A Taste of History: Norwegian Coffee Cake

This recipe originates from Regine (Amundson) Gronseth (b. 1854-d. 1942) who immigrated around 1881 from Norway with her husband Lars Gronseth (b. 1856-d. 1933). They settled in Suttons Bay where Lars plied his trade as a shoemaker. The shop still stands today and is home to Haystacks, a women’s clothing store.

Regine’s recipe may have predated her arrival to Leelanau County, and the spelling, which is similar to Danish, most likely indicates it was written before 1900 and is more than 100 years old. The cake is perfect for a cold fall or winter morning and pairs well with a warm cup of coffee. A special thanks to David Beatty for assisting in translating the recipe for us.

“1 Cup Sour Milk
3 Cups Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Cardamom
A little Cinnamon”

“If you want to use cream, that is indeed the best. Sweet cream can also be used. We make it doubled and then we use one milk and one cream. It is wonderful, that you can believe.”

Altered version of the recipe that makes the cake lighter and moist:
1 Cup of Butter (2 sticks), softened
1 Cup of Sugar
2 Large Eggs
3 Cups of Flour
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Cardamom
A little Cinnamon
1 Cup of Buttermilk, Sour milk, or Cream

  • Step 1) Preheat the oven to 350F and make sure the rack is in the middle. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cardamom, and cinnamon. Set the bowl aside.
  • Step 2) Beat together the butter and the sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, making sure to beat thoroughly in between each addition.
  • Step 3) Switch between adding the buttermilk and the flour mixture, beating at medium speed between each addition as well as scrapping the sides of the bowls. Be careful not to over beat the batter.
  • Step 4) Oil a square cake pan or a loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Pour the batter into the pan and put into the oven, bake for 40 minutes to an hour. The baking time will vary with your oven and pan choice.
  • Step 5) Take the cake out of the oven and let cool before serving. Pair with a warm cup of coffee in the morning or your favorite cup of tea.

Written by Emma Keaton, LHS’s intern. Emma’s interest in baking and Norwegian ancestry inspired this story.