February 04, 2011

Runeberg's Cakes

Tomorrow is Runeberg's Day in Finland. Runeberg, our national poet, is not only known for his poems and stories, but also for the tarts named after him. Runeberg's tarts were apparently first baked by, who else, but Mrs Runeberg and they are only ever served on this particular day of the year.

My version is a modernised, healthy version of the original tarts which usually include sugar, butter, eggs, plain flour, almond meal and bread or cookie crumbs (even ginger bread is often used). The tarts are always topped with jam and decorated with a circle of icing. They really are like big muffins, but for some reason they are called 'tarts'.

I always remember these tarts from school when we ate them after our warm school meal. I remember the taste of bitter almond extract and the unique texture. Even now when I open a bottle of bitter almond extract it takes me right back to primary school.

I must admit it's been years since I've had a Runeberg's tart, and it's about time I offer you my version of these tarts. I've replaced all butter with apple sauce and plain yoghurt, I've used dried rye crumbs and seasoned the mixture with cinnamon and cloves. I am so happy with the outcome, and I don't think Mrs Runeberg would be hugely offended by my version of her tarts.

Happy Runeberg's Day and happy weekend everyone!

Runeberg's Cakes*
(Makes 4 large cakes)

 1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup dried rye crumbs** 
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove
3 large free-range eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup fat-free plain yoghurt
1/2 tsp bitter almond aroma***
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
cloudberry jam, for serving
icing sugar, for serving

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix together the dry ingredients including the almond meal, dried rye crumbs, brown sugar, spices and baking powder. In another bowl mix together the wet ingredients. Combine the two and mix into a smooth batter. Pour the mixture into muffin tins (about 125 ml each). Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool then carve out a bit off the top and add a spoonful of cloudberry jam (or jam of your choice). Sprinkle with icing sugar.

Notes on the recipe

* These are originally called 'tarts', but I am calling them cakes because I think they are more cake-like
**If you can't find shop-bought dried rye crumbs you can make your own using rolled rye (about a tablespoon or two) processed with full-rye crisps or crackers. 
***Bitter almond aroma is different to sweet almond essence.