about Vínarterta <>8<> Disaster Averted <>8<> Mmmm... vínarterta <>8<> Vínarterta recipe <>8<> photos <>8<> more photos
Vínarterta (Icelandic layer cake) is ideal for Christmas and/or weddings. Make it at least 4 weeks in advance of event. The name translates literally as "Vienna cake". (Click on image to see more photos; read about the origins of Vínarterta or go directly to the recipe.)
This recipe has been made in late Novembers to be consumed at Christmas time by my family for as long as I can remember. We adore this cake. When we were little, rationing was strictly imposed on us or we would have eaten it all in a couple of days.
A family friend who was an Icelandic immigrant (we called her "Aunt Emma") brought the cake each Christmas to my father's house when he was still living with his parents. Then after he and my mother were first married, the cake was delivered to them for Christmas. But the recipe was thought to be lost when "Aunt Emma's" sister, who made the cake, passed away. My mother found a likely looking recipe a couple of years later in one of the Winnipeg daily newspapers and everyone was thrilled that it was exactly the same cake. So the tradition continues. My mother still makes the cake (and so do my sisters and I) to have at our own homes and to give away as presents.
It was served at two of our weddings and I have a vivid recollection of being at my younger sister's wedding reception. One of my nieces, then 5, was demolishing, piece by piece, the plate of cut up vínarterta and had just stuffed a whole piece of cake into her seemingly little mouth. With cheeks bulging and hand delicately held in front of her mouth, she managed to garble out ecstatically, "I love this cake...."
recipe updated: January 2015, December 2020
for one 9 inch round 5-layered cake; make at least 4 weeks in advance of eating
(there are two versions for the 5 layers:
one with ground almonds replacing the almond extract,
and another with Amaretto replacing the almond extract)
1.) Ground Almonds: In 2014, we substituted with just one third of a cup of ground almonds. The flavour of the resulting cake was almost as stellar as ever but we thought it could use more almond. So, in 2015, we upped the amount. This is perfect and the cake tastes exactly as expected. To double-check, our niece tasted the cake and declared it entirely satisfactory (ie: still worthy of a mouth-filled ecstatic garbled reponse: "I love this cake...).
2.) Flour: We reduced the amount of flour to account for the addition of the almonds.
3.) Amaretto or Almond Extract: We've never much liked the flavour or smell of almond extract (and I gather we're not alone). A couple of years ago, I forgot (not on purpose) to buy it on Cake Day. We went ahead and made the cake by replacing most of it with ground almonds. The improvement to the final flavour of the cake was dramatic. We decided to omit it from now on. Then in 2020, with the knowledge that half the family inexplicably still preferred the version of the cake containing almond extract, we tried substituting with Amaretto. This is a most successful substitution; Amaretto doesn't stink nearly as much as almond extract, and the flavour of the cake is perfect.Please note that we never ice this cake - not even for weddings - (it would seem to us like gilding the lily).
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Many thanks to Icelandic cooking and food writer, Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir for correcting my spelling of the name of this cake and telling me about the origins of Vínarterta. (I met her in the Epicurious Kitchen Councel Forum)
To Christmases Past "Disaster Averted" <>8<> Christmas Eve Menu 1996 <>8<> Christmas Eve Menu 1997 <>8<> 7 Dec - Advent 2002 <>8<> 9 Dec - Advent 2003 <>8<> 3 Dec - Advent 2012 <>8<> blog from OUR kitchen - better late than never... <>8<> blog from OUR kitchen - Mmmm... vínarterta <>8<> blog from OUR kitchen - pre-pitted prunes, eh? <>8<> blog from OUR kitchen - Yesterday was Cake Day <>8<> blog from OUR kitchen - Have you made your Vinarterta yet? <>8<> blog from OUR kitchen - Solo Flying On Annual Cake Day
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ejm (aka llizard)
2000, 2002, 2006, 2012, 2015, 2020
Toronto Ontario Canada