Almond meringue layers filled with almond buttercream – that was the dessert beloved by Sweden and Norway king Oscar II.
I don’t want to go to IKEA
Apparently, they sell these cakes in Ikea, frozen, alongside meatballs and pickled herring.
I adore Swedes and Swedish food but I totally detest Ikea – it’s probably my idea of hell on earth.
I’ve been only a couple of times in my life. I traipsed through never ending departments, dodging triple sized prams with small crowds of adults attached.
For what seemed like hours tried to work out which department would hold the legs of the chair whose seat and back I’d secured when I arrived in the store, a century earlier. Then at the checkout it would turn out the necessary screws were not in stock and the whole mission had to be abandoned.
It's totally not snobbery: there is nothing's wrong with the furniture, and Ikea online customer service is actually very efficient. Just don’t make me go to the store.
Good King Oscar II and his cake
Back to the Oscar II cake: the king in question was king Oscar II of Sweden and Norway, too. How thrifty of those Scandinavians: one king to cover both countries! That’s royal economies of scale.
But the mystery of the royal cake connection remains: did he invent it? Baked it? Liked it? No matter which explanation (the last, obviously), all credit goes to him for the enormous macaron filled with buttercream, as that’s what it is.
The macaron cake layers remind me a lot of the Basque almond-meringue biscuits. Could it be that the King was well-travelled? Or perhaps the Basques stole the recipe off the invading Vikings?
I’d better stop there before my patchy knowledge of history and geography becomes embarrassingly obvious to everyone.
The recipe draws from a few Swedish recipe sites. They sometimes feature simple buttercream, other times vanilla crème pâtissiere and I opt for the former.
How to make the cake base
I am not lying: this is precisely like an enormous macaron. But unlike those, this is more rustic, easier to make and you need not worry about perfect feet.
All there is to do is to beat the egg whites stiff, like for a pavlova. The icing sugar and ground almonds stirred together can then be folded delicately into the meringue, taking care not to deflate it.
The oven also should be a little hotter than for macarons.
If you line a baking sheet with parchment, draw two circles on it, about 20cm/8” in diameter. Alternatively, place two ready-cut parchment discs on a baking sheet and try to keep the batter within their boundaries.
The batter doesn’t need to be extra smooth but try to level it off with a spatula. You can also tap the baking sheet a few times against the worktop to help the batter settle and stop it from cracking.
After they’ve baked set and golden, let them cool completely on the parchment. Trying to prise them off whilst warm will end up in a disaster.
How to make the buttercream
The Ikea cake has pastry cream in it as a filling but I actually think almond buttercream with a bit of crunch suits it much better. And it’s easier to make.
Toasting half the ground almonds makes for varied, interesting texture but I’ll understand completely if you think this step is superfluous. Just make sure, if you do toast them, that the almond crumbs are completely cold before adding them to the buttercream.
If the butter is really soft, it won’t take long to beat it with a hand held mixer to a fluffy, pale mass.
Add the icing sugar in about three goes whilst beating continuously. Stir in a little lemon juice, then the almonds, toasted, untoasted or both, and it’s done.
Filling and decorating
Once the bases are cold, you can invert one onto a cake plate and peel off the parchment.
The buttercream, if still soft, will spread easily without having to be piped. Cover it with the other layer, up side up, having peeled off the parchment, obviously. Press gently to help the buttercream spread.
This is a modest, scandi-style cake so the decoration needs to be minimalist.
Toast some almond flakes and pile them on top of the cake while still warm, to make them stick to the macaron layer a little.
Chill the cake before serving, cut generously and sigh contentedly for not having to visit Ikea for it.
More Swedish cake recipes
Swedish almond caramel cake, Toscakaka, is a lovely and easy cake to make ahead. Bake the base in advance, then add caramel topping and blast it under the grill just before serving.
White chocolate kladdkaka recipe - ‘sticky cake’ in literal translation. Kladdkaka is Swedish sticky chocolate cake made with white, dark or milk chocolate. This is my white chocolate kladdkaka version.
Cinnamon twist star bread, a variation on the kanelbullar, Swedish cinnamon buns, theme. A giant kanelbulle twisted into a star bread shape, with cinnamon, apple and chocolate fillings.
More macaron style baking recipes
Mouchous, traditional macarons basques, easier to make than the Parisian variety but just as delicious. Served with no filling and quite rustic compared to Paris macarons.
Dacquoise is an almond or hazelnut meringue usually baked and stacked in layers filled with fresh cream, buttercream or ganache. You think you’ve seen it all when it comes to cakes? Think again!
Recipe for croquants aux amandes, French almond cookies. ‘Croquant’ means ‘crunchy’ and these biscuits are wonderfully brittle, softening a little as they keep.