No, that’s not me stuttering. I mean the calendar of cookies/cakes: kakans-kalender. Sooo I started researching about the pastry calendar for reference for my (imaginary) (future) bakery/confectionery and what a rabbit hole it was. Look at what I’ve found! But first off, some etymology:
Kaka (pl. kakor) can be translated as cookies or cake. In fact, the English word cake comes from the Scandinavian kaka (Old Norse and Icelandic: kaka, Norwegian: kake, Danish: kage). The cake in kaka sense is typically not the layered kind, e.g. morotskaka, kladdkaka, and ostkaka; these are sometimes specifically referred to as mjuk (=soft) kakor. A cake with layers are called tårta (=tart/torte) instead. Cakes baked in sheet pan and cut into small squares like kärleksmums and brownies are called långpanne (=”tall pan” / deep dish) kakor. Cookies are called små (=small) kakor. Kaka is an important part of fika. I like to think that fika is kaffi och kaka. Kaffi is the old Swedish word for kaffe (=coffee). Sources that I read typically say fika is a playful syllable inversion of kaffi, but you can pry away my kakor from my cold, dead hands.
Here is the calendar (by the way Swedes write months and days with lowercase. Month and day names are not proper nouns! Mind blown):
*: not really pastry / not uniquely Swedish, mentioned just for curiosity and fun
Bold: popular enough to enter daily conversations / to be mentioned in news
[day]: [name of the day], [what one would eat] // [in English if not apparent and some elaboration]
19 jan: Sten Stures ben, chokladbollar // Swedish-style chocolate balls are usually no-bake affair and covered with coconut flakes. In a 1520 battle between Sweden and Denmark, Sten Sture lost a leg to a canon ball. To celebrate, throw snowballs at each other and eat chokladbollar (both symbolising the cannon balls). Kind of morbid, don’t you think?
*03 feb: Morotskakansdag // Carrot cake! I don’t really see any difference with the regular variety, maybe just more spices in the batter.
*05 feb: Nutelladagen
00 feb: Semmeldag/Fettisdagen, semla (pl. semlor adj. semmel) // Semla was originally eaten at Shrove Tuesday, just before Lent begins so it is the last indulgence before fasting. Originally a humble plain bread with warm milk, the modern semla is replete with almond paste and whipped cream. Talk about indulgence. In Swedish, same as in French, this day is called Fettisdagen (=Fat Tuesday, French: Mardi Gras). Speaking of indulgence, do you know what happened to King Adolf Fredrik who indulged in semlor too much?
14 feb: Alla hjärtans dag // Valentine’s day or literally all hearts’ day in Swedish. No particular associated pastry, but I’m sure konditorier (=pâtisseries/confectioneries) are super busy on this day.
07 mar: Punschrullens dag, // Punschrulle / arraksrulle is also known as dammsugare (=vacuum cleaner) probably due to its appearance or that it is made with leftover crumbs. It is covered in marzipan, like prinsesstårta (Princess cake).
13 mar: Mazarindagen // Mazarin is a short-crust pastry filled with almond paste topped with icing. It is allegedly named after Cardinal Mazarin.
*14 mar: Pi-dagen, paj // This is kind of international. Eat a pie on pi-day!
25 mar: Vårfrudagen/Våffeldagen, våffle (pl. våfflor adj. våffel) // The day is the Catholic Feast of Annunciation also known as Lady Day. In Swedish this is Vårfrudagen (=Our Lady Day). Våffeldagen seems to be a humorous malapropism of Vårfrudagen.
10 apr: Bulle med bullens-dag // Bun with bun. Seems to start as a joke on kanelbullensdag. Simply procure a bun (e.g. kannelbulle) and a smaller kaka (e.g. chokladboll) and stuff the small inside the big, Inception-style. I always welcome an excuse to eat more kakor 😉
*12 apr: Lakritsdag // Licorice is … an acquired taste
15 maj: Kardemummabullens dag // Swedes love their spices. Besides kanel (=cinnamon), kardemumma (=cardamom) is popular. Do you know that many spices loved by Swedes including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and muskot (=nutmeg) originated from Southeast Asia, where I too come from?
