Sunday, April 05, 2009


Mjuk Toscakaka

I have an usual love affair for European baked goods. Unusual because I have never really experienced any freshly German spice cookies, no Hungarian cakes, no Austrian or Croatian pastries, no Scandinavian baking at get the point. Really, the only European baked goods I've had are the few I've made after watching Ingmar Bergman, Susanne Bier and Lars von Trier films or after reading about traditional baked offerings for Christmas, St Lucia's Day and St Martin's Day. It seems that I love the idea of heavenly-scented baked goods against a wintry landscape, which speaks directly to the comfort food orientation of my blog.

I have, however, been consistent in my curiosity, for the baked goods I covet and dream of making are always made with spices and are often served with gorgeous jams or preserves. To be served such food in an authentic environment would be sublime, but in the meantime, I will try to realise the fantasy in baby steps. I do not have the confidence to make linzertorte or strudel, but the odd cake or cookie recipe is enough to satisfy my cravings.

Sometimes my curiosity is peaked by what I first think are anomalies, such as using cardamom in cookie or cake batters, which, as it turns out, is commonplace in Scandinavia. Today's post is very simple, and it relies heavily on my preferred nuts: almonds. (Baking with nuts is another of my proclivities.) I have often thought of almonds as belonging to areas with warm climates, so it surprised me that this variation on butter cake would appear in a Swede's repertoire - actually, it is a popular cake made throughout Scandinavia. And that there is a reference to Tosca in the title of the cake, I cannot help but be intrigued...

Mjuk Toscakaka
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' The Art of the Tart)

For the cake:

2/3 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons water

For the topping:

1/4 cup ground or slivered almonds
4 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk

1) Preheat oven 180 C/350 F.
2) Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is smooth in texture and pale in colour.
3) Beat in the eggs little by little.
4) Stir in the vanilla extract.
5) Sift in the flour and baking powder, then beat it in well.
6) Add water, then beat until smooth.
7) Pour the mixture into a prepared baking dish, such as a tart pan.
8) Ensure that the top is smooth before putting on the middle rack in the oven.
9) Bake for 30 minutes.
10) Remove pan from oven, then turn heat up to 200 C/400 F.
11) For the top of the cake, put all ingredients together in a saucepan until combined and heated through.
12) When the mixture reaches boiling point, pour it over the cake in one layer.
13) Continue to bake in the oven until the top has browned. Be careful not to let it burn.

This cake can be served hot or cold, with or without cream. The caramel and almond topping is fragrant, sweet and nutty, giving complexity to the simple, buttery sponge beneath. As for the connection to opera, I cannot quite tell, but it seems there is a cultural tradition of naming cakes after figures in the high arts. Using slivered almonds is traditional, but coarsely grinding them, as I have here, does not appear to affect the overall quality of the cake. Like most baked goods that contain nuts, a slice of this fragrant cake is perfect with coffee.

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This is one of my favourite Tamasin books.

Your cake / tart looks delicious. I'm sure I have this one marked, but haven't gotten round to trying it...yet.
i am married to a real,live Swede who has only been in this country about 11 years. the rest of his family are still in Sweden, and his mother is a STELLAR Swedish baker. incredible delights come out of her kitchen - 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 times a day!

i am sure she would be happy to share some of her recipes with you, and i will volunteer my hubby to do the translations.

let me know if you're interested and we can figure out a way to exchange info.

p.s. - my husband just so happens to be in Sweden right this very minute. his mother has stuffed him full of Scandinavian delights, and he thinks he might not fit in the plane seat on the trip home. :)
Cardamon - alongside cinnamon - is the most used spice in my kitchen - goes into pretty much every other cake recipe :D
I make Tosca cakes quite often (maybe I should post my recipe, too) - they're easy and the almond crunch topping is always a hit..
Kelly-Jane ~ This particular book by Tamasin is great, though I'm not sure it is a tart. While simple, the sponge is deliciously light and intriguing (must be the cardamom, and the almonds on top add their own aromatic quality as well as adding a different, delightful texture.

Enbee ~ Thank you so much for your enthusiastic message. How wonderful would it be to have a mother-in-law like yours? Baked goods up to five times a day?! Such bliss!

I would be more than delighted to receive recipes from you and your husband, but please do not feel obligated in any way, and do not hurry to put together a compendium. The odd family favorite would be greatly appreciated. Please feel free to write to me at Thanks again.

Pille ~ Please do post your recipe for Tosca cake! I'm sure it will become my new favourite :-) I'm looking to include cardamom in baking so much more. Spices make an incredible difference to food in fact, Eric and I now find ourselves automatically adding cinnamon to beef dishes, as informed by the many Mexican and Middle Eastern recipes we've cooked.

It is so lovely to see a message from you - I know how busy you and K. are with the new addition to your beautiful family.
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