|A summer cake worth waiting for: Brita-kakku|
If you’ve lived in Finland, visited Finland, had/have a Finnish friend, or have been to a formal Finnish celebration of any kind, chances are good you’ve had a täytekakku (filled cake). The cake is made of eggs, sugar, flour and baking powder, baked as one large cake, sliced into three layers, and then filled. Each layer is then soaked in either milk or fruit juice. Upon each layer is spread a generous portion of whipped cream, topped by a variety of fruit: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple, peaches…followed by another layer with more whipped cream and fruit until you run out of layers, and then the whole thing is covered in a layer of whipped cream and is a beautiful thing to behold.
|Would you look at that? Brita-kakku.|
But the truth is, täytekakku is not my favorite thing in the world. It’s not bad; it’s just not amazing either. There’s a lot of cream and not a lot of substance, and I’m perfectly fine with one small piece and a cup of strong coffee. This is very unusual for me: that one small piece of cake is perfectly fine. Usually I want a “reasonable” size slice of cake – on the slightly larger but not huge side.
|Summer cake for a summer day.|
What I have discovered is that Finns have another card to play – one they don’t pull out very often. It’s a delicious and beautiful cake, which I’ve never seen on the menu at any restaurant or in any coffee shop, but I’m not sure why since it’s excellent. It’s a summer cake – and summer happens to coincide with someone’s birthday around here. The question “what kind of birthday cake do you want” receives the same answer every time: “ahhh – a Brita-kakku (Brita cake) would be nice…with raspberries!” Brita-kakku. This is the one to get excited about.
|Summer’s first strawberries along with thyme flowers make for a happy cake|
Raspberries are definitely the berry of choice with this cake. If you don’t have them, freshly picked strawberries won’t disappoint. You can use all whipped cream for the filling, or you can lighten it up and add a nice tang by subbing half of the whipped cream with Greek yogurt or quark (rahka), which I much prefer.
I used thyme flowers as garnish, and was pleasantly surprised at how well the flavor of thyme worked with the strawberries and the cake overall. Give it a try – and let me know what you think!
The cake can be made on a large cookie sheet / jelly roll / oven pan which has been lined with parchment paper, or you can grease and flour two cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and divide each portion of the batter between them.
|Happy Birthday. Happy, happy any day.|
You don’t have to reserve this cake for summer days only, but there’s a lot to be said for sitting at a picnic table with the wind blowing off of the lake or the sea, enjoying a “reasonable” size chunk of Brita-kakku topped with the best of Finland’s summer berries and a strong cup of java.
Forget the täytekakku. This cake is where it’s at.
There are so many posted recipes for this cake out there. I couldn’t figure out who the original author is, anymore than I know to whom we can give credit for the täytekakku. You can find it through Valio, maku.fi, Martat, and any number of blogs. It pops up in magazines occasionally and in newspapers as well. Here’s the version I typically use after a few modifications, and it’s very close to the version I found on the Martat website. Some people top the meringue layer with slivered almonds; I don’t – but you can add them if you wish. And one more note: use real butter here. There are very few ingredients and each of them has to shine. Most recipes call for margarine – that is just a bad idea anytime in my opinion – but especially bad with this cake. The recipe looks long, but this comes together really quickly and puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. If using a sheet pan, line it with parchment paper. If using cake pans, butter and flour two pans and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper.
Separate two eggs: put the whites into a stainless steel bowl, ready for whipping. Put the yolks into a little cup – you’ll need them soon.
For the cake layer you’ll need:
125g / 4.5 oz / 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon butter
1 dl / 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (preferred) or vanilla sugar
2 egg yolks
1.5 dl / 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 dl / 1/2 cup milk
In a medium bowl, using a hand-held mixer or a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until it is light in color and fluffy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until well combined. Spread the mixture evenly out onto your sheet pan, or divide evenly between your two cake pans and spread it evenly.
