September 16, 2005
Mjuk Toscakaka

I'm no fan of celebrity cookbooks. I'm relatively certain there's a Baldwin brother with an Italian home cookbook out there and if Billy Carter were still around you know he'd have a barbecue show on SpikeTV. It seems we believe that if you have become famous for acting or singing or politicking that you must be good at everything you do.

I have an exception to this dislike, however, and those are the books of Tamasin Day Lewis, sister of Academy Award winning actor Daniel Day Lewis and daughter of onetime poet laureate of Great Britain Cecil Day Lewis. In America, she is relatively unknown, but she has made a name for herself in Britain as a food and wine journalist and television producer.

Now there are some celebrity annoyances in her books (like the mention of Julia Roberts just loving the Treacle Tart in Day Lewis's book The Art of the Tart), but the recipes in her books work well and the photographs are just lovely.

This Mjuk Toscakaka recipe is not Day Lewis's but that of a friend of hers, Kristina von Wrede. It's very simple, but produces a cake that is light and sweet with a fantastic topping for all those who love crunchy sugar, butter, and almonds.

The original recipe may be found on Page 80 of Tamasin Day Lewis's Art of the Tart, a book I highly recommend.

Mjuk Toscakaka from a recipe by Kristina von Wrede via Tamasin Day Lewis

2/3 cup butter (10 2/3 tablespoons) plus more for buttering a cake pan
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 teaspoons water

1/4 cup slivered almonds (slivered as in thin disks, not as in splinters, if possible)
4 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon AP flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F and butterwell a 9" cake pan.

Sift the flour and baking powder together. Beat the eggs and vanilla together.

With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until you have a light colored paste. Slowly add the egg/vanilla mixture to the butter/sugar. Slowly add in the flour and baking powder mix. Add the water and mix until you have a smooth batter.

Pour and scrape the batter into the buttered cake pan and smooth the top out with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30 minutes until the top takes on some color.

In a small saucepan, just before the 30 minutes is up, mix all the topping ingredients together and heat. Be careful as the mix will bubble like a witch's cauldron. The bubbling will help to mix the ingredients together.

Take the cake out, and raise the temperature in the oven to 400 F. Spoon the topping onto the top of the cake evenly and return the cake to the oven for 5 minutes to brown. Watch the cake carefully - if the top looks like it may be getting too dark, remove it from the oven.

Let the cake cool for a few minutes before attempting to remove it from the pan. You may wish to cover the top with a sheet of wax paper, invert it onto the paper in your hand, then invert back onto a serving plate or stand.

The top to this cake is sweet, crunchy, and flavorful. A variation would be to add lemon or orange zest to the topping and juice instead of water to the cake recipe for citrus flavor, but its just lovely the way it is.

Let me know if Julia Roberts likes this recipe as well.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at September 16, 2005 9:06 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

The cake looks fantastic, Barrett. That said, for some reason I find Tamsin really, really, really, really, really irritating. I don't know why really...maybe it's just the frizzy hair and smug expression...

Still, nice cake!

Posted by Meg in Paris on September 16, 2005 at 1:34 PM

Oh, and does she mention the origin of the weird name of the cake? Or is this one of those obvious things everyone knows but me??

Posted by Meg in Paris on September 16, 2005 at 1:35 PM

I haven't encountered her on the screen or in person, so that may be why she doesn't annoy me.

I'm guessing it's Swedish. The cake is one of three with odd names in a row in the book. This is first, the next is a mjuk mandeltarta which is an almond tart and the third is an ambrosia kaka which is a cake again.

My guess, therefore is that mjuk means almond and kaka is cake. Tosca, of course, means "Fat Italians singing Puccini loudly".

Posted by barrett on September 16, 2005 at 1:46 PM

Hi to you both!
I am certain that mandel means almond in German, and most likely in a few other Germanic languages.
The kaka is an unfortunate term for cake.
Mjuk is Swedish for soft.
I am venturing a guess that the Tosca is a reference to Tuscany. This is a variation on a Tuscan almond cake I have seen floating around.
Looks great!

Posted by Alisa on September 17, 2005 at 7:28 AM

Thanks for the much more informed explanation of the name, Alisa!

Posted by barrett on September 17, 2005 at 8:57 AM

Better double check the amounts for the buter in the cake. 2/3 cup butter is 10 2/3 tablespoons. So is it 1/3 or 2/3 cup butter ?

Posted by Jeff on October 11, 2005 at 4:26 PM

It's 2/3 cup. My mind must have wandered when I did the conversion. Fixing it now.

Posted by barrett on October 11, 2005 at 4:33 PM

Let's double the butter, the cake should have a really rich taste I think..

Posted by MARTIN IN SWEDEN on July 30, 2006 at 12:04 PM

Toscakaka is a Swedish cake. Mandel does mean almond in Swedish, as well as in German. Tosca is a reference to Tuscany, or Toscana, as the Italians, as well as the Swedes, call it. It's a really nice cake, one of my favourites! If there's one thing we do well in Sweden it's cakes, sweets, cookies and pastries. Honestly, you should check out more Swedish recipes, look up mazarin (or katalan), dröm, which I've seen referred to as "Swedish dream cookie" (dröm means dream)

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