Last week, I read an article by Dorie Greenspan in The New York Times Magazine about the Swedish custom of fika, or twice-daily breaks where people drink coffee, eat something sweet, and talk. We need more of that in America.
I was inspired by the article so Saturday night, I decided to make Greenspan’s recipe for Swedish almond cake. It sounded pretty straightforward: You make an easy cake batter, spread it into a prepared pan, and layer on some caramelized almonds later.
The recipe is easy except for the end. If you’re not used to spreading toppings on a mostly baked cake, the process is kind of anxiety inducing. You have to take the cake out of the oven (or at least, get it enough out of the oven to work with), take your caramelized almonds, and gently spread it across the top of the cake using a spatula. Then you return the cake to the oven and let it bake the rest of the way.
You’ll know the cake is done when you insert a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean, and the top is golden brown. It took me a few toothpick tests before I could take my cake out of the oven. You might be tempted to take it out early, but don’t. You’re aiming for a nice, moist crumb. You don’t want the middle to be underdone.
The other tricky part about making this cake is removing it from the springform pan. You let the cake cool for a little, and then you’re supposed to take a butter knife or table knife and gently run it around the side of the pan to unstick the cake. This can be difficult because the almonds are still sort of sticky and probably have adhered to the side. Patience is key. Don’t despair. Gently remove the siding. If a few almonds stick to the pan, it’s no big deal.I had a slice of cake with coffee yesterday for my twice-daily fika. I want to keep the tradition alive in the new year. Especially during the winter, I think we could all use more breaks with coffee and dessert. Somewhere a dietician or personal trainer is cursing me, but I don’t care. I’m a big believer in simple pleasures enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Why do you think Swedish people look so happy?
Here’s a song to get you started on your fika journey. It’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard lately.