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French Cake Stand

Fika - Kahvitauko

Anyone who has Scandinavian friends will most likely be familiar with the word fika( fee-ka) or kahvitauko.

This is because when struggling to find a word in english, they just use the word fika or kahvitauko.

Simply put, it means to sit down,have a chat, coffee and something baked. More than a coffee break, but less than something formal.

Scandinavians drink more coffee than anyone else in the world. Think strong filtered coffee that is served in cups with saucers. Traditionally, the coffee is always served black. In an effort to drink it faster the coffee is poured onto the plate to cool a little bit, hence the cup and saucer.

If you prefer the coffee sweet, you would put one sugar cube in your mouth and then slurp the coffee from the plate, simple!

These traditions still exist. however, modern world has found its ways to the North. The coffee is drank from a mug. At least at home. But, going for a fika/kahvitauko in any cafe, the coffee cup is always accompanied by a saucer and pastry.

To go with your super-strength cup of pep, you need something baked. The fika bröd or kahvileipä describes a whole range of options.The most famous which, is the cinnamon bun or PULLA. These are a labour of love. It's all about the goodness of home baking. If you prefer something else, a slice of soft bread with butter and cheese or a slice of cake will do just fine.

The fika or kahvitauko is deep-rooted in the Nordic culture. It’s in the bone marrow. Therefore, making it an essential part of the daily life is no effort at all.

The Coffee Table

It goes a long way back to the 1800's. There had been a period of prohibition for consuming coffee. Once again permitted to drink it, people started meeting frequently and bring along baked pastries to go with coffee. The individuals who could provide the best kind of baked goods were considered exceptional. Basically, it was a way for women to show off their skills for the most delectable baked cakes and pastries.

A traditional southern Scandinavian coffee table would consist of 7 different kinds of baked sweets. Actually, there is a book that was published in 1945 called “Sju Sortens Kakor” (Seven kinds of pastries). It is still in print and most likely every Swedish speaking household owns a copy of it.

One of my funniest memories of my father was when he was waiting for guests to arrive for kahvitauko at our house. Earlier that same day, he had gone to the local pastry shop to buy those 7 sorts of cakes and pastries. While sitting and waiting for his guests to turn up, my mother walked in to the living room and to her terror, he had taken a bite from all of the 7 sorts of cakes. My mother was crying out loud “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THE PASTRIES?”. My father looked at her surprised and calmly replied to her "Well, how can I tell our guests which ones are good if I haven't even tasted them first’!

Needless to say, the cake platter was modified by cutting each end of he pastries and served "as is" with my father pointing to each pastry. He reviewed each pastry, telling the guests which one he thought was the best!

After all these years I've been living in North America, I still practise the fika/kahvitauko thing either on my own or with family or friends. Rest assured, I don't taste pastries before serving, haha.

Nordic Style Coffee Cake


1 pkg (250 g) pitted dates

2 dl sugar

2 dl water

200 g butter

1 egg

3½ dl of unbleached wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

. butter and flour for greasing the cake pan

. icing sugar

1. Put chopped dates in a saucepan, check for any pits.

2. Add sugar and water.

3. Simmer as long as the dates separate and soften and allow to melt evenly.

4. Add the egg to the slightly cooled mixture.

5. Combine the dry ingredients and mix into the dough.

Heat the oven to 175 degrees celsius ( 350 F).

Grease and flour a bundt pan 20cm (8”) (1.5 l capacity).We used our borosilicate glass cake pan. Spoon the batter evenly into the pan.

Bake the cake on the lowest level of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Insert a cake tester or a tooth pick in the middle of the cake. If the stick comes out clean the cake is done.

Allow to cool in the pan before turning it over on a cake plate.

Finish with sifted icing sugar on top of the cake.

Enjoy with a cup of strong coffee!

Did you know?

Dried dates are very high in antioxidants and fiber and should be a part of a healthy diet daily.

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