For the meringue layer you’ll need:
2 egg whites
1.5 dl / 3/4 cup sugar
Beat the egg whites until they start to fluff up and form a frothy mass. Add the sugar all at once, and continue to beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and you can turn the bowl upside down with out any movement from the egg whites. Spread the meringue over the top of the cake layer – carefully so that you don’t mix the layers.
Bake the cake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature on/in the pan.
For the filling you will need:
1.5 dl / 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1.5 dl / 3/4 cup greek yogurt or quark (rahka)
2 tablespoons sugar
In a cold, stainless steel bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until it is fluffy but not at all stiff. Add the greek yogurt or quark and the sugar. Beat again briefly to combine.
In addition to the above, you’ll need about 3 cups / 6 dl of your fruit or berry of choice. I highly recommend strawberries, raspberries, or if you can find them, blackberries.
For the garnish:
Reserve 10-12 berries
Lemon balm, mint or thyme flowers for garnish
Once the cake is cool, cut it in half lengthwise (if you have used a sheet pan. Cutting is unnecessary if you have made two layers already using cake pans). Place one layer onto a serving plate of the appropriate size and shape. Spread all of the filling over the bottom layer. Top with fruit so that the filling is completely covered. Lay the second layer on top. Sprinkle over your reserved berries and your herb garnish of choice.
Serves 8. Recipe works well when doubled.
Swedish speaking Finns call it Britatårta.
Frode Breimo says
I found this post while looking for cakes from different countries. I am no historian, and can’t say for sure who invented this cake, but it might interest you to know that this is actually the national cake of Norway. Here it is called Kvæfjordkake, but also often referred to as Verdens Beste (world’s best). It is very popular for parties, confirmation and other big events, but, very much like you describe for Finland, it is surprisingly difficult to find in cafes or commercial bakeries. I did not know they made this in Finland, and I’m sure you can guess where I, as a Norwegian, stand on the question of the nationality of this cake 🙂
A tip for next time you make it: Put the bottom layer with the meringue down, that way it well stay crispy for longer. Enjoy 🙂
Hi Frode – thanks so much for sharing the history of this cake from Norway! I knew there was a Swedish version, but wasn’t aware of the Nordic one. I’ll try your tip for crispy meringue next time! 🙂 Best, Ann
I stumbled across your blog via this recipe over a year ago and have been enjoying it ever since:). I love this cake; it’s simplicity and lightness are wonderful contrasted with the typical taytekakku. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks Miranda! I am so glad you’ve been enjoying it 🙂
Kind of an old post, I know – but it’s the season of the Brita cake again! Just wondering if you’ve tried this with rhubarb jam (easy to make – about two cups of diced rhubarb and 1 dl of gelling sugar, boil for ~10 minutes)? It adds that kind of ‘zing’ this otherwise quite overwhelmingly sweet cake needs 🙂
Ann Plough says
Hi Laura, your timing is excellent – I have two rhubarb plants that have gone wild in my garden and was just thinking over the weekend that the tartness of rhubarb might just be the perfect counterpoint to the sweetness of this cake. I will definitely be giving that a try – thanks for the tip!
The Finns obviously invented this recipe as a gift to summer. What a perfectly fitting cake for the warm summer months. Cheers for sharing it with us. I had never heard of it 🙂
Ann Plough says
I think you are right – after 7 long months of Winter, Summer deserves a celebration cake like this!
Marvelous and delicious with an aromatic cup of coffe. I love meringue! Great!
Ann Plough says
Laube, I agree! I’ll be making it all summer long with every new fresh berry in season. 🙂
Mirja R says
Have you ever tried Brita-kakku with lingonberries (mountain cranberries)? The contrast between sweet meringue & cream and sour berries is just perfect.
Ann Plough says
Wow, that sounds really good. I’ll have to try it at the end of the summer when I have freshly picked pail of lingonberries. Thanks for the tip, Mirja!