Germany in the early days of February can be an unrelentingly cold, damp and dark place. Grey days roll into each other and winter blues can linger like an unwanted pet at your heels whilst you trudge here and there doing the same things you did in the summer only with a heavy heart and a minor vitamin d deficiency. Today the sun came out for an hour or so, a swept patch of blue sky to accompany the biting wind, I spent the afternoon pottering in kitchen shops, fondling cookie stamps and bundt tins. I bought some sweet chai tea, some bittersweet chocolate and some rhubarb-raspberry jam with the vague ambition to make thumbprint cookies. I wiled away some time in a coffee shop with a friend, splitting house made truffles with a knife and guessing the flavours. There are merits to cold weather and the enthusiastic purchase of baking provisions is one of them. Cake, when it’s raining and one feels blue, is a credible form of therapy, from fingering the crackling packets of chocolate in the shop, to the soft sound of batter as it hits the base of the pan.
As I started walking home today the wind let it an almighty howl and I found myself in the midst of a thick, fat snow flurry. I had no warning and shuffled my way along with an unwieldy umbrella and hands full of bags. The wind was squally and so cold I had to alternate clamping each hand under my arm to stave off frost bite (probably). By the time I was fumbling for my keys my face was numb, my shoes and leggings were soaked and my paper bag had bitten the dust. I could have been more miserable about these unfortunate events but I knew that, behind the door, in the kitchen, awaited an icing sugar dusted Kladdkaka.
I had made it the previous day as part of an ongoing homage to Fika, the recipe taken straight from the book. Kladdkaka translates as ‘sticky cake’ and I mixed the batter with some trepidation. I knew it would be a flat cake as it contains no raising agent and no flour but I prayed that it would come away from the tin without a fight. This cake is a relative of the brownie, it is dark and dense and a little chewy around the edges. In ‘Fika’ the author suggests that this is the stuff of all nighters for Swedish students and I can see why. It is an achievable batter of cocoa, almond, eggs, sugar and butter. It is poured into a round cake tin and baked for just under 20 minutes. What comes out of the oven is a soft, buttery disc of cocoa batter, just set and still trembling. Serve it up straight away and you have a molten chocolate desert. Wait for 30 or so unbearable minutes and it’s set enough to cut like a cake. To anyone not in-the-know it might appear that you have had some sort of baking mishap and produced an unrisen sponge, but when dusted with icing sugar and set on a plate this brownie-natured cake is pretty as a picture and tempting in its sticky, moist darkness.
This is the type of recipe you memorise. It’s the sort of recipe that you put together in someone else’s kitchen when you visit a friend in need of urgent comfort and sweet fortification. For something so simple the taste is sophisticated. Use a golden, unrefined sugar and some high quality cocoa to really make something of it. Initially my mind raced with ways to alter the Kladdkaka recipe, dotting the batter with raspberries, lacing it with a little rum or amaretto, you could well try these things but once I had baked and tried this ingenious Swedish tradition I didn’t want to change a single thing about it.
Kladdkaka (Swedish Sticky Cake)
Adapted from recipe in ‘Fika’ by Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall
70g Ground Almonds
115g unsalted butter (or dairy free alternative)
200g natural cane sugar
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
Poppy seeds to sprinkle (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F or 175c. Grease a 9 inch (23cm) springform pan or round baking dish.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave and leave to cool slightly
- Whisk together the eggs and sugar. Sift in the cocoa powder, add the salt and stir. Add the almonds and the butter and mix until batter is smooth.
- Pour into the pan and bake for 20 minutes.
- If you serve this straight away it will work beautifully as a molten chocolate desert with ice cream.
- If not then wait until completely cool before cutting.