A Taste of Finland: The Story Behind Runeberg Torte and How to Bake it at Home

Runeberg Torte

Runeberg Torte is a Finnish cake or torte flavoured with almond and rum. These little individual cakes are shaped like a cylinder and spiced with cardamom, ginger and vanilla. On top is a ring of white icing and raspberry jam. These seasonal cakes are made moist by the use of almond meal and rum syrup and use up crumbled leftover gingerbread cookies from Christmas.

Runeberg Torte

Runeberg torte (known as "runebergintorttu" in Finnish and "Runebergstårta" in Swedish) derives its name from the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877) who apparently ate this cake regularly for breakfast with punsch. Runeberg tortes are eaten predominantly in Finland and are typically found in stores from the start of January until Runeberg's birthday on February 5th although they are sometimes available all year round due to their popularity.

Runeberg Torte

Today is February 5th which is Runeberg Torte day in Finland so I thought it was a good day to share the recipe for this. I made a mad dash to make this after coming back from our holiday in Hawaii and I made a few batches until I found the one that was so delicious! While I didn't have the cylindrical mould, you can use a friand or cupcake tray. I used paper muffin cups so that the cakes could rise higher than the cupcake mould and then removed the paper and turned them upside down. Some people make them in fluted mould or as big cakes.

This recipe is based on one that may be based on his wife Fredrika’s recipe from the 1850s while some suggest that this is adaptation by baker Lars Astenius. Astenius and the Runebergs lived in Porvoo, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Helsinki. I didn't have any gingerbread or leftover cookies so I replaced the quantity with ground almonds.

Runeberg Torte
The house design

I brought these to an Elliott family picnic yesterday to celebrate Mr NQN's Finnish mother Tuulikki's birthday. We arrived bright and early at 11am laden down with lots of desserts including these cakes. While Tuulikki knew of the poet Runeberg she hadn't tried the cake named after him before because she is cake phobic. There's a lot happening with the Elliotts - don't you think January felt like it had 60 days? As soon as we sat down Tuulikki told us that someone had stolen her identity online and she was very worried about that. Mr NQN's brother Manu arrived in what looked to be a tradie outfit with high viz detailing like he had just come from a construction site - he figured it was the safest outfit to ride his bike to the picnic in. Mr NQN's father Roger arrived with half a dozen pots of herbs which he is intending to take back to his home in Thailand. Mr NQN's younger sister Amaya and family have been busy getting their house built. It has been taking a few years, not helped by COVID but the design is very unusual and features a circular front that swings around to protect the whole house in case of bush fire. I can't wait to see it once it is built!

Runeberg Torte

Mr NQN's sister Araluen and her fiancé Ben arrived just before we left at 1pm. Unfortunately, due to her Ben's father's health and him starting a new business they've had to postpone the wedding a few times. For now it is scheduled for July this year so it will be a winter wedding with a Nordic White Winter theme.

Runeberg Torte

We brought along a lot of dessert including a raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, some runeberg tortes, some marshmallow slices and some Italian cookies from Beyond Best Before and Tuulikki made a healthy Elliott vegan birthday cake, the only cake that she will eat. Someone always forgets to bring one thing or another so there were no plates, but this didn't worry the practical and slightly wild Elliotts. Manu outstretched his hand and took a piece of cake that way!

So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever heard of Runeberg torte? Did you find that a lot happened in January?

Runeberg Torte

Runeberg Torte

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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Makes 8-10 tortes

  • 200g/7ozs butter, softened

  • 240g/8.5ozs caster sugar

  • 3 eggs, room temperature

  • 150ml/5ozs cream (I used buttermilk)

  • A few drops amaretto or almond flavouring

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

  • 200g/7ozs all-purpose flour

  • 150g/5ozs ground almonds

  • 2 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1/2 tsp salt

Rum Syrup

  • 1/2 cup/110g/3.9zs caster or white sugar
  • 1/2 cup/125ml/4flozs water
  • 2-4 tablespoons rum (depending on how strong in rum you want the flavour)

For icing

  • 40g/1.4ozs icing or powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon milk or water
  • 50g/1.7ozs raspberry jam

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 160C/320F and line a muffin or cupcake tray with liners. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a beater attachment beat and butter and sugar until white (around 3-5 minutes). Add in eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated. Mix the cream or buttermilk with the amaretto/almond flavouring and vanilla bean paste and stir this into the mixture.

Runeberg Torte
Light, scoopable batter

Step 2 - In a jug or bowl whisk the flour, ground almonds, cardamom, baking powder, ginger and salt together until well combined. Add this into the wet mixture in two lots stirring until just combined (do not overmix). Using an ice cream scoop, place batter into the muffin cups - this batter makes between 8-10 depending on how high you want them (I made 8 cakes). Bake for 25 minutes until the centre of the cakes spring back when touched.

Runeberg Torte
Brushing with rum syrup

Step 3 - While they are baking you can make the syrup. Place the sugar and water together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and let simmer for 3-4 minutes until it thickens slightly. Add in the rum and whisk. Cool and then brush over the cooled cakes on all sides.

Runeberg Torte
Adding jam inside icing

Step 4 - For the icing, mix the powdered sugar and milk or water together until you get an icing consistency that you can pipe. Place into a small piping bag or a ziplock bag and snip a little hole for piping. Gently remove the papers from the cakes and place upside down so that the wider side is on the bottom. Pipe the icing around the edge of the top and leave to set for 10 minutes or so. Then once the icing it set, spoon raspberry jam in the centre.

Runeberg Torte

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