Vinarterta (Icelandic 7-Layer Cake)

This is something quite different, and allows you oodles of scope for flavours if you don’t like cardamom/prunes (see Footnotes). I’ve made it GF for my usual tasting crowd.

Meadow Brown Bakery has a comprehensive video which I recommend you watch to see the creation/construction in more detail. It does need storing for a few days before serving.

Serves: 16

For the shortbread cake layers:

  • 225g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 225g caster sugar – golden or white
  • 2 medium eggs (50-59g each when weighed in the shell), beaten in a small bowl
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 450g gluten-free plain flour; plus additional for rolling and assembling
  • 15g polenta (finely-ground cornmeal)
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (approx 15 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and heartily crushed)

For the jam filling:

  • 1 kilo pitted prunes
  • 200g caster sugar – golden or white
  • 400ml tepid water
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (approx 15 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and heartily crushed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the garnish:

  • Icing sugar, to dust
  • Double cream, whipped with icing sugar and vanilla (optional)


  • 1 large mixing bowl, plus 1 small bowl for beaten eggs
  • A wooden spoon (or an electric mixer, hand-held or stand, if you don’t want to cream by hand)
  • Clingfilm
  • A large, heavy-bottomed saucepan with lid
  • A stick blender (or a food processor)
  • The round base of a 23-24cm (9-10″) springform cake tin; or, a plate of similar size
  • Baking/parchment paper
  • Electric scales to weigh ingredients
  • A rolling pin
  • 1 baking sheet
  • 2 cooling racks
  • A serving plate or platter

Making the cake layers:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs a bit at a time, and beat well until fully incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla, and beat until well combined.
  2. Add the dry ingredients, and keep mixing/beating until the dough has come together.
  3. Lay out a large sheet of clingfilm on a worksurface. Scrape out your dough onto the clingfilm, flatten into a rectangle, then wrap well and put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes whilst you make the filling.

Making the jam filling:

  1. Put all filling ingredients into a large pot on the hob on a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring well to ensure the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat, cover, and leave to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
  2. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes to reduce the liquid.
  3. Using a stick blender, whizz until very smooth. (You could also put the mixture into a food processor and whizz until smooth.) Take off the heat and set aside.

Baking, and Assembling:

  1. Using a springform tin’s base, or a plate, as a template, draw a large circle onto a sheet of baking paper. Turn over and ensure you can see the circle.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180 C (160 C fan-assisted).
  3. Remove the cake dough from the fridge and weigh; divide the total dough weight by 7. (The portions should be about 146g each.) Wrap each portion in clingfilm, and put all but 1 back into the fridge.
  4. Take 1/7th of your dough, and roll it out on your baking paper, making a circle to fit your template. Generously flour your rolling pin and the paper. Place the paper with the dough circle onto your baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until browned around the edges and firm in the middle.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven to a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 2 minutes before peeling the cake from the paper onto another cooling rack.
  6. Repeat Steps 4 & 5 until all 7 cake circles are rolled and baked.
  7. Put a large sheet of clingfilm on your worksurface and put 1 cake layer on it. Spread over 1/6th of your filling, covering the entire cake layer. Repeat until all filling and cake layers are used. (I decided to put jam on the top layer, too, although this isn’t traditional for Vinarterta.)
  8. Wrap the cake stack tightly in the clingfilm. This needs to rest in the fridge for anywhere up to a week, for the flavours to develop and the shortbread-like cake layers to become less crumbly.
  9. Unwrap the cake when ready to serve, move to a serving plate/platter, and dust generously with icing sugar before slicing.

Alternate Fruit and Spice
This recipe would be fantastic with any of your favourite fruit cooked down into a sticky jam. You could also use any shop-bought jam you prefer. Ensure you match your spice(s) in the cake mixture with your choice of fruit.

What I Did Differently
The photographed version was for a ‘1940s weekend’ charity bake sale; my brief was to make a properly authentic English traditional cake (who, what, me?!). So, the cake mixture had finely grated lemon zest instead of cardamom; and the jam was shop-bought raspberry and strawberry (I also put jam on the top layer) – I used two 454g jars. I wrapped and stored the cake in the fridge for 3 days, then piped whipped double cream in the naffest garnish ever, to serve.

I was told by the person who sliced the cake that it had perfectly even layers, and was very easy to slice. (But she forgot to take a photo, grrr.) Mine was the first to sell out – even before all the Victoria sponges and chocolate cakes!

As per the main recipe description, the inspiration was from Esther at Meadow Brown Bakery.


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