Swedish Cardamom Cream Cake (Semmeltårta)
This Swedish cardamom cream cake is to die for. To die for.
One of my favourite times of the year in Sweden is the run up to Lent. Not for any reason other than it is semlor season. Once Christmas is done and dusted, out come the glorious bread buns stuffed with almond paste and cream. It is very unusual for me not to have eaten any so far. But, there’s good reason for it. I was saving myself for this dream of a cake. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I was not disappointed.
Semmeldagen (also known as fettisdagen) is the Swedish equivalent of pancake day. Just like the UK, semlor are a traditional food served before the start of Lent. I will let you into a secret: the UK can keep their pancakes. We certainly got the Lent short straw, there. I’d rather have semlor any day.
Semmeltårta (Swedish cardamom cream cake)
Although I adore semlor, there is nothing wrong with giving classics a twist. I wondered if I would be able to make something that took on all the components of semlor, but in cake form. I think I did it. Taking some inspiration from other recipes, but ultimately went with my own creation.
My semmeltårta is a whole host of contradictions in one yummy cake. The sponge is light, yet dense. It is has a touch of cardamom, which is barely noticeable, but makes all the difference. Then, you have the sublime comparison of sweet almond paste up against the luxurious whipped cream. Oh, man.
The day after baking it, the cake was far softer and really took on the combined flavours. I’ve just sat and had a massive chunk with a coffee, and it was so good. My son, who can be rather fussy, also devoured a slice. That being said, I had to remove the almond paste, first. Yeah, sometimes I wonder how he can possibly be a child of mine.
What does cardamom in cakes taste like?
Although cardamom is well-known for being added to Indian dishes, adding to sweet treats is perhaps less common. Somewhat surprisingly Sweden, the cold, Nordic land, adores spices. Saffron is a hugely popular during Christmas. And without cinnamon, there would be no cinnamon buns. Imagine a world without those? Cardamom is regularly added to cakes, cookies and bread.
If you’ve ever sniffed a jar of ground cardamom, you will know it packs a mighty punch. So, I understand the reluctance to use it in sweet goods. However, you only need a touch. The peppery undertones of cardamom bring a warmth to cakes. It also surprisingly adds a hit of sweetness. Although cardamom offers cakes a depth of flavour, you would be hard pushed to recognize what it was (if you weren’t already aware).
Spelt Swedish Almond Cream Cake (Semmeltårta)
- 3 eggs
- 200g (1 cup) sugar
- 180g (1½ cups) spelt flour (see note 1)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 100ml (⅖ cup) milk
- 100g (3½ oz) almonds (see note 2)
- 100g (½ cup) white sugar
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- 150ml (⅔ cup) whipped cream
- Icing sugar (for sprinkling)
- sliced almonds (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 175℃ / 350℉. Line and grease two 18cm pans (I used springform pans for easier removal).
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture becomes pale and light (about five minutes).
- Combine the flour, baking powder and cardamom powder together.
- Slowly add to your wet ingredients, just until incorporated.
- Add the milk, and continue, again, just until everything is incorporated.
- Pour evenly between the two pans, then bake in the lower part of the oven for around 20-25 minutes. The cake is ready when it bounces back, has started to pull away from the edges, and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven, and allow to rest for ten minutes before removing the sides. Then allow to cool completely.
- Blitz the almonds in a food processor or blender.
- When fine, add the sugar, and continue to work for about 10 minutes until you have a thick paste. Set to one side.
- Whip the cream until peaks form.
- Add one to two tablespoons of milk to your almond paste, just until you have achieved a spreadable consistency.
- Turn one of the cakes upside down and spread your almond paste all over.
- Top with the whipped cream. Place the other cake on top.
- Sprinkle with a liberal helping of icing sugar and a few sliced almonds if you like.
- You can use spelt or regular flour for this recipe (just use the same amount).
- I purchased blanched almonds for my cake. If you are using almonds with the skins still attached, make sure you blanch them first.