Runeberg cake: dessert for poets and all the good people.

I’m quite excited to present you this hidden Finnish treasure, the cake that you won’t be able to taste unless you are traveling or living in Finland or Sweden in mid of January – beginning of February. And even then you might miss it on the cafe shelf, with it fancy-classy yet modest shape and decor. The cake has a story how it was created and tradition that has been built around it within the time, – all tiny details that I adore and interested in so much when I’m looking for new recipe to try on my (or my friend’s) kitchen!

No doubts, this cake can speak for itself. And for those who, like me, are seeking the magic in the cooking process and curious about the details I address this text.

So, long story short: according to the legend, the recipe invented by Frederika Runeberg for her husband, Finland-Swedish national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877). Her recipe book from the 1850s has the torte’s recipe, which is believed to be a variation of an earlier recipe by confectioner Lars Astenius from Porvoo. The story claims that the cake became the part of the poet’s daily breakfast. Oh, he had a sweet tooth indeed. 🙂

Now Runeberg cakes can be found for a limited time all around Finland (and probably in Sweden too): traditionally they are baked to celebrate the poet’s birthday that is on 5th of February. Only in Porvoo (small beautiful town 50 km away from Helsinki) the cafes are granted the privilege to keep it in their daily menu for all over the year. If you visit the city, I would highly recommend you to go and try it there, can’t be a mediocre experience for sure!

The most distinctive flavors and taste of this cake come from sweet almonds, bitter almond extract, raspberry, molasses, orange zest and cardamom. The traditional shape is a cylinder 3 cm in diameter and about 6-7 cm high. There are a lot of variations of the original recipes and while making my own research I almost got crazy and desperate with my attempts to find a ‘genuine’ formula for this cake. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one doing my research, – I found the recipe that seemed to be more canonical that anything else so far from the Blogdessertsforbreakfast blog and after baking I should say: that feels just right to me! Besides the recipe, authors shares a very nice story about her experience with making this dessert, so you’ll be entertained well enough while backing your torttu. 🙂

file_000Hence, you can go straight there and follow that recipe, or follow one I am listing below. We (me and my friend Kate, who are accompanying me in my baking adventures from time to time) changed the measurements from cups (that was quite confusing for us) to grams and the Fahrenheit to Celsius for the oven to make it easy to follow. Also, we changed a few ingredients to the similar ones that are available at our area. Otherwise, we followed the process described in the linked blog  above as close as possible.

Runeberg Cake (Runebergintorttu in finnish)
makes 8 3×3 round cakes (one per portion)

Part 1: making dough and baking cakes.

Ingredients for the dough:
250 grams AP flour
200 grams finely ground digestive cookies
150 grams finely ground almonds
(to grind almonds, put almonds and ginger snaps in food processor at the same time.)
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1 tspn salt
1 1/2 – 2 tspn freshly grated orange zest
1 tspn ground cardamom
120 ml whole (3.5% fat) milk
120 ml  freshly squeezed orange juice
10 drops or 1 tspn bitter almond extract
230 grams butter, at room temperature
1oo grams  sugar
200 grams dark brown sugar
2 tbspn molasses
Pinch of powdered ginger
3 eggs, at room temperature

Make the cakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C  Oil and flour the 3×3 cake rings and set on a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, ground cookies and  almonds, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange zest, ginger powder and cardamom. Whisk to mix. Set aside.
  3. In a measuring cup, stir and combine milk, orange juice, and almond extract. Set aside.
  4. Place butter, sugar, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.  Cream on medium low heat for about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add molasses to the butter mixture and cream until fully incorporated.  Use silicone spatula to bring all the mixture together from the sides if necessary.
  6. Take off from heat and add eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, mixing thoroughly to incorporate each egg between each addition.
  7. Gradually add the dry ingredients (flour mix) and wet ingredients (milk mix) to the butter in three stages–dry followed by wet followed by dry followed by wet, etc.  Mix until thoroughly combined.
  8. Spoon batter into cake molds until about 3/4 of the way full, being careful not to touch the exposed sides with batter.  Tap the baking sheet lightly on the counter to get rid of any large air pockets.  Use a small spatula or a spoon to smooth the tops of the batter.
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes (shorter if you have smaller ring molds) until a toothpick removed from the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from molds.

Part 2: the secret is in the syrup.

When cakes cooled a bit, it’s time to infuse them with a syrup :

Ingredients for syrup:
200 grams sugar
120 ml water
2 tbspn rum or cognac

Make the syrup:

  1. While the cakes are baking, make the syrup.  Place sugar and water in a heat-proof measuring glass.
  2. Heat the sugar and water in the microwave on high for a minute and a half.  Stir until sugar is dissolved. (or, heat in a pot on the stovetop or water-bath).
  3. Add alcohol and stir into the syrup.
  4. When the cakes are unmolded, poke the tops with a few small holes with wooden stick, for example.  Use a pastry brush to brush the syrup on the tops and sides of the cakes.

Part 3: decoration and all that raspberry.

Ingredients for the raspberry topping:
150 grams frozen raspberries
4 tbspn sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tspn cornstarch or potato starch, sifted

Make the raspberry topping:

  1. In a nonreactive saucepan, saute raspberries on medium high until they begin to release their juices.
  2. Dissolve starch in the lemon juice and add it and the sugar to the raspberries.
  3. Stirring constantly, bring the contents to a boil and simmer until the raspberries have reduced and are slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool.  Set aside.

Ingredients for the icing rings:
1oo grams powdered sugar
1/2 Tbpsn water
4 drops or ¼ tspn almond extract

Making the icing:

  1. Combine powdered sugar with water and almond extract. Mix well until a thick icing forms.
  2. Spoon icing into a squeeze bottle or piping bag fitted with round tip.  Use immediately (it dries very quickly!).

Part 4: take it easy and assemble the cakes.

I didn’t cut out the cakes to put the raspberry jam inside as it recommended in the original blog post. You’re welcome to follow that method and I am sure that it will be very nice! However we used the raspberry jam and icing topping only on the top, that’s also possible and might be a better choice for not that confident cake-makers. 🙂

So, simply put about a 1 tspn of jam on top of each cake. Jam should be consistent enough to keep the shape and not run away. Shape a jam as a circle and surround it with an icing ring from the piping bag.

Voilà, your torttu is ready! 


  • If you don’t have molasses you can use maple syrup or something similar or just skip this ingredient. But of course, it’s better to find some replacement for it anyway, it will help to keep moist in your cake and create a structure for the dough;
  • Instead of rum you can use the apple juice;
  • If you don’t have the proper form for backing you can use maffin form (silicone or non-sticky). We sticked to the traditional shape, so we made forms by ourselves from aluminium foil and covered with the baking paper from the inside, so the dough won’t stick to the foil. It takes time to make those, but within the good company time flies, so ask your friend to join you while coking;
  • Technically it’s close to a maffin by the dough structure, so it will be ok to store it with a room temperature for a couple of days;
  • The recipe can serve a people with a moderate baking experience, but I am not sure if it is suitable for the total beginners as well.

Hope you’ll try it one day and can join to the secret Runebergintorttu club!
Thank you for the reading!


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