I get a lot of requests for cookie recipes, especially traditional
ones. Like so much other Icelandic food, traditional cookie recipes only
have a century or two of tradition behind them. This is because baking
didn't become a popular way of cooking until relatively late in the
The reason: Baking ovens didn't become common in Icelandic homes until
When baking caught on, Icelandic cooks and housewives set
about to expand their store of recipes, mostly by acquiring imported
cook-books and later by writing their own, but also by experimentation. Most of the old Icelandic cake
and cookie recipes originally came from Denmark, but many of them have acquired
Icelandic citizenship. Other recipes have been developed here. Anyway, finding the origins of a recipe
is usually almost impossible, mostly because
so many of them are based on other recipes.
These days, cookies mostly tend to get baked around
Christmas-time, perhaps because of the wide variety of commercially made
cookies available in Icelandic supermarkets....
Kómosmjölsterta - Coconut cake
This cake is delicious by itself (especially when made with
chocolate chips), or you can layer it with jam/jelly and decorate with
chocolate chips to taste (optional)
Beat together softened margarine and sugar, until light and
fluffy. Add the eggs, one by one and mix well. Mix together flour, coconut
and baking powder, and chocolate chips (if using). Add to
sugar-egg-margarine mixture. Dough will be very thick. Spread into 3 round
cake tins and bake at 180°C, until done (coconut will take on a light golden
Layer with fruit jam or preserved fruit and cream.
"Klattar" mean "pats", an appropriate name for these
pats of dough. "Lumma" (the singular form of
"Lummur") is sometimes used to refer to something that is old
fashioned, especially when referring to outdated music.
My mother is an expert at making these mini pancakes. Unlike the
large, thin pancakes that are served rolled up
with sugar or whipped cream and jam, these small, thick ones taste best
sprinkled with sugar, still warm from the skillet, with a glass of
cold milk. A variation on the basic recipe is fish-pancakes.
milk (or more as needed)
rice pudding or porridge
Melt the margarine/butter on the skillet over
low heat. Allow to cool slightly. Sieve flour and baking powder together
into a bowl. Add sugar and rice pudding or porridge and mix well. Add
half the milk and mix. Add the egg and the rest of the milk, and then
the melted margarine/butter, and the raisins (if you are using them).
The dough should be thick enough not to run much on the pan, and yield
Heat the skillet to medium temperature. Put the dough on the skillet
with a tablespoon. You should be able to fry 3-4 "lummur" at
once. Turn over with a spatula. Bake until light brown on both sides.
-Put the pancakes on a plate in layers and
sprinkle some sugar on top
of each layer. Serve fresh with sugar, jam or syrup.
For me, pancakes have always been connected
with my grandmothers, both of whom are expert pancake makers, and will
whip up a batch at a moments' notice. These pancakes are quick and
to make, and how you serve them depends on the occasion. Rolled up with
sugar, they make an excellent addition to afternoon tea (or coffee,
depending on your preferences). Spread with jam and folded up with
whipped cream, they are a delicacy fit for festive occasions. This
recipe comes from my maternal grandmother. For a North
American-Icelandic version, click
here. Note: The recipe is only a guideline to help first time
pancake-makers along. As you become more "fluent" in
pancake-making, you will probably develop your own "dash-of-this,
a-little-of-that" recipe, as I have.
Take 1 cup flour, 1 medium egg (the original
calls for two eggs - I prefer to use just one), a dash of
baking soda and a dash of baking powder, 100 grams margarine/butter and
some milk. These are the basic ingredients. I also add some essence of
cardamom, lemon juice/lemon essence, or vanilla essence for taste.
Take skillet or Icelandic
pancake pan and melt the butter in it.
Allow to cool slightly. Mix up the dry ingredients and add some milk to
make a thin paste. Add the egg(s). Add the margarine/butter (don't wipe or
wash the skillet after melting the fat). Cooling the fat is
important, because if it is too hot, the egg(s) will curdle and make lumps
in the dough. Experiment with the thickness of the dough.
