For the final scene in Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson mystery, I needed a special and festive Norwegian cake. The decision was easy: kransekake!

The Norwegian kransekake, or wreath cake, is formed from a series of concentric rings, stacked to make a cone.


I like to experiment in the kitchen, but to learn about making kransekakes, I turned to some experts at the Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge in Stoughton, WI.

Vicky, Joyce, and Carol

Special pans allow bakers to create perfectly sized tiers.

My reader-friend Larry, who also writes about Norwegian heritage, recently speculated that immigrants would not have been likely to pack such tins in their trunks. It is possible to make the rings without the pans, although it is much harder to get them sized correctly! I don’t know when the special pans became popular, but today you can buy them in a set from most any Scandinavian import shop. (The cakes are also popular in Denmark. Kransekage is the Danish spelling.)

The thick dough is made of almond meal, powdered sugar, and egg whites. You can grind your own almonds, but buying meal saves time.

Once the dough is mixed, small portions are rolled out into long lengths by hand. It takes practice to get them even and sized properly for the pans. (I could identify my rings because they were less uniform than the others!) It’s also best to work quickly so the dough doesn’t dry and crack.

Once a roll is made, the baker breaks off pieces and fits them into the pans.

Kransekakes commonly have eighteen layers (some even more), although you can also make smaller ones. That’s what we did, which is why all the rings weren’t filled.

It takes a careful eye to get the rings baked properly. They must be chewy, but firm enough to stack.

At that point, they come out of the pan to cool. If you’re doing multiple cakes at once, keep the rings organized in sets!

The ladies assured me that all the wobbles and bobbles in my rings would disappear when the traditional drizzle of frosting was applied. Below is my first mini-kransekake, and it did look much nicer once I decorated it.

It’s also possible to pack the baked rings away in the freezer, to be assembled right before serving.

When I celebrated the launch of Fiddling With Fate with a special dinner and program at the Lodge, my baker-friends kindly agreed to make kransekakes so guests could enjoy the cake Kari made for Chloe and Roelke in the book. We baked a small one for each individual table. Doesn’t it look festive?

The ladies also made one full-sized kransekake so guests could get the impact of a full tower!

It also let Mr. Ernst and I demonstrate a wedding tradition. After the feast the groom covers the bride’s eyes, and she picks up the top layer of the kransekake. However many layers come up with it, attached by frosting, indicate how many children the couple will have!

I’m glad I had tutelage, but once you get the hang of it, making kransekakes is easier than it might appear. And while the simple loops of white frosting might be most common, bakers can decorate however they wish. Sometimes small gifts are attached, or—at weddings—tiny objects of importance for the bride and groom.

If you want to try baking a kransekake, a set of purchased pans will come with a recipe. You can also find recipes online and if you feel daring, try baking one free-form. Let me know how it turns out!

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4 Responses to “Kransekake”

  1. Andrea Stoeckel Says:

    Looks a bit like a croquembouche- a french assembled choux paste tower with syrup

  2. Kathleen Ernst Says:

    Andrea, I’ve never tried making those, but I’ve seen them on The Great British Baking Show. Impressive!

  3. Penny Says:

    The wedding tradition of lifting off the ring(s) to predict your family size would have been one I’d have been terrified to participate in!

    • Kathleen Ernst Says:

      Penny, me too. When I was demonstrating I wanted to lift just one ring because I have one (adult) daughter, but I could feel that more were coming up. I had to dig my fingers in between rings one and two to manage, which was definitely cheating. The image of a new bride lifting a dozen rings is a bit daunting!

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