Vínarterta - Vinarterta

This cake is also called Randalín (the striped lady). The name Vínarterta means Viennese Torte, but with the English spelling which leaves out the accent above the i, it becomes Friend’s Cake.

A variation of this cake is famous among the Western-Icelanders - the descendants of Icelandic immigrants in Canada and the U.S.A. For them, there is hardly anything more Icelandic than Vínarterta.

In spite of the name Viennese Cake, I think it probably originated in Denmark. The Western-Icelandic version is somewhat different from this. You can find many variations on the web. Even Martha Stewart has one!

This is my grandmother's recipe.

  • 500 g flour
  • 250 g sugar
  • 250 g margarine/butter, soft
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baker's ammonia (ammonium carbonate)
  • a pinch of baking powder
  • essence of cardamom or a pinch of ground cardamom

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Mix together all dry ingredients. Add the margarine/butter and eggs, kneading dough until well mixed. Cool dough in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Roll out into a thickness of approx. 1 to 1 1/2 cm (1/2 inch). You can divide the dough now or after baking, into as many parts as you want layers (3-5 is usual). Try to keep each portion the same shape, size and thickness as the others. My grandmother used to bake it all in one large piece and cut it up after baking.

Bake in the centre of the oven at 200°C, until golden in colour and done through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When the cake is almost cold, spread rhubarb jam or prune jam (see recipe below) on top of all layers except one and sandwich the layers together.

  • This cake freezes well and thaws quickly, and is liked by almost everyone.
  • Brown Vínarterta: Add some cocoa to the recipe and use vanilla butter icing instead of jam, or alternate layers of icing and jam

To make prune jam:
Take one kilo (approx. 2 lbs.) prunes with pits, or equivalent in pitted prunes. Soak the prunes in water to soften and remove the pits. Mince the prunes and cook on low for 30 minutes with 650 g. sugar. Cool before spreading on cake.


Cod said…
I've just been to Iceland and had a cake from several bakeries that was really nice and would like to have a go at it back home.
There were several varations, but I saw it with the name vinarlengja (or possibly vinarkengja) and it was a pastry with a filling and then three sections on the top. One was either chocolate or pink icing, the middle was like custard and the other side was covered in flaked almonds.
The filling was either an apple sauce, or a dark red/brown, maybe like the prune described above.
Any ideas?
Cheers, Adrian
Bibliophile said…
Vínarlengja or Vínabrauðslengja is the name of this pastry. It's also sold in smaller pieces as Vínarbrauð. I have a half-translated recipe that I will hopefully have the time to finish soon and publish.
Anonymous said…
We, Thorsteinsons third generation Icelanders in Canada, use a thickened prune filling between the layers and ice the entire cake with an almond flavoured icing....we seem to have a huge 'sweet tooth'! Some of the family leave out the Cardomom...but I wouldn't THINK of such a thing! It is a MUST!

Bibliophile said…
Anonymous, thanks for sharing that. I love hearing about food traditions, especially from our cousins in North America.
Anonymous said…
OMG - this is too cool. I have my mother's recipe and haven't made it for years. I use to make it every year for the holidays at her house. She passed away nine years ago, and I though it was about time to make it for my kids. We use strawberry jam blended until smoothe for the filling. I can't wait to enjoy it this season. This is the BEST cake I have ever eaten!!! We call it Vinartetra, too! Sweet holiday wishes, Liz
Anonymous said…
Our family makes Vinarterta every year between Thanksgiving & Christmas. My grandma, who was 100% Icelandic taught my mom, who taught me & now my 18-yr-old daughter & niece are learning from me how to make this favorite holiday torte! We do the traditional prune with cardamom filling & use 6 layers of cake. I guess this is the right way to make it. We have never frosted it & never knew people did that until researching this on the web. Seems like it might wreck the pureness of the torte by contaminating it w/ almond extract!! My recipe comes from the Friends of Borg cookbook from Mountain, ND. There were lots of Icelanders that settled up there. Cheers!!
Bibliophile said…
Anonymous, thanks for telling us about your family Vinarterta traditions.

I have a copy of the Friends of Borg cookbook - now I wonder which of the several recipes you use?

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