Heat the skillet over high heat and lower to
medium. Pour on a portion of the dough, just enough to cover the pan
(this is a skill that will come with practice). When the underside is
golden brown, turn over and fry the other side. The pancakes should be thin
- a proper Icelandic pancake is only about a millimeter thick! Stack the pancakes on a plate and
sprinkle some sugar on top of each pancake to prevent them from sticking
together. These pancakes can be frozen and re-heated in a microwave oven.
The Icelandic pancake pan. This is
basically a round skillet with a thick bottom. The thick bottom is
necessary, since the pancakes must be fried quickly at a
relatively high temperature.
-Sprinkle with sugar and roll up, eat and
enjoy - either warm or cold! Jam and jelly, especially rhubarb, blueberry or
strawberry, is also excellent on rolled pancakes.
-"Sunday best" cream pancakes:Cover the centre
of each pancake with your favourite jam or jelly,
add a couple of tablespoons of whipped cream (pancakes must be cold),
fold in half, and again in half. Serve with hot cocoa.
-Stack the pancakes, spreading
jam on top of each one. Cut in wedges and serve like a cake, with whipped
An old family favourite, and the first cake I learned to make. Much like
the Lummur recipe above, this is one I never get
tired of making. A very versatile recipe. With a bit of imagination, it
can be turned into an apple-cake, spice cake, or a batch of muffins.
A Danish variety of this kind of oven-pan cake is called
1-1 1/2 cups
Mix the dry ingredients well together in a
bowl. Add the eggs and milk and then the melted margarine and mix well.
Although this dough is supposed to be just mixed, I prefer to whip it
slightly - it makes the cake wonderfully light and fluffy.
Pour into a greased oven-pan (a deep, square
one), and bake at 175 C for about 30 minutes in the middle of the oven.
The cake is done when it feels firm when you press gently on it with
your hand. Allow to cool and spread with cocoa icing.
-Leave out the cocoa, and make a white cake
(add some vanilla essence to the dough for taste). Spread with cocoa
-For spiced cake: Leave out the cocoa and
sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking. For an even more spicy cake,
experiment with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and/or powdered cloves. (I never use the same amounts
-To make an apple-cake: put slices of apple,
about 1/2 cm thick, on top of white dough in the pan, before sprinkling
it with cinnamon sugar. To make
cinnamon sugar: Mix together about 1/4 cup of sugar and about 2 tsp.
-Mix in grated chocolate or chocolate chips
instead of the cocoa and pour into muffin pans.
-For a slightly tropical taste, put grated
coconut on top of the still wet cocoa icing.
The recipe is probably originally foreign. This type of chocolate cake
is very popular all over Iceland, and you can buy a slice in most cafes
and bakeries. I like it best when it has been frozen and thawed before
glazing, because the cake will then be nicely moist.
Mix together the dry ingredients. Add milk and mix well. Add eggs, soft margarine/butter and vanilla essence
and mix well. Pour into two cake pans and bake at 175 deg. Celsius until
firm. Remove gently from pans and cool.
When cold, spread one half with rhubarb
jam (leave it out if you don't have any), and spread cocoa icing
over the jam. Put the other half on top and cover with chocolate icing.
*For a darker cake, use more. Proper Devil's
cake should be almost black in colour.
-Other decoration ideas: Cover with cocoa-butter icing. Put mashed bananas between the layers.
- or use Englakrem - Angel's Creme Icing:
Boil water and sugar together until a clear
syrup forms. Be careful not to burn. Whip the egg whites until they are
stiff and form peaks. Continue whipping and pour the hot syrup
s-l-o-w-l-y into the egg whites. Continue whipping until mixture is
cold. This creme should be quite stiff. Spread on the cake and decorate
with chocolate shavings.
