I remember the childhood delight of biting into a krumkake knowing that it would crumble, dropping shards of sweetness into my cupped hand. Krumkaker are among the syv slags kaker, or seven sorts of cookies, that are a must at Christmastime for Norwegians. And they’re certainly a favorite type. I recently asked readers to share tips for making the perfect krumkaker. I’ll share those in a moment. But first,
The syv slags kaker
Back in 1992, Aftenposten—Norway’s largest daily paper—surveyed people and compiled a list of the most popular varieties.
Krumkaker were on the list, along with smultringer and hjortetakk (these two tied for first place), sandkaker, sirupsnipper, berlinerkranser, goro, and fattigman.
The syv slags kaker fall into three categories: baked, fried, or cooked on special irons or griddles. The krumkaker fall into the latter and are the oldest of these cookies, along with goro. They go back to at least the 1700s, writes Kathleen Stokker in Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land, and the blacksmiths who made them would integrate their initials into the pattern. In Norway, the design might differ depending on the area or the family. With ties to waffles, another treat made on an iron, the roots of these cookies go back at least a thousand years.
Today’s bakers have a choice: stovetop or electric irons. There are benefits to either type, with tradition and romance associated with the former and convenience, speed, and ease of cleanup with the latter. I personally use a dual-krumkaker electric iron that Grandma Adeline gave me years ago. Whichever model you choose, they’re available at many cookware and Scandinavian shops, as well as online. Don’t forget to pick up a couple of cone rollers, too. There are some beautiful, handcarved ones out there, which would make lovely Christmas gifts. As for technique, yours will vary a bit depending on your preferences and your iron.
My krumkaker tips:
- While everyone’s technique, timing, and workflow will differ, I like to slide the cookies off the iron onto a piece of parchment paper and immediately put more batter on the iron; by this time my krumkaker have cooled just enough to be workable (though still hot), but not so much that they become brittle. By the time they’ve set enough to transfer off the cone rollers and retain their shape, the next batch are just about ready to remove and roll.
- Be patient and give yourself plenty of grace. It takes a little while to get the hang of the timing and rolling. Some krumkaker won’t turn out just right, but that’s okay—part of the fun is sampling while you go, and the imperfect cookies provide a great excuse to do so.
- Some years ago when I was first learning to make krumkaker, I asked my surviving grandmother, Adeline, how to roll the cookies onto the cones without burning my fingers. “You just have to do it,” she said. Not satisfied that making krumkaker should have to hurt, I posted a question on Facebook a long time ago, asking readers for tips. While some people echoed my grandmother’s thoughts, that you just have to deal with it (“Asbestos hands that’s all,” wrote one person), readers posted a variety of tips:
- Some people use rollers from Norway that have a clip attached, which allows you to slide the krumkaker off the iron and roll it in one step with minimal contact with the hot cookie. Others use gloves, even the cotton ones available at the drugstore—just make sure you’re using food-safe materials. Others use a dishcloth or parchment paper as a shield for the hands while rolling. Another great tip I learned from one reader is to keep a small glass of ice water nearby—that way you can cool your fingers immediately after rolling the krumkaker.
Reader tips for making the perfect krumkaker:
- “I used my sister’s Chef’s Choice KrumKake Express 839 and I’m hooked.” – Julie Sween Steinbeck
- “We have my Grandmother and Mother’s irons. They are so precious to our family, we make it a family project. I keep a small glass of ice water next to me and keep my fingers in it between rolls when it’s my turn. It helps a lot.” – Janice Capps Quick
- “Always have a helper, one works the iron the other rolls. My mother used to make with her mother, she was always worked the iron because she couldn’t roll correctly then I made with my mother and I would roll. Now I make with my son and he rolls. Goes so much faster when you make 100+ cookies.” – Erika Halboth
- “Be sure to hold down firmly on the handles after the batter is poured so they get nice and thin” – Pamela Hetteen
- “In Florida, make them on a cold day or our high humidity ruins them.” – Terry Hickman
- “Yes. I always make them at Christmas, other times too. A favorite to make with grandkids. That’s my tip: have a grandkid ready to roll, count to 7 and tap it off.” – Heidi Keem Nimm
- “I make several dozen each Christmas. They’re my love language! Ha! My tip: make sure you roll them as soon as they come off the iron.” – Jeanie Nelson Mayer
- “Mom always stored them in a tin, lined with foil to keep fresh! We use vanilla extract instead of cardamom. Yummy!” – Linda Brewi
- “My favorite Norwegian cookie! No tips except be quick and willing to endure a little pain!” – Stephanie Jacobsen Schuler
- “Use a wooden roller not the metal ones that comes with the new irons!” – RaNae Langness
- “Store in tins or Tupperware sealed containers, cool before sealing. I use milk instead of cream, they are lighter then.” – Marilyn Cron
- “Make sure your butter is room temperature. Love making them. Now my older grandchildren have taken over and I supervise.” – Judy Swenson Reynolds
- “I press the seam side of the rolled cookie slightly while still hot to make it lie flat and not unroll.” – Claire Lohnes
- “Getting into a rhythm is the most important thing for me. One-year I put them over small custard bowls. We filled them with ice cream jello. Delish!” – Judith Hansen Secord
- “I krumkake but the years I’ve changed my recipe, adding vanilla, pre ground and hand ground cardamon. I add extra butter, sugar and thin batter with water to make them thinner and crispier. I use a a thin dowel instead of a cone to make them easier to eat, stack and pack.” – Pam Erickson Davis
- “Make them when no one is home or double the recipe!” – JuliAnn Allen
- “Make them on a sunny day, not overcast. On an overcast day it takes them longer to crisp up.” – Sue