danish dream cake + copenhagen

crazy it’s been just about a year since I visited denmark. though I spent only a week there, it was enough time to fall in love with scandinavian food and architecture, and their hygge way of life.

now of course, I visited during the summer. talking to residents of copenhagen, I heard mostly about the unusually cold summer they’d been having, a complaint especially heartfelt because their summers are only two or so months long, with even shorter autumns and springs and long, long winters. perhaps because their time to enjoy the relative warmth was so short, copenhagen was bursting with life and laughter – one evening, a hostel buddy and I found a raucous bar with a hilarious fake beach on a small river barge, then grabbed platters of food from all sorts of different stalls in a food hall and watched the sun set while sitting with what felt like every other 20-something in copenhagen on the pier.

a view of copenhagen from atop vor frelsers kirke

I also miss mornings in copenhagen. at many of the coffee shops around me, most people are wearing headphones while on their laptops or in their textbooks, and conversation is subdued or nonexistent. at coffee shops in denmark, families and friends were chatting and places were particularly busy early the morning as people met up for a solid breakfast before work (with the tourists usually appearing around 10am or so). unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment or the expertise to recreate the fantastic cups of coffee I had in denmark – however, I have been slowly working my way through the delicious pastries I had. here’s a recipe for a cake so decadent, just one small slice would satisfy my sweets cravings for the rest of the day. it tastes great with coffee, and for children, I imagine it would go perfect with a tall glass of cold milk.

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a beautiful morning at frederiksborg castle

places i loved
la cabra coffee roasters | best cup of coffee I had in europe. very popular with the locals in arhaus, so you may have to wait a bit for a table to clear.
original coffee, bredgade | coffee shop with multiple locations across copenhagen. this location is small with limited seating, but isn’t too busy and has great pastries and really fantastic coffee.
meyers bageri, st. kongensgade | popular copenhagen bakery with locations across the city. try to go before 9:00am – after that, the bakery quickly runs out of its most popular pastries.
torvehallerne | so many great vendors in this glass-windowed food hall. the tapas at tapa del toro took me straight back to spain, and at another stall, we found fresh oysters and fish galore. the florists had incredibly beautiful arrangements featuring flowers I’ve never seen before.
restaurant pluto | trendy restaurant popular for group dinners among the tall, young and beautiful residents of copenhagen. they make a showstopper of a steak (probably the best steak I’ve ever had), and the staff is super friendly.
kodbyens fiskebar | incredibly fresh seafood prepared impeccably and served in a trendy, industrial former meat market. if it’s warm, share an outdoor picnic table with some copenhagen locals! (and grab a beer afterwards at nearby warpigs brewpub.)
geranium | with three well-deserved michelin stars, geranium is the most expensive meal you’ll ever eat, and the best. there’s no other dining experience like eating edible pieces of art full of flavors you never even knew were possible, while seated in a panoramic dining room on the top floor of a soccer stadium. all diners also get a tour of the extensive wine room and spotless kitchens.
restaurant domestic | a two michelin star gourmet gastronomique experience. the restaurant atmosphere is industrial yet cozy, and the food is delicious and whimsical – it’s as if the farm came to your table in the form of food made by woodland fairies. easily the best meal we had in arhaus (and the second-best meal we had in denmark).

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rainbow panorama at aros aarhus kunstmuseum

aros aarhus kunstmuseum | a really, really modern art museum in arhus. when we went, there were some cool textile exhibits, and the rainbow walkway on top of the museum was 100% worth it.
frederiksborg castle | the most beautiful castle we visited. built in the renaissance style, it’s surrounded by a serene moat among rolling hills and has a beautiful english-style garden. the rooms are lavishly furnished. it’s about an hour train ride from copenhagen, and was totally worth the visit.
kronborg castle | supposedly the castle that hamlet is based on. it’s more imposing than attractive and the rooms are mostly empty, but during the summer, the castle hosts fun and well-acted interactive “hamlet” performances where the audience follows the actors from room to room in the castle. it’s about an hour train ride from copenhagen (and can be done in the same day as frederiksborg if you wake up early enough!).
tivoli gardens | if you like amusement parks, tivoli is worth a visit. the park is beautifully executed and there are some legitimately fun rides. however, the ticket prices are quite high (and if you pay per ride, it can really add up) and lines can be quite long. if you don’t mind getting split up and riding with strangers, always opt for the singles line, which moves significantly faster.

makes one 8•8-in pan

cake
245g (1 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
110g (1/2 cup) salted butter, at room temperature
300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
1 tbsp vanilla paste
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (175 mL) heavy cream
topping
200g (1 stick + 6 tbsp) salted butter
1/2 cup (100mL) whole milk
300g (1 1/2 cups) light brown sugar, packed
200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
200g (2 cups) unsweetened desiccated coconut flakes

nadine redzepi. downtime. new york: pam krauss books/avery, 2017.

cake|1 preheat oven to 350ºF. lightly butter an 8×8-in pan.
2 whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. put butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer* fitted with a paddle attachment. beat at medium-high speed until pale, ~3 minutes. add the vanilla paste and beat for another minute, until incorporated.
3 add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until light and fluffy. with the mixture on low speed, add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of heavy cream. beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
4 spread the batter evenly in the pan. bake until top is browned and center is almost, but not quite set when pressed with a fingertip, 30-35 minutes.
topping|1 10 minutes before the cake finishes its first bake, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. add milk and heat until it is simmering. stir in the brown and granulated sugars and bring to a boil, stirring often. stir in the coconut. reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring almost constantly, until sugar has dissolved, ~2 minutes. the mixture should still be quite liquidy.
assembly|1 remove cake from oven and immediately poke holes all over the surface using a wooden skewer (or a chopstick). pour topping evenly over the cake, using the back of a spoon to spread it into the corners. return cake to the oven and bake until the topping is set and has turned a shade or two darker, ~15 minutes.
2 place pan on a wire rack and let cake cool completely. cut into squares and serve.

*you can make this cake by hand as well; use a wooden spoon to mix together the butter, sugar, and vanilla paste until pale and smooth. beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then mix them into the butter-sugar mixture until light and fluffy. follow the rest of the recipe as directed.
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