A few days ago, I explained that my Swedish family didn’t celebrate St. Lucia Day when I was a child. But you know what they did celebrate, though? Fika! My Swedish family drank coffee (pots and pots of coffee) all day long, every day. And every gathering, no matter the size or reason, had at least one opportunity for guests to sit together and fika* over a cup of coffee and a piece of cake!
That’s fika! Which is far more than a coffee break. Fika is . . . a concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. Many Swedes consider it essential to make time for fika every day. It means making time for friends to share a cup of coffee and a little something to eat. Exactly what you eat during fika is not really important, as the food is incidental to the companionship, the socializing, and the catching up with friends and family. My great grandmother always had some sort of coffee cake at the ready — for guests, or to take with her if she was planning a visit elsewhere. (And my grandmother actually got a little . . . fussy . . . if coffee and cake weren’t served at gatherings. . . )
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to bake Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Fika Cake recipe . . . and create a little fika magic of my own. You can find Dorie’s recipe on page 120 of her Baking With Dorie cookbook (if you happen to have a copy). Or you can find the recipe in the New York Times recipe collection, where it was published in 2020 under the name Swedish Almond Cake. (I’ve “gifted” the NYT link, so you should be able to access the recipe – for at least 10 days – even if you don’t have a NYT Food subscription.) And I’ve also included the recipe for you here, at the end of today’s post.
The cake is delicious. Really, really good. And even better on the 2nd day! (It keeps well.) Being a Dorie Greenspan recipe, every step in the process is very well-described and detailed, but the making and the baking are quite straightforward. Just do what Dorie tells you! The recipe calls for a springform pan, and that really does make things easier. That said, I’m sure you could make the cake in a regular cake pan, too. It just may not look as pretty on a plate.
Give some fika a try! Bake up this lovely cake. Brew up a pot of coffee – or a cup of tea – and enjoy.
Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Fika Cake
FOR THE CAKE
- ½ cup plus 6 tablespoons/200 grams unsalted butter, melted and lukewarm, plus more unmelted butter for greasing the pan
- 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons/240 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1¼ cups/250 grams granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅔ cup/160 milliliters whole milk, lukewarm
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
FOR THE TOPPING
- 7 tablespoons/100 grams unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
- ¾ cup/75 grams sliced almonds
- ½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
To make the cake: Center a rack in the oven, and heat it to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (using solid, unmelted butter), and dust the interior with flour; tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Working with a mixer (use a paddle attachment, if you have one), beat the sugar and eggs together on medium-high speed until the mixture is light and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium, and gradually add the melted butter, followed by the milk and vanilla. (I like to pour the ingredients down the side of the bowl as the mixer is working.) Mix until the batter is smooth; it will have a lovely sheen. Decrease the speed to low, and gradually add the dry ingredients. When the flour mixture is almost fully incorporated, finish blending by stirring with a spatula. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Slide the cake into the oven, and set your timer for 30 minutes.
To make the topping: As soon as the timer dings, start the topping (leaving the cake in the oven): In a medium saucepan, mix together all the topping ingredients. Place over medium-high heat and, stirring constantly, cook until you see a couple of bubbles around the edges. Lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring nonstop, for 3 minutes. The mixture will thicken a little, and your spatula will leave tracks as you stir. Remove the pan from the heat.
Immediately take the cake out of the oven (leaving the oven on), and carefully pour the topping over the cake, nudging it gently with a spatula to cover the cake completely.
Return the cake to the oven, and bake for an additional 15 minutes (total baking time is about 50 minutes) or until the topping, which will bubble and seethe, is a beautiful golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack, and cool for 5 minutes. Carefully work a table knife between the side of the pan and the cake, gently pushing the cake away from the side (it’s a delicate job because the sticky topping isn’t yet set). Remove the sides of the pan, and let the cake come to room temperature on the base. When you’re ready to serve, lift the cake off the springform base and onto a platter.
Storing: The cake may look delicate, but it will keep well for up to 3 days if your kitchen isn’t humid. The easiest way to keep it is to return it to the (clean) springofrm pan and cover the top of the pan.
A Word on Temperature and Timing: Be sure to use eggs that are at room temperature; the butter and milk should be lukewarm. You need to start making the topping after the cake has been in the oven for 30 minutes or so.
*I can’t say for certain that my great grandmother and my other Swedish-speaking relatives used the term “fika.” They may have — I just never learned Swedish as a child (although I heard it spoken around me all the time at family gatherings), so I can’t be sure. But they certainly did practice the fika ritual!
If you’re wondering what this “advent calendar” is all about, you can read my “intro” post here.