Norway’s well-known Mor Monsens Kake (Mother Monsen’s Cake) is a rather classic Norwegian Christmas cake flavored with lemon zest and garnished with almonds, currants, and pearl sugar. It has been a beloved cake since the 19th century, ever since a Norwegian author wrote what is believed by some to be the first Norwegian cookbook. Hanna Winsnes, in her 1845 book entitled: Lærebog i de forskjellige Grene af Huusholdningen (which, apparently can be loosely translated as A manual On The Different Household Chores), included a recipe for this cake and attributed it to Mor Monsen (Mother Monsen) – whoever that lovely, inspiring person might have been.
This is a simple buttery cake that is a rather nice contrast to all those rich, sweet, spicy Spekulatius (speculoos), Printen, and Lebkuchen (ginger bread cookies) at this time of year. It is perfect with a cup of tea in the afternoon, but also wonderful with your morning coffee and utterly perfect after you made it home collapsing under the sheer weight of all those shopping bags from the last minute shopping and/or grocery spree.
All it takes to make this wonderful cake is creaming butter and sugar together and adding the lemon zest as well as the other cake ingredients, then spreading it all into a buttered and floured sheet pan. Sprinkle with almonds, currants, and pearl sugar, then bake. During baking, it will puff up a little, and some of the dried fruit and slithered nuts will sink down into the batter. Once golden, remove from the oven and cut into pieces – diamonds or triangles are the traditional shapes and you will have a cake that is simple yet elegant, already cut into serving pieces.
There are a lot of versions of this recipe out there and it was a bit unclear which flavor should be added to the batter. Naturally, cardamon came to my mind but in the end I settled for a bit of vanilla and some lemon zest – as I am really partial to that pairing.
Mor Monsens Kake - Mother Monsen´s Cake
- 225g butter, unsalted, room temperature
- 225g superfine baking (caster) sugar
- 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic
- 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla sugar OR ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- zest of ½ organic (untreated) lemon
- 130g AP (plain) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- a pinch of fine sea salt
- 25g blanched almonds, slithered
- 40g currants
- 20g pearl sugar
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (356°F).
- Grease and line a deep baking pan (30 x 20 cm / 12 x 8 inches).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
- Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl.
- Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Stir in the vanilla (sugar or extract) and lemon zest, then fold in the flour.
- Spoon the batter into the baking tray and spread level.
- Sprinkle over the currants, almonds and pearl sugar.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- Cut the cooled cake into diamonds or triangles to serve.
This is a quick and easy recipe to make, using mostly store cupboard and fridge ingredients. It can be stored for a few days in an airtight container, but also freezes very well for those times you fancy a bit of cake at short notice.
It is always nice to have an easy recipe up your sleeve and, personally, I like to make this Norwegian coffee cake when I am looking for an easy cake with those familiar flavors of vanilla and lemon as well as serious buttery goodness.
So as they say in Norway – Gledelig Jul! Or as we say around here - Frohe Weihnachten!