Blue sky expands in a dome above us. Puffy white cumulous laze about as if the day will last forever—as though night will never come to take them from their audience. Dad perches the video camera on his shoulder; all attention rests on me. My bike exists as an extension of me. Pink frills bounce, ratty sneakers pump, blond hair flies, nothing limits me. I am one with the universe. All powerful. Racer. The world’s best. Enter Daniel, zooming up behind me. Irked at his attempt to steal my spotlight, I holler: “Daniel! Don’t ride behind me!” He eases back, but only to give himself room to maneuver to my side. “Don’t ride beside me!” A quiet grin steals onto his face; the smirk widens as he quietly but quickly veers in front of me. “Don’t ride behind me! Don’t ride beside me! Don’t ride in front of me!” But my last words are drowned out by Daniel’s raucous chortles.
A classic Norwegian cake, Kvæfjord Kake, lovingly referred to as “The World’s Best Cake” in English, is a thin cake, topped with meringue and toasted almonds and layered with a mixture of whipped cream and custard. For the cupcake version, I adapted a family recipe for white cake, piled a cloud of meringue on top, and filled them with cream inspired by Norway’s best. When I tried one, that feeling of utter delight I felt as a kid came rushing back!
There are several different stages to making these; I recommend reading through the whole recipe before you start. This recipe yields about ten medium cupcakes.
170g sugar (3/4 cup)
170g butter, room temp (3/4 cup)
2 egg whites
120 ml whole milk (1/2 cup)
5 ml vanilla (1 teaspoon)
30 ml crème fraîche (2 tablespoons)
180g flour (1 1/4 cup)
2 dl vanilla custard (a bit more than 3/4 cup)
1 dl whipping cream, whipped (scant 1/2 cup)
2 egg whites
110g sugar (1/2 cup)
Tip: Since this recipe calls for four egg whites altogether, and no yolks, consider making Pasta Carbonara for dinner!
Tip: If you’re making your own custard, make it early so it can cool and chill completely. I like making my own with Bird’s Custard Powder; use 3 tablespoons custard powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 500 ml (just over 2 cups) milk.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F and prepare cupcake tin by adding liners if not using silicone molds.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg whites and whip, then add the milk, vanilla, and crème fraîche and whip. Gradually add the flour while stirring to combine. Mix until smooth. Spoon the batter into the liners or molds until three-quarters full.
Tip: I found that individual silicone molds were the easiest to work with. The meringue tended to stick to the paper liners, but with a bit of care, those work fine too. I didn’t try them in a metal pan without liners, so I can’t guarantee how easy it would be to remove them.
Prepare the meringue (whisk egg whites until slightly stiff, then gradually add sugar while whisking until stiff and glossy). Fill a pastry bag or plastic baggie with meringue and clip the corner (if using a baggie) and pipe a spiral of meringue on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top of each cupcake.
Bake at 180C/350F for 35-40 minutes, until a knife inserted into the cupcake under the meringue comes out clean. The meringue will be golden brown and the almonds will be toasted. Cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the filling by whipping the cream and gently folding it into the custard.
When the cupcakes are cool, gently lift off the meringue top in one piece. If it doesn’t lift off easily, carefully slide a sharp knife underneath. Remove the body of the cupcake from the liner or mold and scoop out the middle of the cake with a small spoon to make room for the filling. Spoon in some filling, spreading some around the top edges to hold the top back in place. Replace the meringues. Refrigerate if not serving immediately, and refrigerate leftovers…if there are any!