Cake

This Cake Calls Itself "The World's Best"

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December 29, 2017

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Would you like a piece of cake right now? For Goodness Cake is here for you. We're sharing recipes that prove why cake should be its own food group. Today: Is this cake really the "World's Best"? There's only one way to find out.

When you call something "the best," you instantly undermine your credibility.

Because if we've learned anything these past couple of weeks, it's that claiming to find "the best" of anything—be it a black-and-white cookie, an ice cream truck treat, or a bagel to cream cheese ratio—is like getting a tattoo of a bullseye on your forehead. No matter what stance you take, you're fated to be wrong—and people won't hesitate to tell you that. You might as well admit defeat and adopt a liberal arts-style argument in which you "complicate" the definition of "best" rather than choose a clear winner.

 
But even though our rational selves understand that "the best" is subjective—and, in the world of the internet, overused clickbait—we fall for it anyway. We can't help but bite. What is the best thing to put on toast? What is the best salad to make this spring? Where can I find the best burger in New York City? Maybe it's the fact that our time on earth is limited, as are our resources, that makes us seek out the absolute best experiences. If the number of times I eat pizza is finite, why waste one of those precious moments on a limp, lukewarm slice? 

So when I came across "The World's Best Cake" (supposedly named Norway's national cake in 2002) on the website of Sweet Paul Magazine, I couldn't help but try it. I had been attracted to other cake recipes in Sweet Paul in the past—Salted Almond Praline Cake! Polenta Cake Soaked in Lemon Honey Syrup! Cardamom Fried Cakes!—but none of them had this audacity. What was this recipe that inspired so much passion in Sweet Paul's Paul Lowe—not to mention in the entire nation of Norway—that he felt compelled to take such a risk as making the lofty, doomed claim that this cake is "verdens beste"? 

The recipe, it turns out, is pretty clever. You top a large pan full of cake batter with meringue and then bake everything together, all at once. After just thirty minutes, the meringue is puffy and golden and the cake is ready to come out. Let it cool, then slice it down the middle so that you have two rectangular pieces. Stack the two sections, adding a soft, whipped cream blanket in between. The cake chills for one hour, after which the multiple layers of dense, buttery pound cake, airy meringue, and melty whipped cream have coalesced. 

Follow these instructions and you'll get an impressive, towering dessert without having to worry about burning a meringue, shaving down layers of cake to make even lines, applying a crumb coat, or dirtying more than two bowls. Because not even "the best" is good enough for me (yes, I'll bring this up with my therapist later), I added sliced banana, toasted coconut, and ground cinnamon and cardamom for even more flavors and textures. Paul suggests adding sliced fresh strawberries, but I like the creamy, soft banana; the coconut and spices add mental interest to the purely physical pleasure of eating a large slice of cake. 

So is it the world's best? I can't say it is, but I also can't say it isn't. It's up to you to decide that for yourself.

"World's Best Cake" with Banana & Coconut

Slightly adapted from Sweet Paul Magazine

Serves 8 to 10

10 1/2 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 to 1/2 cups coconut flakes (I like the large flakes, but you can use smaller flakes, too)
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
1 to 2 bananas, sliced

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

We're re-running this post because, well, cake is worth revisiting. It was originally published on May 21, 2015.

65 Comments

Regine January 1, 2018
I forgot to add that similar to Linnquist I use jam. My favorite is strawberry. But apricot or raspberry are delicious too.
 
Regine January 1, 2018
I made this for my mom’s 70th birthday. Was able to bring it to restaurant. But i made my version which I posted on Food52. <br /><br />https://food52.com/recipes/21909-my-version-of-norway-s-world-s-best-cake
 
S L. January 1, 2018
The common name for the cake is "Verden's Beste" (World's best, as noted.) The official name is Kvæfjordkake. I've always found it most often served with a nice layer of apricot or raspberry jam under the whipped cream layer. Though in summer, fresh strawberries just crushed with sugar to a raw jam is common. In fall, cloudberries (multer,) are also often used.
 
S L. January 1, 2018
Oh, and the original does not contain cinnamon or cardamom, it is simply a vanilla sponge with a built in meringue layer. There will not be coconut, nor bananas. Sliced almonds may be found on top, baked into the cake as a toasted crunch on the meringue.
 
Tracy December 30, 2017
I bake as a hobby.....I made it and my client and her colleagues said it was the best cake they ever ate......
 
Bobby A. June 7, 2017
The title of this cake, " world's best " intrigued me because I am Filipino, and my favorite dessert is called Sansrival, which means " without rival ". I was hoping the cake was a version similar to what I grew up on...<br /><br />The history of my dessert goes back to the 50s when a bunch of Filipina cooks, mostly women were allowed to spend a year or more at Le Cordon Bleu in France. The techniques they learned there, they took back with them to my country, and they created Sansrival... which has many similarities to this World's Best cake from Norway.<br /><br />I love how universal food can be. <br /><br />But Sansrival is essentially made with 5-6 layers of merengue, layers with chopped cashews and butter cream, then frozen for consistency. I've never attempted it, but a favorite aunt used to make it for me when I was 10, and it has since become my all time favorite dessert.<br /><br />I had a similar torte made from Italy, in a local Italian restaurant, that has been in my small Canadian town for 6 decades. That only had 3 layers, but it was definitely a merengue with cream in the middle, and nuts, once again something all 3 of these desserts share...<br /><br />I look forward to trying this some day, thank you for posting this article. Mabuhay all... that's Tagalog for long life everyone! :D
 
Peggy May 15, 2017
I think the flavors developed well the following day post baking. But, I would never deem this the world's best cake. I'm a fairly accomplished baker and a couple of Ina Garten's recipes beat this one hands down (Lemon Angel Food Cake and Aunt Beatty's Chocolate Cake as examples). The coconut cake at Peninsula Grill in Charleston, SC and 24 Layer Chocolate Cake at Strip House in NYC are the best restaurant cakes.
 
SusieQ April 5, 2017
I made this cake the other night - well, not exactly this cake. I made some changes that would normally make me cringe, but I had to use up stuff that I had a home and I wanted a quick cake.... I got a stunner that was delicious. So here goes: Cake: I had a yellow cake mix at home that my daughter once bought. I followed the box's instructions regarding oil and water but used the 5 egg yolks from this recipe instead of 3 whole eggs. Back to your recipe. Once it was all spread in the pan, I found that I was out of coconut so I used slivered almonds. Baked as directed - I let the top get slightly brown. It was beautiful - puffy and marshmallowy. After cooling, I followed the instructions but changed the filling - I was worried that the bananas would brown and ooze while waiting to be served. I mixed heavy/whipping cream and vanilla pudding powder and let it thicken up a bit, then blopped it onto the cake and covered with frozen raspberries (I can't get fresh ones where I live) and chopped strawberries. The cake sat in the fridge for about 2 hours before serving. Lots of wows and oohs and aahs. It was delicious. Next time, however, I'll add more filling. So I don't know if your recipe is great, but this is, potentially, a great cake.
 
Anke April 2, 2017
Maybe it should be called the World's best VERY SWEET cake? I didn't know that Norwegians were into VERY SWEET stuff (Europeans usually aren't). At least they would add strawberries which add some acidity to counterbalance the sweetness. But bananas???
 
BeverlyW April 2, 2017
how about the WORST cake ever!!! I am extremely frustrated. I cooked it for the prescribed 25 minutes. After cooling, it was totally runny dough. So, after cooking for an ADDITIONAL 30 minutes, it was STILL runny crappy dough! What the heck?! I am not a novice baker. I followed the recipe. I did not read any comments beforehand - my mistake?!?! Anyway, I will NEVER be attempting this "best" recipe again. Honestly, this makes me question Food52 as a site that does a good job of collating/testing recipes. I love to bake, have little time to do so, and am extremely disappointed that my one chance to bake this month (and to give my 91 year old father a nice surprise for dinner) was completely ruined. I feel like I've wasted a ton of my time, of which I do not have lots. In fact, it is a waste to be typing this review, other than to hopefully spare other loyal Food52 readers the same grave error I committed.
 
mary B. April 2, 2017
King Arthur flour does a version of this cake on their recipe website. They bake the cake and meringue in two layers, so no cutting is needed. They fill the cake with creme pat and berries. When I next make it, I will use lemon curd and blueberries. It is a showstopper with surprisingly minimal effort.
 
mary B. April 2, 2017
King Arthur flour has a version of this cake on their website. You bake the cake and meringue in two different layers so no cutting necessary. Instead of whipped cream, they used creme pat and berries. When I make this again, I will use lemon curd and blueberries. It is a showstopper with suprisingly little effort.
 
Tone April 2, 2017
Not a traditional recipee. I would suggest Sweet Pauls version. A recipee I have used for many years with great success.
 
Frank March 30, 2017
Unfortunately, I had a bad experience baking this cake, two as a matter of fact; the first try, following each step of the recipe, it was a flap. It didn't raise and didn't cook. I thought that the Baking Powder was too old and prevented its cooking. So, I went and bought a new container, did things the same way as before and that was also uncooked and another disappointment. I need help, what am I doing wrong, is it the temperature, the mixing, or too much egg-white on top prior baking?
 
Frank March 30, 2017
Unfortunately, I had a bad experience baking this cake, two as a matter of fact; the first try, following each step of the recipe, it was a flap. It didn't raise and didn't cook. I thought that the Baking Powder was too old and prevented its cooking. So, I went and bought a new container, did things the same way as before and that was also uncooked and another disappointment. I need help, what am I doing wrong, is it the temperature, the mixing, or too much egg-white on top prior baking?
 
peloria March 28, 2017
this reminds me of a Finnish cake (Ellen Svinhufvudin kakku) I had at Helsinki's Vanha Kauppahalli almost 3 years ago. It is flourless and hence, sponge-less but it has an unforgettable coffee+almond taste with lovely meringue and buttercream layers covered in toasted almonds. <br /><br />I had a lot of trouble finding information about this cake but here's a good writeup and recipe: http://finnishfoodprkl.blogspot.com/2013/11/ellen-svinhufvuds-cake-its-almost-royal.html
 
Regine March 28, 2017
I will try this recipe soon. When I did one that I found online, I felt the cake was a bit too heavy (like a pound cake), so I played with it and instead made more of a sponge cake for the base. Looking forward to trying this version.
 
Regine March 28, 2017
Here is my version of this cake which I posted in May 2013. It is my most requested dessert. <br />https://food52.com/recipes/21909-my-version-of-norway-s-world-s-best-cake
 
Karen M. September 7, 2016
My mother made this cake at least once a month - she called it a "Blitztorte" - two rounds of sponge with the meringue and sliced almonds plus cinnamon sugar, all held together with a vanilla custard. The cake got better each day as the moistness from the custard soaked into the cake.
 
Dorothy C. August 25, 2016
Now I know where the Greek cake Copenhei comes from! Based on the Greekafied name I had assumed it wasn't of Greek origins and this proves it. Although in true Greek form, we pour a soaking syrup over it, and then as instructed by my aunt you must let it sit overnight before you eat it. Look forward to making it in its more authentic version.
 
Annzee April 12, 2016
This is the cake my Swedish grandmother and my mother made. I've only tried making it once. We put sliced fresh strawberries in the middle w/ whipped cream and of course, whole strawberries on top with whipped cream. Oh, it is divine.