Sunday 6 February 2022

Runeberg cakes - a Finnish birthday party treat!


Towards the end of January, small cakes appear in shops and cafes across Finland.  Runeberg cakes (Runebergin Tortu in Finnish) are baked to celebrate the birthday of Finland’s national Poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) on the 5th February. Every year around the date of his birthday, these exquisite little cakes are sold all over Finland and are hugely popular. Runeberg actually wrote his poetry in Swedish, as this was said to be the language of educated people in 19th century Finland. The well-loved poet spent most of his life in Porvoo, which is situated about 50 kilometres to the east of Helinski. It’s one of the six medieval cities in Finland and a beautiful place to visit.


Who created the recipe?

In Porvoo, a local pastry baker named Lars Astenious is reputed to have developed the recipe for Runeberg cakes in the 1840s. There is another story that the cakes were created by the poet's wife Fredrika, as the recipe was written out in her cook book from the 1850s. She made the cakes from flour, breadcrumbs, biscuit crumbs and almonds, decorated with jam and icing but it was most likely she adapted her recipe from the one by the Porvoo baker. Runeberg is said to have eaten the cakes for breakfast with a glass of punch.

What are Runeberg cakes?

Runeberg cakes are small and cylindrical shaped, with a moist, almond flavoured sponge, topped with a circle of white icing with raspberry jam. The topping gives them their distinctive look.

 How to bake

There are numerous versions of the recipe for Runeberg's cakes but this one comes from Finnish friends. You will need a small cake or muffin tin (approximately 5cms diameter for each individual mould).

 125g butter

85g caster sugar

1 egg (beaten)

110g (plain) flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g ground almonds

50g breadcrumbs

1 tsp cardamom (husks removed and ground)

Pinch of salt

100ml double or whipping cream

50 ml water, lemon or orange juice

Amaretto (optional) 

 Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar and add the egg gradually. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, ground almonds, breadcrumbs, cardamon and salt) and add these to the creamed mixture.  Pour in the cream and the water or juice to make a thick batter. Grease the individual moulds and pour the batter into each one until they are about half filled. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or so until done. Remove and brush the top of the cakes with Amaretto (if used). Allow to cool.

 To decorate

Icing sugar


Raspberry jam 

 Cut a hole in the top of the cakes and insert a teaspoonful of raspberry jam into each hole. Make a thick paste from the water and icing sugar. Roll out the paste and cut strips for the top of the cakes or pipe the paste around the top with a piping bag.

 Fly the flag with our Finnish friends and try out these lovely little cakes. They certainly brighten up a dull February day. Happy birthday to Johan Ludvig Runeberg!