How to make a Swedish Sandwich Cake (Smörgåstårta)
It’s often described as Sweden’s guilty secret: in all the Nordic Diet, healthy eating and green good-for-you flurry, we also have The Sandwich Cake.
We’re unsure of the exact origins, but suspect it may have come over from the States in the early sixties when housewives made similar ‘cakes’ for their cocktail parties. Someone must have brought it back to Scandinavia, and voila, it took hold and never went away. In all our obsession with rye bread and crisp bread, using soft white sandwich bread was – and is – seen as a huge treat. So, the Smörgåstårta became synonymous with birthdays and big celebrations and times to indulge.
If you google Smörgåstårta, you will see a variation of monstrosities – 80’s creations that would make any Sundsval housewife from 1984 weep with pride. Still today, this is what they look like – some with seafood, some with ham, cheese, pate, tuna and anything else you can think of. Smothered in mayonnaise and then decorated with twirly bits of cucumber and the odd radish rose.
Our Roxanne, who looks after our Logistics, used to make these for a living when she was a student back in Sweden. She tells us tales of a particular kind from her home town of Trelleborg – that has egg mayo, prawns, ham – covered in mayo and topped with roast beef. In one cake.
See, we told you: It’s quite something.
Here’s a selection of creations we found on the internet of different kinds….
In recent years, many have tried to make the Sandwich Cake look a bit more current – including yours truly – but it is hard: You don’t want to play too much with tradition, but also, you don’t want to start bringing back hair scrunchies, Miami Vice and Melanie Griffith. It’s a fine balance.
Since I showed off one of our sandwich Cakes on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch the other day, we have had a lost of request for the recipe. So, here goes: There is no recipe. You make it up as you go along. But, to please you all, here is the recipe for the one we showed on the TV show. Just remember: You can make it any way you like – any shape, any size – just adapt the recipe to fit your party.
A few things to note and adhere to:
– White bread works well. You can also use wholemeal, but hey, why go wholemeal with a mayo cake? Rye bread does not work well.
– Butter the bread still, it will create a barrier and avoid it all going too soggy
– make the base the day before, then decorate on the day.
– Keep the layers tasty – although some people put both ham and prawns in one, it doesn’t taste nice. Keep it classic – I love seafood salad with salmon, for example, and egg.
– Make it on the tray you plan to serve it on – don’t try to move it once done.
– Plan to serve other things along side it – or else it gets too heavy. It’s a nice addition to a buffet with some salads and other bits.
This Smörgåstårta serves approx. 12 people with one nice bite per person.
12 slices of thick sliced white bread, buttered and crust cut off.
Egg mayo made from mixing:
6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Chopped chives OR cress (as you prefer)
Mayonnaise – to taste. I like it not too gloopy as I feel there is enough mayo in this as it is.
Skagenröra basic mixture
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 small bunch of chives, chopped
A bit of grated lemon zest
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
50g Crème fraiche
A bit of freshly grated horseradish or a small bit (1/4 tsp) horseradish sauce
A mixture of prawns and crayfish tails OR just prawns – to taste (approx. 200g-250g in total). Again, you want to have a good amount in there, but ensure the mixture is not too gloopy. If you feel you need to bulk it out, you can add a few finely chopped seafood sticks in the mixture, too.
Mix and its ready to use.
Smoked Salmon approx. 150-200g
Pea shoots, micro herbs, radish thinly sliced, prawns in shell or whichever toppings you feel will work well with your cake. On the one in the photo, I used pea shoots, baby watercress, radish, asparagus, dill, prawns and candy beet.
Plus, a lot of good, thick mayonnaise.
On your serving tray, place 3 slices of bread in one length. Top with egg mixture (1/2 of it), then add another layer of bread. Now add your prawn mixture (you may have some left over). Add more bread, then the rest of the egg and the top with the last 3 slices of bread.
This stage can be prepared the day before – keep in fridge to set.
Using a serrated knife, trim the edges so it is a uniform sized cake. Using a spatula, smear Mayonnaise all over the sides and top – as thick as you prefer it to be.
Measure the height of the ‘cake’, then using a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife (or even a cheese planer), slice pieces of cucumber to fit all the way around. The mayonnaise will act as a sort of glue.
Once all sides are decorated with cucumber, add the salmon on top evenly, then add your other toppings. You can choose to do it in best 80’s food fashion – or try to be a bit more contemporary (although, as I did, you will likely fail, but it will taste nice!).
Only your imagination sets the limits for a good old Smörgåstårta
By Bronte Aurell, author of about 6 books on Scandinavian food.