Bailie of Expat in Training is another blogfriend I have had the pleasure of “meeting” this past year. I am always so interested to hear about her life in Sweden, so I was so excited when she volunteered to share some of Sweden’s traditions for celebrating “Jul”! Thanks for sharing, Bailie!
This year I will be celebrating my second Christmas or Jul (pronounced “yule”) in Sweden. I have to say, celebrating the holiday season in a climate colder than my native Southern California really helps put me in a holly jolly mood! Today I would like to share with you some Swedish holiday traditions, as well as a classic cake recipe that is perfect for holiday parties, enjoying with a loved one by the fireplace, or in my case, as a way to shovel as much whipped cream into your mouth as possible!
On Christmas Eve in Sweden, you will probably be invited to a family gathering. Similar events happen all over Sweden, and it will be a bit puzzling at first, I dare say! You will arrive around 2:00 to get settled. There will be a large spread of cookies and hot beverages – my mother in law bakes about 12 different types of cakes and cookies for our family of 7! Once you have sampled them all, chosen your favorites, and piled your plate high, you will pick your seat in front of the tv. At 3:00, the country will start its annual viewing of Disney cartoons – each year the same clips are shown, and then any new cartoon from Disney that came out that year will also have a chance to warm your heart.
The caveat for you as a foreigner will be that the cartoons are dubbed in Swedish, so you will sit and try to decide if you should squash your desire to sing along to childhood favorites or just go for it in English. I take the “singing quietly in English” route myself, as it is Christmas, after all, and my Swedish is rather sucky! At first I thought this was just a thing his family did, but no, it is taken seriously all over the country, and I am looking forward to it this year!
Once the show concludes, it will be present time – this is where things can get a little creepy! One member of the family will be “Santa.” That does not mean that this person just passes out the presents, it means this person wears a plastic Santa face mask and hat. They have the masks out in the stores everywhere, and every time I turn around and see one, I jump a little! The other difference from American Christmas is that there are no stockings, but my husband and I still do them for ourselves, because I think it is a key element to the day!
After presents, it is dinner time, which traditionally will include meatballs (yes, Swedish meatballs, like Ikea, but there is no creamy white sauce!), sausages, eggs, various types of pickled herring, Janssons Frestelse (a scalloped potato-type dish), fancy cheese, hard bread, ham, and perhaps some family specialities.
The night will end like Christmas everywhere, with everyone attempting to play with or use their presents and maybe some board game-playing. That is your typical Swedish Christmas Eve, and you still have your Christmas Day to enjoy!
On Christmas Day you will sleep in and then get ready to party. While Christmas Eve was family time, Christmas Day is the time to celebrate with your friends, or as I see it, practice for New Years Eve. Large parties are held with girls in fancy dresses and cocktails. The night will culminate at the local bar or nightclub with dancing into the wee hours. I have to say, on my first experience with this, I had a hard time with crazy drinking and dancing on Christmas Day, but I do like that the holidays are shared equally with friends and family!
On the 26th of December, when you are completely exhausted from the past two days, you will celebrate Boxing Day. My husband’s family does not have any specific traditions for Boxing Day, but what normally occurs is a lot of lounging around, eating leftovers, and watching movies.
And that is Christmas in Sweden, maybe there is a tradition that you would like to adopt for your family!
Now lets talk kladdkaka (pronounced “clad-e-coke-a”) , or yummy chocolatey decadent cake!!
Note: some measurements are metric, just look on your measuring cup, you should be fine!
- 100 grams butter plus some for buttering pan
200 ml flour
250 ml sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
- breadcrumbs to cover pan
Vanilla sugar is a Swedish baking essential! Last year we bought this type at Ikea. If you cannot find it, I would try to substitute it for powdered sugar, then add vanilla extract, but I have not tried this, so I cannot guarantee it!
These are the breadcrumbs we used, which was just a basic white bread slice blitzed in the food processor and mixed with a little melted butter. Butter your dish thoroughly. A spring-from pan really works best, but since we didn’t have one, I used a quiche dish! Coat pan in breadcrumbs, spread evenly.
Melt butter and let cool (hope this helps also with about how much 100 grams is!)
Whisk eggs and sugar together, add in vanilla sugar and cocoa.
Whisk until fully incorporated, then add in flour and melted butter. Mix until incorporated, but be careful not to over mix!
Once you are done you should have a nice batter that is slightly runny but rich in color. Spread evenly into pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 for a gooey cake. For a little more dense, bake about 25 minutes. Traditionally, it is served on the gooey/runnier side, but I prefer a more firm and chewy cake.
This is our final product, as you can see, it does not rise much, so you can use a smaller or bigger pan, depending on the thickness you want.
Serve with fresh whipped cream, as every dessert in Sweden seems to come with tons of cream! Enjoy!
What traditions from your culture do you partake in during the holidays?