Sponge
Adapted from Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking, 2012 Saltyard Books For the cake:
150g caster sugar
zest 1 lemon
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
big pinch salt
75g salted butter, melted
For the Praline:
125g salted butter
125g brown sugar
150g flaked almonds
1tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp sea salt Preheat the oven to 180C. Whisk the eggs, sugar and zest in a stand mixer on high speed until they have at least doubled in volume and are very pale and light. They should hold a ribbon for about 2 seconds. Sift or mix together the flour and baking powder (sifting is better). Add one third of the flour, and begin to fold it lightly through the egg mixture, followed by half the butter and then half the buttermilk, folding between each addition. Repeat this process, ending with the final amount of flour. Pour into a greased and lined 23cm tin and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and springing back when touched. Remove the cake and turn the oven up to 220C.
Meanwhile, prepare the praline topping. Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 3 minutes. It should be the consistency of a slightly thick syrup.
Once the cake has come out of the oven, pour the syrup over the cake slowly, letting it soak into the cake as you go. The almond will need some coaxing to get into an even layer, which is fine, coax away! And then back into the oven with the whole shebang (on a tray, just in case) until the topping is slightly crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let it rest in the tin for another 15 minutes or so, before running a knife around the cake, gently, and unmoulding it. Let cool on the base of the tin completely, before serving. For fika, obviously.