This traditional Latvian birthday cake is made from yeasted dough scented with cardamom, studded with golden raisins and topped with crunchy streusel. My mom made this for every birthday when I was growing up, and now I carry on the tradition. This is a delicious sweet bread, not as rich as American birthday cakes. The traditional shape is a huge pretzel, but you can form these into pull apart buns and enjoy them for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. —Anna Gershenson
1 1/4 cups
large eggs, at room temperature
4 1/2 to 5 cups
unbleached all-purpose flour
large egg beaten with 1 tbsp. milk, for brushing
unbleached all-purpose flour
unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Scald the milk until small bubbles start appearing around the edge of the pot, do not boil. Melt the butter in the milk and let it cool to 105-115 degrees.
Dissolve the yeast and a pinch of sugar in 2 tablespoons lukewarm water. Let sit for about 10 minutes and watch for bubbles to assure the yeast is alive.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs, salt, sugar and cardamom by hand until mixed well. Add the cooled milk mixture and combine well, followed by the yeast.
Add about 3 cups flour one at a time and beat it vigorously about 2 minutes to start developing gluten until the mixture is thick and shiny. Now mix in the raisins and continue adding the rest of the flour a cup at a time until the dough is not sticky and holds its shape.
Knead on a floured surface or in your bowl adding flour as needed until it no longer sticks to your hands, about 10 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl greased with neutral oil. Flip it over to have the top coated with oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise either at room temperature or in a slightly preheated oven until doubled, 45 minutes to an hour. If you press your finger into the dough and the indentation stays, it's ready to shape.
Deflate the dough and stretch it into a long narrow rectangle, about 30x4 inches. Roll it into a long tight rope pinching the dough closed.
Grease a 18"x13" baking pan with butter.
Shape the rope into a pretzel on the baking sheet. Make sure to leave fairly large openings because they will reduce as the dough rises and then bakes.
Take a piece of foil about 12 inches long. Fold it twice onto itself to form a strip about 12"x4". Grease it on the outside with soft butter and wrap around your hand to create a sleeve the size of the opening in your pretzel. Then make another for the second opening.
Place the foil sleeves into the opening and shape them to fit tightly.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap or place into a large plastic bag and let rise for about 35 minutes. Use the indentation test on the side of the krendel to assure it has risen sufficiently.
For streusel, combine flour, sugar and cardamom in a small bowl, add butter and pinch with your fingers until coarse crumbs form.
Glaze the krendel with egg wash and sprinkle streusel all over it.
Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a meat thermometer reaches 190 degrees.