Baking-powder bread – Hveitibrauð með lyftidufti

My mother sometimes makes this delicious bread. We usually eat it while it’s still hot out of the oven, with butter and cheese.

500 g flour OR 400 g flour and 100 g whole-wheat flour
6 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp sugar
300-350 ml milk, OR a mixture of water and milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
milk or egg for brushing

Sift together the dry ingredients, and add most of the milk. Knead until smooth, adding milk as needed. Form into a loaf. Make shallow cuts into the top of the loaf. Brush the loaf with milk or beaten egg. Bake immediately. Bread should be baked on the lowest rung in the oven, at 175°-200°C, for about an hour. It will be crusty and tastes best while warm. It’s very good with butter and cheese, but I prefer to eat it with just butter.

Puffin in milk sauce – Mjólkursoðinn lundi

I don’t care much for puffin and other sea-birds as food, but many people love them and eat them whenever they can. This recipe resembles the recipe for rock ptarmigan, in that the birds are cooked in milk.

4 puffins
50 g smoked bacon
50 g butter
300 ml milk
300 ml water to taste salt

Puffins should be skinned or carefully plucked and singed. Remove the innards and discard. You can use the breasts alone, or cook the whole birds. Wash well in cold water and rub with salt, inside and out. If you are using whole birds, truss them. Lard the breasts with bacon fat. Brown the birds on all sides, and stuff them tightly into a cooking pot. Heat the milk and water and pour over the puffins. Bring to the boil and cook on low for 1-2 hours (test the birds for softness). Turn the birds occasionally. Remove from the cooking liquid and keep warm while you prepare the sauce.

The sauce:
30 g butter
4 tblsp flour
400-500 ml cooking liquid
to taste salt and pepper
as needed caramel/sauce colouring
to taste redcurrant jelly (optional)
to taste whipped cream

Melt the butter and stir the flour into it like you were making white sauce. Strain the cooking liquid and gradually add to the butter/flour mixture. Add colouring and spices to taste, and redcurrant jelly/cream, if using.
Serve with boiled and/or caramelized potatoes and lightly boiled vegetables, like carrots, peas and brussels sprouts.

Recipe taken from Helga Sigurðardóttir’s “Matur & Drykkur”, Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, 1986 (1947).

Oven-pan cake – Skúffukaka

An old family favourite, and the first cake I learned to make – in fact I know the recipe by heart. This is a very versatile recipe. The recipe can also be used to make an apple-cake, spice cake, or a batch of muffins.

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbs dark cocoa, or more, to taste
150 g margarine, melted
2 eggs
1-1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix the dry ingredients well together in a bowl. Add the eggs and milk and then the melted margarine and mix well. Although this batter is supposed to be just mixed, I prefer to whip it slightly – it makes the cake wonderfully light and fluffy.
Pour into a greased oven-pan (a deep, square one), and bake at 175° C for about 30 minutes in the middle of the oven. The cake is done when it feels firm when you press gently on it with your hand. Allow to cool and spread with cocoa icing.

-Leave out the cocoa, and make a white cake. Spread with cocoa icing when cool.
Cinnamon cake: Make a white batter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar (see instructions below) before baking. For an even more spicy cake, experiment with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and/or powdered cloves.
Apple-cake: put slices of apple, about 1/2 cm thick, on top of white dough in the pan, before sprinkling it with cinnamon sugar.
-Mix in grated chocolate or chocolate chips instead of the cocoa and pour into muffin pans.
-For a slightly tropical taste, put grated coconut on top of the still wet cocoa icing.

Cinnamon sugar: Mix together about 1/4 cup of sugar and about 2 tsp of cinnamon.

Icelandic Rhubarb compote – Rabarbaragrautur

It’s rhubarb season, so here is a recipe to try.

Rhubarb grows in abundance in almost every vegetable garden in Iceland, right alongside the potatoes. In the summer, it is mostly used for soup and grautur (compote). It is preserved mostly as jam, but it also freezes well, and tastes excellent when preserved in syrup. There are many homes where rhubarb soup/grautur is eaten throughout the winter. It is also good for desserts (especially pies and compotes) and chutneys, and it makes excellent wine.

My mother used to make rhubarb compote about once or twice a month through the summer when I was little, but after my brother decided that he didn’t like it, she hardly ever makes it anymore.

