Brúnkaka/brúnterta I - the syrup version

Brúnkaka" simply means "brown cake" in Icelandic, and the alternative name, "brúnterta" means the same, although "terta" comes from the same root as the English word for "tart". In Icelandic "terta" is a fancier alternative to calling a cake "kaka".

Unlike the "Lísu brúnterta" recipe that I once posted, this one gets its colour not from cocoa powder, but from syrup or brown sugar and spices. I am posting two recipes, one today with syrup and one tomorrow with brown sugar, as some people may not have access to golden syrup.

My grandmother makes these year round, but this Christmas season I discovered that for two of my friends, this cake is closely linked with Christmas from them.

Here is the syrup version:

1 kg flour
500 g white sugar
5 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cloves
5 tsp ground cinnamon
900 g butter or margarine
500 g golden syrup (Lyle's is the brand most Icelanders use)
4 egg

450 g butter, softened
600 g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla essence

Rhubarb jam or stewed prunes

  • Mix together all the dry ingredients on a clean, dry table and crumble the cold butter/margarine into it until well mixed. (Use your hands to squish it in, or use a pastry cutter).
  • Make a mound of the mixture and make a hole in the centre. Add the eggs and syrup and knead until well mixed. (This does not need as much kneading as bread, only just enough to get everything well mixed).
  • Divide the dough into four parts. Dust each with flour and roll out onto well greased cookie sheets. Each portion should just about fill one cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 180°C/350°F (convection oven, so adjust temperature for regular oven) until golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and remove the cake layers immediately from the cookie sheets and lay onto baking paper that has been sprinkled with sugar. Cool completely before going to the next step.
  • Layer the buttercream evenly onto all but one cake layer and assemble the cake. Some prefer to spread a thin layer of jam on top of each layer of buttercream, while others will make two buttercream layers and one jam layer, and others will skip the jam entirely.

To make the buttercream:
Whip the butter and icing sugar together until light and well mixed. Add the egg yolks and vanilla essence and mix well.

Once the cake is assembled, it is best to wrap it in a slightly damp cloth (very slightly damp - wring it as well as possible) and pack it tightly in a plastic bag and leave it overnight to soften so it will not crumble as much when cut. To serve, trim the edges of the large cake and cut into smaller, rectangular pieces, then slice them, or leave each piece whole and let people serve themselves.


Manu said…
This recipe sounds so yummy! Your blog is really interesting! I will be visiting it again! Thanks for sharing! :-)
Bibliophile said…
You're welcome, and thanks for visiting.
John said…
I used to love this cake in Iceland! I'm wondering if I use maple syrup as a substitute, do you think it will work? Would be a bit different, but might still be delicious! (I can't get Lyle's here)
Bibliophile said…
John, I imagine it would be very good with maple syrup, but the maple syrup I have seen is not as thick as golden syrup, so the amount would not be right. I suppose you could use half maple syrup and half sugar, or you could make the golden syrup. Here is a recipe:

This is just one recipe - the one my mother used to use was just sugar, water and a little salt, and I have also seen recipes with sugar, water, salt and vinegar,and even ones with added corn syrup.

If you google "golden syrup recipes" you will find several more recipes, and also suggestions for substitutions.
Kirrashi said…
this is fantastic to see! My grandmother made these with rhubarb jam for the holidays, and my family continues to do so. It seems we have the name mixed up however, she also made a chocolate version with buttercream icing, and that was the one we call brúnterta!
Bibliophile said…
Kirrashi, the name brúnterta and brúnkaka are used for both this cake and the chocolate cake, although I would say a slightly larger number of people call the chocolate one "terta" and this one "kaka".

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