Destination Harstad

Kvæfjordkake is Norway’s national cake

Kvæfjordkake, Norway’s national cake, is a sweet dream made of meringue and vanilla cream. It’s a firm favourite for any festive occasion, and an irresistible temptation in all cake shops.

In the north of Norway, Kvæfjordkake represents the sweetest of childhood memories. Nestled on overflowing tables at 50th birthday parties and confirmation celebrations among the cheesecakes and Norwegian “success tarts”, the Kvæfjordkake stood proud as the only rectangular cake in the midst of all the round versions. And despite its size, it was always the first to go, the crisp and crunchy meringue and delicious vanilla filling proving completely irresistible.

Kvæfjordkake is a layered affair

A Kvæfjordkake features a layer of sponge cake at the bottom, followed by a layer of whisked egg white with chopped almonds sprinkled on the top. The cake goes into the oven for just half an hour so that the egg whites turn into a crispy meringue. While the cake is cooling, the vanilla cream is made. The cake base is then divided into two and a layer of cream is added to one layer, and the other layer is placed on top. The cake is cut into neat rectangular pieces, and, provided that everyone can control themselves, one cake will feed a lot of people.

Café Alliance is where the cake was born

The Kvæfjordkake story begins at the old Café Alliance in Harstad, run by two sisters from Kvæfjord. In the mid-30s, one of the sisters, Hulda Markussen, bought a recipe for king’s cake from a Danish café. The recipe was gradually shared throughout Harstad and Kvæfjord, and people began to simplify the cake slightly, making it easier to bake and using fewer expensive almonds.

Loose tongues spread the recipe over all Norway

When Café Alliance closed, it was the simplified version that remained most popular. Handwritten recipes spread throughout Kvæfjord and, after a while, all over Northern Norway. Beyond Kvæfjord, the cake was generally known as Kvæfjordkake. In the early 70s, the recipe was described by Mor Hubro, a food writer for weekly magazine “Norsk Ukeblad”, making the cake famous across the nation. Various different names have been used, including “verdens beste” (the world’s best cake), “drømmen” (the dream) and others based on how good the cake tastes, but Kvæfjordkake is now the established name.

Harstad centre where Café Alliance first created the recipe for Kvæfjordkake © Yvonne Holth

Norway’s national cake has become a historic institution

In 2002, listeners to the popular radio programme Nitimen voted for Norway’s national cake, naming Kvæfjordkake as the clear and uncontested winner. The year before, the world’s longest Kvæfjordkake was baked for the Melbu Festival. In a very short time, the cake has become nothing less than historic. Musician Ola Bremnes has even released his own tribute to the Kvæfjordkake, proclaiming that “the world is nicer for a short while/under a sponge-cake sky”.

How can you get hold of some Kvæfjordkake?

Kvæfjordkake is a favourite in cafés all over Northern Norway — in town centres, shopping centres and on ferries. If you see one, you should definitely give it a try: Those of us at Visit Northern Norway have often been confronted with an apologetic “sorry, we don’t have any left”, and have had to swallow a bitter pill in the shape of an ordinary chocolate cake. That’s what happens when everyone wants the same cake! However, it’s not a bad idea to visit the home of the Kvæfjordkake, namely the beautiful, green village of Kvæfjord, known for its mild climate and sweet strawberries.

Find the recipe here

This article comes from Kvæfjordkakas venner (Friends of the Kvæfjordkake), who have their own website featuring recipes in Norwegian, English, German and Italian and who also produce a recipe book that you can order online!