3/4 litres water
3-3 1/2 tbs potato starch/cornflour
250 g rhubarb
100 ml water, cold
200 ml sugar

Wash the rhubarb and chop into small pieces. Drop into cold water and bring to the boil. Cook until the rhubarb pieces separate. Add the sugar and thicken with the potato starch. Don’t close the pot, it makes the rhubarb loose its colour. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and serve hot or cold, with cream or half and half.

-To make rhubarb soup: follow the above recipe, but only use about a quarter of the starch. Serve hot.
-Replace part of the rhubarb with strawberries for a delicious alternative.
-If the soup/porridge looks unappetizingly green, add some red food coloring. This will not be necessary if you are using the red rhubarb variety.

P.S. Rhubarb will discolour aluminium cooking pots.

Lisa’s spiced chocolate cake – Lísu Brúnterta

This is one of the cakes my mother always makes for holidays like Christmas and Easter, and for birthdays and other special occasions.

500 g flour
350 g sugar
250 g margarine or butter
2 eggs
3 tsp ground cloves
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbs dark cocoa
as needed milk

Cream together the sugar and softened margarine or butter. Mix in the eggs. Sift the flour with the spices, baking soda and cocoa. Add to the margarine mix, one tablespoonful at a time. Alternate with splashes of milk, and mix well in between (batter should be medium thick). Pour into cake tins and bake at 190°C until firm. Cool.
My mother makes these cakes about as thick as her thumb, and uses three layers of cake and two layers of vanilla butter icing. Tastes great with whipped cream.

Freezes well.

Devils’ Cake – Djöflaterta

Devil’s Cake with cocoa icing.

This devilishly good chocolate cake is very popular all over Iceland, and you can buy a slice in most cafes and bakeries, although they are usually covered with buttercream icing and sprinkled with dessicated coconut.

I like it best when it has been frozen and thawed before glazing, because the cake will then be nicely moist.

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs or 1 egg and egg 2 yolks (if you’re making Angel’s créme icing)
1/2 cup dark cocoa * (or more, if you prefer your cake really dark and chocolatey. Proper Devil’s cake should be almost black in colour)
100 g margarine/butter (soft)
1 tsp vanilla essence

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add milk and mix well. Add eggs, soft margarine/butter and vanilla essence and mix well. Pour into two cake pans and bake at 175° Celsius until firm (usually 25-30 minutes). Remove gently from pans and cool.

When cold, spread one half with rhubarb jam (leave it out if you don’t have any), and spread cocoa icing over the jam. Put the other half on top and cover with icing. OR use

Englakrem – Angel’s Créme Icing:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites

Boil water and sugar together until a clear syrup forms. Cool slightly. Be careful not to burn. Whip the egg whites until they are stiff and form peaks. Continue whipping and pour the warm syrup very slowly into the egg whites. Continue whipping until mixture is cold. This créme should be quite stiff. Spread on the cake and decorate with chocolate shavings.

With chocolate buttercream icing.


  • Put chocolate chips in the batter for an extra chocolatey taste.
  • Cover with cocoa-butter icing. Put mashed bananas between the layers.
  • Put white butter icing between the layers and serve.

Butter icing for cakes and cookies – Smjörkrem

Since I am about to start posting some cakes and cookies that require butter icing, here is the recipe for this excellent substance.

125 g sweet butter or margarine
125-200 g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
to taste: flavouring (see notes)
1 tbs cream (optional)
few drops food colouring (optional)
a pinch of salt (leave out if you’re using salted butter)

Soften the butter at room temperature, or put in the microwave for a few seconds. Whip together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Adjust amount of sugar according to how sweet you want the icing. Add the egg yolk and flavouring, and cream, if using (will make the icing smoother). Frost the cake and enjoy.

Vanilla essence is the usual flavouring for white icing, but many other flavours are excellent. Rum, sherry, amaretto/almond and hazelnut are good flavours for many kinds of cake. Fruit, berry and flower flavours, such as orange, lemon, strawberry, cherry, peppermint or rosewater, are good with vanilla-flavoured cakes.

Other variations:
-add some cocoa powder or melted chocolate to make chocolate-flavoured icing
-flavour with fresh, strong coffee. This combines well with chocolate.