27 maj: Muffinsdagen
*01 jun: Mjölkensdag
*22 jul: Approximativa pi-dagen, paj igen! // On approximate pi-day, eat approximately one pie!
09 aug: Rulltårtans dag // Swiss roll!
*25 sep: Äpplets dag
04 okt: Kanelbullensdag // Cinnamon roll, typically not topped with icing like the American variety, but with pearl sugar instead. One of the first Swedish words one learns is kanelbulle, one of the most popular fikabröd (=fika pastries). Interesting statistics: The average Swede eats 316 kanelbullar a year (2010). Wut?
18 okt: Chokladmuffins dag // There are separate days for muffin and chocolate muffin? Man.
06 nov: Gustav Adolfsdagen, Gustav Adolf-bakelse // Gustav Adolf pastry originated from Gothenburg and is eaten to commemorate the death of King Gustav Adolf in 1632. The recipe has some variations but this one has chocolate fudge base, raspberry ganache, and milk chocolate mousse, with optional topping of chocolate/marzipan Gustav Adolf figure. Labour-intensive, but sounds yum!
07 nov: Kladdkakans dag // Kladdkaka is Swedish-style chocolate mud cake, which is true to its name, is gooey, and will stick to your mouth. And to your heart.
11 nov: Chokladens dag // Chocolate is a serious business, ja?
*13 nov: Smörgåstårtans dag // Sandwich cake, uniquely Swedish. Some non-Swedes find it weird but I personally like it.
17 nov: Napoleonbakelsens dag // The Napoleon is also known as mille-feuille.
22 nov: Wienerbrödets dag // The Swedish name ‘Vienesse pastry’ (French: Viennoiserie) is more accurate that the English name Danish pastry.
09 dec: Pepparkakans dag // Pepparkakor are Scandinavian-style gingersnaps and are also associated with jul (=Christmas, yep, also lowercase in Swedish). They are super addictive! Choose your pepparkakor brand wisely by consulting your nearest Swedish friend. They start appearing in droves in the supermarkets around November (though available all year round in IKEA, I believe). You can also find the gingerbread house (pepparkakanshus) kit, as well as the dough (look for pepparkakansdeg in refrigerated section) if you want freshly baked pepparkakor but too lazy to prepare the dough yourself. If you never have had gingersnaps fresh from the oven… go change that right now.
Why is there “pepper” in the name? This might refer to the generous spices that go inside the dough, but it might be literal. There are records of old recipe of “pepper cakes” that really contain black pepper. Maybe you wanna try putting a little bit in your pepparkakor?
13 dec: Luciadagen, lussekatt/lussebulle (pl. lussekatter/lussebullar) // St. Lucia day, Lucia cats/Lucia buns (image at the top of this post). Of Christian origin, Lucia is a bearer of light, much welcome in the darkness of winter solstice (13 Dec in old Julian calendar). Wherefore the cats? Ah, this is a fascinating tale. I offer two theories.
First explanation, this comes from conflation with the tale of St. Nicholas (origin of modern Santa Claus) who had a companion who punishes bad children. The companion is usually depicted as mischievous elf, but sometimes as a devil. Cat was associated with evil (cf. witches) and the companion sometimes is called djävulskatt (devil’s cat). The devil’s name is Lucifer (in Christian tradition, Lucifer was formerly an angel of light. Lux is light in Latin, Luci- is the genitive. It is also not hard to see the connection with the Swedish equivalent ljus). Djävulskatt then became lussekatt and becomes conflated with Lucia.
Second explanation, that I think is more parsimonious, but not really mutually exclusive from the first one, is that it is from a previous winter solstice celebration involving another Lucy (spelled Lussi), which is Lucy’s Night (Lussinatta), pre-dating the Christian Lucia. Lussi was depicted as a witch with companions… which I bet involve a cat or two, so there’s the lussekatter (Note: This is my own speculation after reading about Lussinatta). Again, when the Christian Lucia came and replace Lussi, the lussekatt itself might have survived. In this sense, the Lucia buns themselves might be an older tradition than (the Christian) Lucia.
