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Kransekake, a towering stack of cookie rings decorated whimsically with royal icing, comes to us from Denmark and Norway. Also known as tårnkake (tower cake) and kransekage (wreath cake), this wonder is traditionally made for special occasions like weddings, anniversaries, and the winter holidays. The dough is made of just a few ingredients: almond flour, powdered sugar, and egg whites. I boost the flavor of my version with warm baking spices to give it a gingerbread-y flavor. You have to enlist the help of semolina flour to coat the molds, but if you opt for cornmeal instead, this dish is naturally gluten-free. The resulting cookies are crisp and much like the gingerbread used for houses; it holds up well for days and days, and won’t (noticeably) stale.
Despite its impressive appearance, the cookie dough base is incredibly easy to make and work with. It does require a specific mold, though I suppose it would be possible to freehand it if you have a lot of cookie bravery in your heart (I fully support you). I used these molds, which are only about $20 and store totally flat, so they don’t take up a lot of valuable kitchen shelf or drawer space. The beauty of the kransekake comes in the décor, which can be as fancy or as simple as you want. I like to decorate each layer with a different design, but you can just keep it simple with some drizzles or even skip every other layer if you want. As usual, the sky is the limit, and I’ll proudly proclaim I’m in love with this fun baking project. It's an edible piece of holiday decor that’s a lot of fun to make and put together.
Mixing the dough
The dough couldn’t be easier to mix. The dry ingredients are sifted until combined, then transferred to an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Then, egg whites are added (plus some vanilla and almond extracts, in my recipe) and the mixture is mixed for 1-2 minutes, or until a smooth dough forms. Seriously, it’s that easy. Once the dough is mixed, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill it for 1 1/2-2 hours to relax the dough and make it a bit firmer for shaping.
Preparing the Molds
Kransecake molds are easy to prepare; you just have to lightly grease them and line them with a coarse flour to prevent sticking. This makes them easier to stack later. I spray the molds with nonstick spray for an even coating, sprinkle generous amounts of semolina or cornmeal, and finally, tilt it around until the molds are well and evenly coated.
Shaping the dough
Divide the dough into six even pieces. Divide each of the six pieces into three more pieces, but not evenly. You’ll want to get one small, one medium, and one larger piece from each to match the concentric rings of the molds. Don’t worry about making it perfect, you can always “borrow” extra from other pieces later.
Take each piece of dough and roll it out on a clean work surface into a rope about 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick. You shouldn’t need flour, but if the dough is sticking, dust your surface lightly with semolina or cornmeal. Place each rope into the prepared mold, following the circle indentations in the mold. Press the dough together firmly where the ends meet to seal. If there’s too much dough where they should meet up, pinch the excess off and save it to add to another piece if needed. Use the larger ropes for the outer rings on each mold, the medium rope for the middle ring, and the smallest rope for the center. Repeat until all the dough is used and all the molds are lined. You shouldn’t have any excess dough when you’re done.
The cookies bake at a relatively high temperature to result in a crisp end product. I bake mine at 400° F. Transfer the molds to the oven (you can place a few molds together on a baking sheet if you like), and bake until the cookies are lightly golden and feel set, about 10-12 minutes. It’s normal for the inside cookies to look a smidge darker than the outer ones, but if you’re uneasy about it, they pop out of the molds easily once they’re set, so you can always remove the smallest ones while you wait for the larger ones to do their thing. Let the cookies cool completely inside the molds before assembling your tower.
To assemble the kransekake, you just stack the rings in order of size, using royal icing as the “glue” to hold them together.
Start with your serving platter, and place a few dots of royal icing all around the base. Place the largest ring on top and press firmly to adhere. Next, apply dots of royal icing on top of that ring, then place the next ring according to size; it gets smaller towards the top. Continue to do this until all the rings have been used. This is pretty simple and easy to execute, but if you have trouble, it may be a good idea to let the icing on the ring set before applying the next one. This takes 2–3 minutes.
You can decorate your kransekake however you want: with random, simple drizzles or with delicate piping. I like to use silver nonpareils for a little bit of extra dazzle, but really anything goes. I opt for simple piping that I freehand, but I like to change it on each layer. Sometimes I repeat one further up the tower, but I love the way lots of different finishes make it really pop!
- 6 2/3 cups (638 g) almond flour
- 3 cups (340 g) powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 5 large (175 g) egg whites
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- nonstick spray, as needed for prepping molds
- semolina flour or cornmeal, as needed for prepping molds
- 1 recipe Royal Icing (https://food52.com/recipes/41891-royal-icing-and-natural-food-colorings)
- silver nonpareils, for decorating (optional)
Have you ever baked or eaten a kransekake? Tell us in the comments!