Scandinavian Cocoa Spice Cake

Recipe inspirations are everywhere – this was billed as ‘Karleksmums Love Cake’ (similar in name to the Persian Love Cake which inspired another of my recipes). This one is basically a huge, spiced chocolate fondant with a crunchy topping.

I’ve adapted it to be GF, added ground almonds, and scaled it up for a larger tin; and I know Scandis everywhere will applaud the addition of the appropriate spices to both cake and icing.

Serves: 12 – 16

For the cake:

  • 4 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder (approx. 45g)
  • 100ml (100g if weighing) boiling water
  • 200ml (205g if weighing) milk
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 240g golden granulated sugar – golden caster will do (or white in a pinch)
  • 2 large eggs (they should total 130g – 140g when weighed in their shells)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g gluten-free flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 small orange, or satsuma/clementine;
    all of grated zest (for cake) and 4 tablespoons juice (for icing)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (about 8 green pods, husked, and seeds heartily crushed)
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace (ground nutmeg will do as a substitute)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the icing:

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice (see Cake Ingredients)
  • 2 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp ground cardamom (about 4 green pods, husked, and seeds heartily crushed)
  • 50g desiccated coconut nibs
  • Sifted icing sugar, to decorate
  • Sea salt, to decorate (optional)


  • A 23-24cm (9-9.5″) diameter, round springform cake tin
  • Baking/parchment paper to line tin
  • A measuring jug, and 2 large mixing bowls
  • Mortar and pestle for cardamom seeds (if you don’t have ground cardamom)
  • Electric beaters (hand-held or stand)
  • Cooling rack
  • A medium saucepan
  • Sieve for icing sugar

Making the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C  (160 C fan-assisted). Very lightly grease the bottom and sides of the tin, and line the bottom and sides with paper.
  2. In a measuring jug, mix the cocoa powder and boiling water to create a paste, then leave to cool slightly. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly until fully combined.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, with the vanilla, beating well with each addition, and continue whisking for a few minutes on medium speed. (You need this to be as fluffy as possible – so, it’s probably not do-able by hand.)
  4. In the second bowl, mix the flour, ground almonds, bicarb, citrus zest, and spices manually with a fork.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar in thirds, alternating with the cocoa liquid, mixing continuously by hand. Don’t worry about over-mixing, as this is gluten-free – in fact, keep incorporating as much air as you can. The batter will be thick, but should be very smooth.
  6. Spread the batter into your prepared tin, and level the top. Bake for around 30 minutes, turning the tin halfway through for even baking. When the centre has only the slightest wobble and a skewer inserted in the centre is almost clean, remove from the oven. Leave to cool for 5 – 10 minutes, then un-clip and remove the ring, and slide the cake on its base onto a cooling rack. Don’t worry that it sinks in the middle as it cools, and it’s fine to be a bit gooey in the centre – that’s the way it should be.

Making the icing:

  1. Put all ingredients from icing sugar to coconut into a saucepan on the hob on the very lowest heat. Melt together gently, stirring all the while, until it’s thoroughly combined – and don’t let it do anything more than the mildest simmer. If you see coffee granules, bash them with your spoon until they’re fully mixed in (see footnote).
  2. Move the cooled cake to a serving platter, removing the tin base, then pour the icing around the top of the sides and into the centre. Be aware that the icing hardens quite quickly.
  3. Sift over some more icing sugar (and if you want a more authentic Karleksmums, grind over some sea salt, too). Slice before the icing hardens – the photographs show what happens if you let it go even 15 minutes before slicing.

Alternative Coffee Method
You can put the orange juice in a teacup, and heat in the microwave until very hot, then stir in the coffee granules until they’re fully dissolved before adding to the rest of the icing ingredients on the hob.

Sadly, I didn’t save the top of the page when I cut out this recipe, so I can’t remember which newspaper it was in. I did an internet search for ‘Karleksmums cake’ and found many recipes out there, all slightly different, but none of them gluten-free. And oddly, none of them included what are very typically-used Scandinavian spices. Adding them really enhanced the flavours of coffee, orange, and coconut.


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