In many homes in Iceland, there lurks a large
cooking pot at the bottom of a kitchen cupboard. Its sides are black
with burnt-in fat, and a guest might be excused for thinking that their
hosts simply forgot to throw it away. Occasionally, in some homes as
often as once a week, this pot will be pulled out from its hiding place
and put to good use for frying doughnuts in. It is not unusual for a
doughnut-maker/housewife to make a double or even triple recipe in one
Twisted doughnuts are not a specifically
Icelandic phenomenon, but neither are they as common in other countries.
Making these delicacies is no small undertaking. It is time consuming
and hard work, and therefore the batches are usually large to save time
This is not a good recipe if you have never
deep-fried anything before, as the frying fat must to be very hot, and
certain precautions must be taken to avoid accidents. They include not
letting the hot oil get into contact with water, never leaving the
frying pot or deep-fryer unattended, and, in case of accidents, having a
fire-blanket/extinguisher at hand. An experienced doughnut maker can make this look
as easy as A-B-C, but don't be fooled, and don't try this unless you are
used to deep-frying and know the rules! For a North American-Icelandic
baker's ammonia/hartshorn salt (ammonium carbonate)
essence of cardamom
Mix together the flour, sugar, baker's ammonia and
baking powder. Mix in the soft margarine and then eggs and milk,
followed by the essence of cardamom. Knead into a fairly soft dough.
Avoid over-kneading, as this will make the doughnuts tough. Flatten
dough thinly, cut into strips (these should be anything from 5-10 centimeters
wide, depending on weather you want small or big doughnuts)
and then cut it into diamond shapes. Cut a small slit in the centre of
each diamond and gently pull one end through the slit, to make the twist
in the doughnuts. Heat the frying fat. It must be very hot, and will
have reached the right temperature when a doughnut browns and cooks
through in about 1-1 1/2 minutes.
Genuine Icelandic twisted doughnuts are fried
in sheep tallow (tólg), which leaves a special taste, but this is now
considered unhealthy because of all the saturated fat. Use instead about
a litre of vegetable cooking fat that can be heated to a high
temperature. The doughnuts will not have that special tallowy taste, but
neither will they clog up your arteries.
Note: Most deep-fryers can not get the oil hot enough for frying kleinur
- but they are safer than using a pot on the stovetop. If you do
use a fryer, heat the oil to the maximum temperature, and allow the oil
a short time to heat up again after each round of doughnuts.
* I found an American recipe for twisted
doughnuts in The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker (New
York, N.Y., Harper & Row, 1989). The recipe is taken from an old
American cookbook, and although the twisting method is quite different,
the recipes themselves are clearly related.
I really like these little doughnuts, especially warm with
a glass of cold milk. Make them and everyone will love you for it!
1 1/2 cups.
Mix the dry ingredients well, and then add the rest. Use a
mixer for convenience. Dough should not be very thick. Drop into the
frying fat with two teaspoons. For frying instructions, refer to the
recipe for twisted
These delicious meringue drops are the perfect
accompaniment for my mother's home-made ice-cream!
cream of tartar
approx. 3/4 cup
sugar, white or confectioners'
Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they
form stiff peaks. Add the sugar in small doses, whipping well
in-between. Whip until the dough is stiff and mix in vanilla or other
flavouring (sherry or rum is also good). Oil and flour a baking sheet.
Put some of the dough in a pastry bag with a big tip, and squeeze
out some even sized blobs onto the baking sheet. Bake in a warm oven
(150° C) until dry and lightly coloured. Remove immediately from the
baking sheet and allow to cool before storing in a cookie tin. Serve
-Make small drops, dip them in chocolate, and serve as sweets.
This cake is famous among the
"Western-Icelanders" - the descendants of Icelandic immigrants
in Canada and the U.S. For them, there is hardly anything more Icelandic
In spite of the name, I think it probably
originated in Denmark. The "Western-Icelandic" version is
somewhat different from this - you can find one variation at the INL
recipe collection. Here is my grandmother's recipe.
