This past Friday marked the 100th wedding anniversary of my maternal grandparents. Their love story is shrouded in drama and intrigue. Although they were both Danish, they actually married in the United States.
Young Laura, only 20 years old and full of adventure to see the world, had traveled to Wisconsin over a year earlier to visit family. Her older groom toiled in his love for her and finally decided to tie the knot. (She had told him specifically that if he wanted to marry her, he had to come and get her!) The small ship from Denmark to England ran aground and he was two days late arriving in Liverpool. His cross Atlantic journey was quite rough, as the SS Empress of Britain had already departed and instead, he traveled on a freighter ship. It was a very stormy trip. At one point three of the life boats were torn away, disappearing into the sea. The 1500 mile train trip from New York City to Wisconsin was not without mishap either. Along the way, his travel trunk went up in flames at a train station that caught on fire. He lost his wedding suit, plus all the presents and congratulatory greetings that came with him.
February in Wisconsin still meant a winter wedding. Following the ceremony, performed by Banker Larsen, the newlyweds ventured throughout Wisconsin and the State of Washington for a few months. They then headed to the east coast to sail home to Europe later in April. Unfortunately their ship, the Titanic, never made port in New York City and their actual return was on an ocean liner lesser known.
It seemed to me that my grandfather went to great lengths to win his bride. Their 100th wedding anniversary deserved a special meal. As I began planning, I considered what food my mother would prepare when recognizing major milestones such as this one.
A traditional celebration cake in Denmark is the Danish Layer Cake (Lagkage or Lagekage). As children, we remember our mother making it for special company and also for our birthdays. Eventually we protested, wanting a sweeter cake, as the richness of lagkage isn’t enjoyed as much by a younger palate. Though my father never acquiesced.
I have yet to source my mother’s recipe. My hope is that it was shared around and eventually I will find someone who is still making it. I remember that it had many eggs, beaten to light yellow ribbons. I remember that she used potato flour instead of all-purpose flour. And I remember the sharpness with which each layer was cut. Though when I was assigned to cutting the layers, things got pretty wobbly. Whatever the cake recipe for lagkage, it is typically a génoise or a sponge cake.
The recipe I used this weekend makes each layer individually. I was attracted to this idea in order to avoid those wobbly layers, but also because a crusted top is easier to cover without crumbly bits getting into the filling or icing.
The cake turned out to be a very close approximation to the one my mother made. I was a bit stunned actually at how absolutely delicious it was. It made me realize just how much I missed her celebration cakes.
DANISH LAYER CAKE (Lagkage)
4 layers of cake
1/2 litre of whipping cream, whipped and sweetened to taste
(Adapted from one posted by Karen Hansen on Food.com.)
This cake recipe bakes two layers of the cake. You need to make the recipe twice to have the four layers you need.
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
Preheat oven to 450ºF.
Measure out the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites until stiff.
In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks until lemon yellow. Add the water and sugar and beat for 2 minutes on high. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture gradually and beat well.
Fold in the egg whites.
Bake in two ungreased 9-inch cake pans (I used my springform pans) for 10 minutes.
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
Whip eggs, sugars and cornstarch together. Bring milk to the boiling point. Pour slowly into the egg mixture stirring constantly. Once combined pour back into the pot and bring to a boil. Stir constantly. When the first large bubbles start remove from the heat. Quickly run the custard through a sieve. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Place in the fridge to cool down completely.
Place one layer on a cake plate. Cover with one third of the cooled custard. Drop small spoonfuls of jam all over the custard.
Repeat with the next two layers. Top the cake with the remaining layer.
Whip the cream and sweeten to taste with extra fine granulated sugar. About a tablespoon.
Skim coat the cake with the whipped cream. Then add a layer of cream to cover it completely without any cake showing through. Using a piping bag, decorate your cake with your own design flair!