Julekake- A Norwegian Cardamom Scented Christmas Bread

We Knead To Bake! is a bread baking group on FB, hosted by Aparna Balasubramanian of My Diverse Kitchen. Though I had joined this group couple of months back, I haven't baked anything to date except for pizzas. Now, baking bread is not a child's play. So, I waited until I get to bake something easy. And this month's recipe proved to be the right one to bake for an amateur like me!!

Julekake (or Julekaka/ Julekaga) is a rich holiday bread flavoured with cardamom which is traditionally served at Christmas in many Scandinavian countries. It is particularly popular in Norway and Denmark. Incidentally, Julekake means “Yule Bread” in Norwegian.  This bread is more cake-like in texture and sometimes it is dusted with powdered sugar or glazed with a white sugar icing. If it is not glazed or left plain, then it is usually served warm at breakfast with butter or a goat milk cheese called geitost/ brunost. In Norway, Julekake traditionally only a lime green citrus peel called sukat is added along with the cardamom. Nowadays many people also add red and green cherries to reflect the colours of Christmas. Other popular additions are raisins, candied orange peel, and coloured candied peel.  Some recipes for Julekake also feature almonds, but the main flavour in this bread comes from cardamom.

Dry yeast - 2 tsp
Lukewarm water - 1/4 cup
Lukewarm milk - 1/2 cup
Egg - 1
Butter - 50gm, softened at room temperature
Sugar - 1/4 cup
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Cardamom - 4-5 pods, powdered
All-purpose flour - 2 1/2 cups
Mixed candied fruit or peel - 1/2 cup
Golden or dark raisins - 1/4 cup

For the Glaze:
Egg - 1, lightly beaten
Milk - 1 tbsp
Crushed sugar cubes or chopped almonds

  • Put the water, milk and 1 tsp sugar (from the 1/4 cup) in a small bowl and add the yeast to it. Mix well and keep aside for 5 to 10 minutes till it becomes “frothy”.
  • Put this yeast mixture, the egg, butter and sugar and salt in a large bowl. Mix well, and then add the flour and the powdered cardamom. Knead well until you have a dough that is soft, smooth and elastic. Add just as much more flour or water to achieve this consistency of dough.
  • Take the dough out and flatten it into a largish round (shape is not important). Sprinkle the fruit and raisins evenly and then roll it up, swiss roll style. This is a good way to knead in fruit into bread dough. Then just knead the dough lightly by hand and roll it up into a ball.
  • Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl, cover loosely and let it rise till double in volume, for about an hour or so. 
  • When done, lightly knead the dough to deflate it slightly and shape it into a ball. Place it on a lined or lightly greased baking sheet or in a cake or loaf tin. Let it rise for about 45 minutes.
  • If using the egg wash, then brush it over the top of the dough. Otherwise brush it with milk and sprinkle it with crushed sugar cubes or chopped almonds.  (Actually, I forgot to sprinkle it with sugar cubes or chopped almonds!)
  • Bake at 180C (350F) for about 30 minutes till the bread is golden brown and done. If you find the bread browning too quickly, cover it with foil after about 15 minutes in the oven to avoid further browning.
  • Cool it on a rack. Let it cool completely before you slice it.