Food

The Family Table: The Norwegian Holiday Bread—and Hand-Cranked Bread Maker—Passed Down 6 Generations

Readers share their treasured recipes
TIMEDecember 10, 2021

Submitted by Doris Richardson, Georgia

One of my favorite memories and family traditions is that of making Siste Kage (Sosterkake) during Christmas. Actually, it’s my mom who makes it every year, without fail, and I help. She’s the expert, not really needing to follow the recipe exactly, and only checking to make sure she’s remembering the quantities correctly. Scalded milk, flour, black and golden raisins, eggs, and the very important spice, cardamom.

My mom learned to make Siste Kage from my grandmother Sigrid, who learned from my great-grandmother Nicoline. The cake is considered a specialty in southern Norway, and it’s believed that it got its name from a small town in the Netherlands called “Soester,” which had many housemaids from Norway in the 1800s.

Epoch Times Photo
The author’s grandmother Sigrid Asbjornsen Denyer. (Courtesy of Doris Richardson)

My great-grandparents Severin and Nicoline Asbjornsen emigrated from Arendal, Norway, with their children in 1902, settling in Jersey City and bringing with them many of their food traditions. If only I had a cookbook that belonged to Nicoline!

Epoch Times Photo
The author’s great-grandmother Nicoline Asbjornsen with her children Hal and Marie. (Courtesy of Doris Richardson)

An interesting side note to my family’s history of making Siste Kage is the story of the Universal Bread Maker, which we still use today. It is, once again, passed down from Nicoline. The bread maker is basically a pail with a cover and a hand crank—simple, but it works amazingly well. The ingredients are hand-blended using the crank and left in the pail to rise. The batter is divided among bread pans, allowed to rise again, and baked. The scent of cardamom fills the room. No need for candles here!

Epoch Times Photo
Blaise, the author’s grandson, turns the crank of Nicoline’s Universal Bread Maker—the sixth generation to do so. (Courtesy of Doris Richardson)

The bread maker’s official name is the Number 4 Universal Bread Maker by Landers, Frary & Clark of New Britain, Connecticut. It won a gold medal in the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. Winning a gold medal at the World’s Fair was a big deal—Landers & Frary actually put it on the front of the bread maker itself. The bread maker was considered quite a revolutionary household product for its time. (Another gold medal winner at the same world’s fair: Gold Medal Flour. And yes, my mom still uses it.)

I can only imagine Nicoline’s excitement having purchased this new invention knowing it would make her life just a bit easier, but little did she know her family would still be using it six generations later! I’d like to think she looks down on us with pride, and that she smiles knowing we think of her each time we turn that squeaky crank. We smile as the bread is baking, knowing that the exact same aroma filled her kitchen so many years ago.

Epoch Times Photo
A freshly baked loaf of Siste Kage and the Universal Bread Maker, passed down from the author’s great-grandmother Nicoline. (Courtesy of Doris Richardson)

Siste Kage (Sister Bread, Norwegian Raisin Bread)

Makes 5 loaves

  • One 15-ounce box black raisins
  • One 15-ounce box golden raisins
  • 3 packages yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (only buy whole pods, remove seeds from pods, and grind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 9 cups all-purpose flour (a 5-pound bag contains 10 cups)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

Place raisins in a large bowl and coat with a heaping tablespoon of flour. This will keep the raisins from sinking during baking.

Dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside.

Scald milk, then add to bread maker. Add softened butter and sugar while hot. Stir until butter and sugar are melted. Allow to cool before adding eggs and yeast/water mixture. Add cardamom and salt.

Gradually add flour, stirring between each addition. Use a wooden spoon to ensure all flour is blended. After adding about 8 cups flour, stir in the raisins. Do a spoon test by placing a wooden spoon, spoon side first, into batter. If it doesn’t stand up and if the batter looks sticky and soupy, continue adding flour, testing again with each small addition.

Cover and let stand in a warm place until double in bulk, about 45 minutes. Punch down and let rise again.

Fill five regular size loaf pans that have been lightly greased and powdered with flour. Rise again.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown and a knife comes out clean. If the top turns golden before it’s cooked, cover with foil. Brush beaten egg yolk on top of each loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven. Remove bread from loaf pan and cool on a rack, top side up.

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