gluten free

Traditional Danish Kransekage – Marzipan Cakes and Cookies

Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate. Good thou, save me a piece of marchpane, and, as thou loves me…

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5

danish-wedding-cake-2-500Kransekage, or Kransekake (Norwegian) is a traditional dessert dish in Scandinavia. The Danes prepare it for special occasions such as weddings, New Year’s Eve, and birthdays.

The origin of Kransekage and/or marzipan for that matter, is challenging to hunt down. Most sources attribute the origin of marzipan (almond paste) to either the Persians or the Spaniards, but the Germans and the Italians also lay claim to its creation.

Even the etymology of the word marzipan is opaque. The pan portion likely refers to bread, but the marzi / march/ marza portion is a source of considerable debate. It’s attributed to such disparate origins as March (as in March bread), to Marcus (the patron saint of an Italian town), to Marcip (the last name of a German chef), to Marz (meaning border or boundary in Persia).

Whatever the case, we do know that the Danish people love kransekage, which translates to wreath cake or doughnut cake. Evidently, it was originally called overflødighedshorn (try saying that three times fast), which translates to horn of plenty or cornucopia. It was essentially like today’s kransekage wedding cakes, but it laid on its side, with chocolates and other yummy treats spilling out of it. Kransekage wedding cakes today are formed by stacking ring upon ring of this marzipan (or marchpane) based delicacy atop each other.

kransekage-cookies-horizontal-with-napkins-the-solvang-bakery-700-rec

kransekage-cookies-inside-vertical-the-solvang-bakery-400Kransekage is made from marzipan, which is created from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites (so it’s gluten free). We form it into rings, which are then baked. The result is an outer crust that is hard to the touch, but soft to the bite. Inside is a delicious soft almondy paste. The final touch is decorating the baked marzipan with a royal icing drizzle. Because the rings are sturdy, they’re relatively easy to stack into a cake tower, which is often adorned with Danish (and sometimes American) flags.

jenga-with-kransekage-cookies-the-solvang-bakery-300People often ask us for kransekage pieces or cookies. We offer them by the half-dozen or dozen so that you can get your marzipan fix without the fanfare of a whole kransekage cake…or if you’re up for a game of edible Jenga! They’re also a great means for augmenting the traditional cake if your wedding party or New Year’s Party list has grown.

What about you; are you a marzipan fan?

yum-kransekage-cookies-and-cake-the-solvang-bakery-700

Gluten Intolerance – Why Now?

If you’re like us, you may be wondering why there is so much talk about gluten these days. After all, haven’t we been eating wheat, barley, and rye products for millennia? How did an entire population suddenly become gluten-intolerant seemingly overnight? We decided to do a little research to better understand this new trend.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

wheatFirst of all, it’s important to separate the groups of people who are eating gluten-free diets.  Celiac disease is a serious medical condition, and according to The Mayo Clinic, “People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients.”1 A 2012 Mayo Clinic study suggests that nearly 1% of the U.S. population is afflicted with celiac disease, but that only about 20+% of them know they have it.  Conversely, nearly 1% of the population is on a gluten-free diet.  Why are they on a gluten-free diet?  There is a population of people who have what is rather opaquely defined as gluten-sensitivity.  These folks suffer from symptoms such as bloating, tiredness, and irregular bowel movements when not on a gluten-free diet, yet they do not have celiac disease.  Simply put, eating gluten-free makes them feel better.  Some of these folks have sought medical advice for their symptoms and some have not.  Anecdotally, we have friends who fall into the gluten-sensitive category, and eating a gluten-free diet has made a marked difference in their lives. The study also determined that there is indeed an increase in celiac disease since the 1950’s…it’s not just a case of it having been formerly under-diagnosed.

Why the increase in celiac disease?

Two theories are suggested for the increase in celiac disease.  The first is that people are eating more processed wheat products such as pastas and yes, baked goods.  These items tend to have higher gluten content.  The second may have to do with the cross-breeding of wheat that began in the 1950’s.  By creating hardier plants that can help us better feed the world population; we may have inadvertently modified the gluten making it more challenging for the human body to process.  It appears that more research is needed on this topic.2

So what foods contain gluten?

The protein gluten is found in “grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).”3  So breads, beer, cakes, pies, cereals, cookies, crackers, pastas, and many other foods contain gluten.  As you might imagine, eliminating wheat for a baker is not a simple task.  That said, there are some yummy treats that do not contain these grains, and never have.

Gluten-free* baked goods at The Solvang Bakery

coconut-macaroons-300Two of our favorite treats are made with gluten-free recipes.  Our moist coconut macaroons contain no whole grains, and you can elect to eat them plain or dipped in rich chocolate.  Meringue is another non-grain based confection that makes for a delicious dessert.  Again, we can make them plain or dip them in chocolate.  Fill our meringue nests with fresh whipped cream and fresh berries or peaches for a refreshing gluten-free finish to your meal.  We are being asked more and more frequently to make gluten-free wedding cakes and specialty cakes.  For one recent wedding, the bride’s new mother-in-law had gluten-sensitivity, so she ordered her main wedding cake plus a miniature gluten-free version.

Yes, but how do gluten-free cakes taste?

Have you tasted a few gluten-free foods that you’d rather forget? We have; cardboard springs to mind. Rather than telling you that our gluten-free cakes are actually delicious, we’ll let a customer tell it to you straight. Here’s a quote from a Santa Barbara bride whose wedding was featured in Style Me Pretty.  Click here to check out the wedding.

Rebecca, Santa Barbara:

wedding-cake-gluten-free-lo-glare-300 solvang bakeryI am gluten free and Solvang Bakery took on the challenge to make me my dream wedding cake, gluten free, and no one would know the difference. Boy did they deliver. This was the best wedding cake I had every tasted, and most of our guests said the same thing. Solvang Bakery made up about 10 different gluten free cakes for us to taste and we settled on a chocolate ganache covered layered dream.
Not only was their cake amazing, they were so willing to help me, and so great to work with.

Click here for the link to this quote.

Whether you suffer from celiac disease, have been diagnosed as gluten-sensitive, or just find that eating a gluten-free diet makes you feel better, we can help you find a sweet solution to your dessert dilemmas. Give a call at (805) 688-4939 or email Melissa at Melissa@SolvangBakery.com and we can discuss options that fit your needs.  Until then, be well!

* – These products are made with ingredients that do not include gluten.  Our bakery does, however, produce other baked goods which contain gluten in our facility.

 

1 Mayo Clinic Staff, Celiac Disease, Definition, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/celiac-disease/DS00319.

2 CBS News Staff, Gluten-free diet fad: Are celiac disease rates actually rising?, July 31, 2012,

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57483789-10391704/gluten-free-diet-fad-are-celiac-disease-rates-actually-rising/.

3 Mayo Clinic Staff, Nutrition and Healthy Eating, Gluten-free diet: What’s allowed, what’s not, . Dec 20, 2011, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gluten-free-diet/my01140.