Brownies are not necessarily something you would immediately associate with Icelandic cuisine, that is if you were able to associate anything with it at all. The land of fire and ice, situated only 849 miles from the UK, does not seem to have made the same culinary impact as other European countries. Maybe you have tried skyr, the fresh sour milk cheese that is eaten like yoghurt for breakfast, topped with fresh berries. Or perhaps you have heard of hákarl, the national dish of Iceland, consisting of fermented Greenland shark that is left to ferment for four to five months (labelled by the late Anthony Bourdain as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he had ever eaten).
Needless to say, you probably aren’t popping out to your favourite Icelandic spot for dinner tonight. Maybe that needs to change. Icelandic food is, after all, not just about rotten fish; there are many delicious foods, plenty of which are not far removed from favourites here in the UK. Icelandic desserts are a major case in point. There is hjónabandssaela (happy marriage cake), a delicious cake filled with rhubarb jam and sprinkled with cardamom; mondlukaka, a traditional Icelandic almond cake; and kakósúpa, a spiced chocolate ‘porridge.’ The list could go on…
One of these alluring sweet treats is skúffukaka, an Icelandic chocolate cake akin to the much-loved brownie. It is a super easy, super tasty bake – cooked in a single-layer roasting pan, coated in a rich chocolate glaze and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. Sounds delicious, right? What makes this cake that bit more special, and a little unusual for a brownie-style chocolate cake, is the addition of coffee and cinnamon to the cake batter. The coffee is subtle, its true purpose to enhance the chocolatiness of the chocolate, whilst the cinnamon gives the brownie the warm breath of Nordic baking.
Skúffukaka (Makes around 25 squares)
500g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
30g cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate!)
300g caster sugar
150g melted butter, cooled
50g melted dark chocolate, cooled
75ml coffee, at room temperature
150g skyr (if you can’t get hold of it, just use Greek yoghurt)
200g icing sugar
50g melted butter, cooled
10g cocoa powder
50ml coffee, cooled
Desiccated coconut, to sprinkle over the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
2. Grease and line a 35cm x 25cm baking tray.
3. In a bowl, mix together the caster sugar and the eggs until they are light and fluffy. Add the melted butter, chocolate, coffee, and milk to the mixture.
4. Mix together the flour, baking powder, cocoa and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Fold this flour mixture into the wet mixture, being careful not to overmix the batter.
5. Add the skyr (or Greek yoghurt) and lightly mix so it is combined into the batter.
6. Pour the batter into the baking tray, level off the batter, and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
7. Allow the cake to cool down before adding the frosting. Warm cake and cold frosting spell disaster!
8. For the icing, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until the sugar is fully dissolved and you have a smooth, spreadable mixture.
9. Spread the icing over the cooled cake and then sprinkle the top of the cake with desiccated coconut. Cut into squares and enjoy with a cup of tea!