1 1/2 tsp.
baker's ammonia (ammonium carbonate)
essence of cardamom/pinch of ground cardamom
Mix together all dry ingredients. Add the margarine/butter, kneading
until well mixed. Cool in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Roll out
into a thickness of approx. 1 to 1 1/2 cm. You can divide the dough now
or after baking, into as many parts as you want layers (3-5 is the
usual). Try to keep each portion the same shape, size and thickness as the others.
Bake in the centre of the oven at 200°C, until golden in colour and
done through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When the cake is
almost cold, spread rhubarb
jam or prune jam (see recipe below) on top of all layers except one and
sandwich the layers together.
-This cake freezes well and thaws quickly, and is
liked by almost everyone.
-Brown Vínarterta: Add some cocoa to the recipe and use vanilla butter
icing instead of jam, or alternate layers of icing and jam
-Alternate layers of jam and butter icing
To make prune jam: take
one kilo (approx. 2 lbs.) prunes with pits, or equivalent in pitted
prunes. Soak the prunes in water to soften and remove the pits. Mince
the prunes and cook on low for 30 minutes with 650 g sugar. Cool before
spreading on cake.
Probably not Icelandic in origin, but we have certainly
made it our own. We
may call it “Christmas Cake”, but we actually enjoy it all through
the year. My mother usually bakes up a big batch of these cakes in one
go. They freeze well, and are always popular with guests.
This versatile recipe is also good for making Tea
Cakes, and, with minor changes, Marble Cake,
Lemon Cake, Sand Cake, Fruitcake and Spice Cake.
Christmas cake is traditionally made with raisins, but
as neither I or my mother like raisins in cakes, we usually substitute
them with chocolate chips.
raisins or chocolate chips or 50/50
of both (optional)
lemon, cardamom or vanilla essence
Margarine, milk and eggs should all be at room temperature.
together sugar and margarine until it takes on a pale, almost white,
colour. Add the egg and continue beating until light and fluffy looking.
Add flavouring essence and mix well. Sift together flour and baking powder
and add, small portions at a time, alternating with small doses of milk.
Mix well in-between. Stir as little as possible after all the flour has
been added, as over-stirring will make the cake dry and tough. Gently
stir in the raisins/choc-chips (if using), by hand. Dust lightly with flour before mixing - it
will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bowl.
To make Christmas cake: Pour into a deep, rectangular
cake/bread pan, filling it 2/3 to the top. Bake at 175-200 C, on the
lowest rack in the oven. Use more heat under the cake than on top.
Baking time is approx. 45-60 minutes. The cake is ready when it shrinks
from the edges of the pan, but test with a pin just in case. It should be well and evenly browned on all
sides, with a peak down the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes
before removing from the pan. Cool on a rack - if you can resist eating
it while it is still warm!
To make marble cake:
Use vanilla essence for flavouring. When the dough is fully mixed, divide in half and add melted chocolate
(65 gr.) or sifted dark cocoa (2 tblsp. + 1 tblsp. sugar) to one half.
The marbling is done by layering the dark and white dough. The amount of
marbling depends on how many layers you use. Pour the dough in the
baking tin in layers, beginning and ending with white dough. Drag a
knife or spoon down the middle of the dough to marbleize. Bake as
To make tea buns: Drop by the teaspoonful on a baking
and bake in the middle of the oven until golden in colour.
make Lemon Cake: Use lemon juice (1 ˝ - 2 tsp) or lemon essence (1
tsp.) and grated lemon peel (from ˝ a lemon) to flavor the cake.Spread with lemon flavored icing if desired.
This lovely recipe and
it's variations comes from the book “Nýja Matreiđslubókin” by
Halldóra Eggertsdóttir and Sólveig Benediktsdóttir.
All kinds of scrumptuous, decorated cakes with fruit, cream and/or
sweet icing are very popular in Iceland, and there are plenty of recipes
to choose from. Most are based on some kind of sponge cake, or are made
with meringue. They are often jokingly called Stríđstertur
(Battle Cakes). Hnallţórur is another joke name for these cakes
- derived from a character in one of Halldór Laxness' books, a woman
who loved to make and serve these kinds of cake. These creations are as
beautiful and tempting to behold as they are delicious and
desiccated coconut or Rice Crispies
Beat together egg whites and sugar until stiff and peaks form.
Chop or finely grate the chocolate and fold in along with coconut/Rice
Crispies. Pour into a greased, round cake pan (use one with a loose
bottom). Bake at 150°C for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
Whip the eggs until light and fluffy and add the sugar. Continue whipping until
light in colour. Sift together flour and potato flour and carefully fold
into egg/sugar mixture with a fork. Pour into a greased round cake pan
(same size and type as layer 1). Bake at 200°C for 5 minutes and then
lower heat to 175°C and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the
oven and cool.
1 large. can
strawberries in syrup
chocolate-covered raisins & salted peanuts
Whip the cream until stiff. Mash the canned strawberries and fold into
the cream. Spread a portion on top of layer 1. Top with layer
2. Cover the cake with the rest of the strawberry cream. Decorate
with fresh strawberries, chocolate raisins and salted peanuts.
This icing is excellent on cakes and as a filling for Mömmukökur.
butter OR margarine
Soften the butter at room temperature, or put in the
microwave for a few seconds. Whip together the butter and sugar until
light and fluffy. Adjust amount of sugar according to how sweet you want
the icing. Add the egg yolk and flavouring, and cream, if using (will make
the icing smoother). Frost the cake and enjoy.
-vanilla is the usual flavouring for white icing, but many
other flavours are excellent:
Rum, sherry, amaretto/almond or hazelnut are good flavours for many kinds
of cake. Fruit, berry and flower flavours, such as orange, lemon,
strawberry, cherry, peppermint or rosewater, are good with white cake.
-add some cocoa powder to make chocolate-flavoured icing
-flavour with fresh, strong coffee. This combines well with
- Mama's Cookies
(Christmas gingerbread cookies)
My mother only makes these gingerbread cookies before
Christmas, but they are excellent at any time of the year. When I was
little, I really thought it was my mother's own recipe.
Different people have different ways of making
Mömmukökur. My mother makes them very thin and bakes them until they are
dark brown and crisp. Some others make light brown, thicker cookies that soften
quickly once the icing is on. Mother allows them to stand until completely
cooled, before putting in tins for storage. This is to ensure that they
will stay crisp. Then, just before Christmas - usually on Ţorláksmessa
- the four of us (my parents, brother and I) sit down together and make
cookie sandwiches, sticking the cookies together two by two with vanilla butter
Melt together the butter, sugar and golden syrup. Cool.
Stir in the egg. Mix together flour, baking soda and ginger. Add the syrup
mixture and knead until smooth. Stand in a refrigerator over night.
Flatten thinly and cut out shapes with cookie cutters or a glass, making
sure there is an even number of each shape. Bake at 200°C, until brown.
Cool completely before icing.
-p.s. Don't try to use this recipe to make gingerbread
houses - it's too fragile.
- "Pepper Cookies" - Spicy gingerbread cookies
These unusual gingerbread cookies not only contain pepper,
but also paprika. My mother modified the recipe from one she found in an
old recipe booklet.
Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the soft butter and
eggs and knead until smooth. Stand in the refrigerator over night. Roll
out into even sausage shapes, pinch off small portions and make little
balls out of the dough. Flatten slightly with your hand. Bake at 200°C
until dark brown.
These little drop cookies are more like sweets that
cookies, especially if you dip them in melted chocolate! This recipe makes
about 20-25 cookies.
Whip together the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
Fold in the desiccated coconut. Drop by the teaspoonful on a greased
cooking sheet, and bake at 200°C until light golden brown (approx 10-12
-dip the bottom half of cooled cookies in melted chocolate
for added sweetness.
don’t know where the name for this yummy cake originates, but I think
it’s a good one! I learned to make it in home economics class when I was
in elementary school.
sugar, well packed
jam or stewed prunes
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter/margarine and mix well
with your hands. Add the egg and mix well. Press the dough into a round
baking tin, saving some for the topping. Spread with the jam and crumble
the rest of the dough over the cake. You can also use the leftover dough
to make a pie lattice for the cake. Bake at 200°C for approx 20 min. or
until the cake takes on a dark, golden color. Delicious hot or cold.
This is one of the cakes my mother always makes for
holidays like Christmas and Easter, and for birthdays and other special
margarine or butter
Cream together the sugar and softened margarine or butter. Mix in the
eggs. Sift the flour with the spices, baking soda and cocoa. Add to the
margarine mix, one tablespoonful at a time. Alternate with splashes of
milk, and mix well in between (dough should be medium thick). Pour into
cake tins and bake at 190°C until firm. Cool.
My mother makes these cakes about as thick as her thumb, and uses three
layes of cake and two layers of vanilla butter icing. Tastes great with
Another cookie recipe my mother always bmakes for Christmas.
These delicious candy cookies are light as air and melt on the tongue. The
rising agent, baker's ammonia, unfortunately makes a big stink while the
cookies are baking. I've seen these cookies for sale in Denmark, where
they are called Rutebiler, or "Buses"
Mix the dry ingredients andbeaten
eggs and knead well. Run the dough through a cookie press or meat grinder
with cookie attachment. Use this attachment: .
Each cake should be about 5 cm (2 inches) long. Bake in the center of the
oven for 8-10 minutes at 175°C. These cookies are light and airy, with a
unbaked cookies don't need to be big - they will expand in size 3-4 times
during the baking.
Slöngukaka- "Snake cake" with chocolate butter cream
It's called a snake cake because the slices look like
stylized rolled-up snakes. For chocolate version, see next recipe.
Cream together the eggs and sugar. Add the flour and potato
starch, little by little. Prepare a temporary baking container by putting baking paper on a baking sheet and folding in the corners to
make a shallow "box". Pour in the dough and smooth with a
Bake at 250°C for about 10 minutes. Set the oven to heat from below. Test
for doneness by gently pressing the top of the cake with your finger - if
the cake feels firm and the fingerprint quickly disappears, the cake is
done. When done, turn the cake over onto a sheet of baking paper sprinkled with sugar.
Put a roasting pan or cutting board on top of the cake while it cools, to
keep it smooth and prevent it from hardening.
margarine or butter, soft
Make the buttercream: Cream together margarine and
brown sugar. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Add the
flavouring and sifted cocoa.
When the cake is cold, smooth the butter cream over one
side of it and firmly but carefully roll up the cake. Slice and serve with
a dollop of whipped cream.
Variations: Instead of chocolate butter cream, you can use
white butter icing with the flavouring of your choice, chocolate pudding or
jam. Strawberry or raspberry jam tastes especially good with this kind of
Recipe taken from Helga Sigurđardóttir's "Matur
& Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).
A chocolate version of the delicious snake cake. For plain
version, see the above recipe.
As in the other recipe, cream the eggs and sugar. Add the
dry ingredients (sift them first) and mix carefully. Bake like the other
snake cake. When done, turn over onto a sheet of baking paper sprinkled
with sugar. Roll up with the paper to store. When you want to serve the
cake, gently unroll and smear one side with fruit jam, and top with
whipped cream (about 150 ml. is suitable). Slice and serve.
Variations: Instead of cream and jam, use vanilla
buttercream or cream with mashed fruit. Banana is especially good. Or
smooth half-frozen ice-cream custard on the cake, roll up and freeze
Recipe taken from Helga Sigurđardóttir's "Matur
& Drykkur", Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).