The origin notwithstanding, the buns are celebration of light, and there is no prize in guessing why it uses saffron: this makes the buns bright yellow, reminiscent of the much-needed incandescence in winter darkness.
18 dec: Kakansdag // Today! I guess this is for other kakor that don’t have dedicated days (yet). I will mention some of the popular and/or interesting ones. First off, besides prinsesstårta and Gustav Adolf-bakelse, other members of le famille royale:
Oscar II-tårta — almond meringue torte.
Karl XV:s kringlor — kringla is almost like a pretzel shape. You know those small pretzel-like Danish cookies? Those are kringlor.
Alexanderbakelse — pie with almond filling, a Finnish creation named after Russian Tsar Alexander I who visited Helsinki in 1800s.
Estelle-bakelse — from a baking competition, a tribute to Princess Estelle and takes cues from prinsesstårta of course.
Curious names: Kärleksmums — “love yummy”, coffee and chocolate cake with icing and coconut flakes, very popular and has many other names; Drömmar — “dreams”; Solskenskaka — “Sunshine”; Tigerkaka — marble cake, the swirls do look like tiger coats, don’t they? Ökensand — “desert sand”; Hästskor — “horse shoes”; Nunnor — “nuns”; Katlaner — “Catalans”; Polynéer — “Polynesian”; Kejsarkronor — “imperial crowns”; Göteborgare — Gothenburger; Pinnochiotårta; Radiokaka; Sans rival (such confidence!); Klenäter — “slenders”, a fritter, Scandinavian and traditionally eaten around Christmas.
Related to music (!): Jitterbug — a type of swing dance; Toscakaka — Tosca is an Italian opera (but it might simply mean Tuscany-style); Stenhammarskakor — Stenhammar was a Swedish composer.
Named after places (surprisingly many!): Budapestbakelsen — hazelnut- and fruit-filled Swiss roll; Karlsbaderkrans; Windsorkaka; Rimbobullar (Rimbo is in Norrtälje); Fyriskaka (Fyris is a river in Uppland and the name is often used for expressions related to Uppsala); Californiakakor; Tivolikakor; Brysselkex (Brussel); Lekebergskransar (Lekeberg is in Örebro); Strassburgare; Sätoftakakor; Uppåkrakakor (Sätofta and Uppåkra are in Skåne); Skåneåsar; Marstrandkex; Milanostänger; Linzer (Linz is in Austria); Walesbröd (Welsh); Schwarzwaldtårta (just in case you don’t recognise from the German name, this is Black Forest cake).
Others you might have heard of: Ostkaka — Swedish-style cheesecake, originated from provinces Hälsingland and Småland; Biskvi — small ones are accompaniment to nyponsoppa, there are also big ones topped with ganache and chocolate coating. There are also other beloved kakor too many to mention. You can refer to the Swedish classic cookbook Sju Sorters Kakor (=7 assortments of cookies) named after a tradition of the same name in the 1800s, in which the host is expected to serve 7 kinds of cookies to the guest in the kafferep, coffee parties. The number seven is the lagom number, considered neither too stingy nor show-off.
One interesting observation of this kakanskalender: the distribution of days. There seems to be more pastry days in winter than in other seasons, which makes sense right?
No time to bake kakor when you are busy suntanning outside your sommarstuga, ja?
Non-Swedes, don’t you wish your SFI (Svenska för invandrare // Swedish language for immigrants) lesson is this fun and (literally) sweet? Hope I didn’t miss your favourite kakor. Seeing the calendar also got me thinking: What is the quintessential Swedish pastry? If you see the recurring motifs: chocolate, spices, almond paste, dairy, marzipan—Gustav Adolf-bakelse and Estelle-bakelse are in the right directions.
Ok don’t steal my idea. That will be the flagship item in my (imaginary) (future) konditori.
Smaklig kakansdag! // Have a tasty kaka day!
Most of the calendar days: https://temadagar.se/kalender/
Wikipedia page on Swedish cuisine
Sju sorters kakor: Sveriges bästa recept på klassiska bakverk och nya favoriter Stockholm: Massolit 2015
Lussekatter origin, theory #1: