What is Julekage?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Julekage is a rich, flavorful bread which is traditionally served at Christmas in many Scandinavian countries. It is particularly popular in Norway and Denmark, and some American families make it as well to celebrate the Christmas season. This holiday bread is more like a cake than a bread, since it is so rich, and some people frost Julekage with a sweet white icing, which makes it even more like a Christmas cake.

Julekage typically contains raisins or other dried fruit.
Julekage typically contains raisins or other dried fruit.

The bread may also be known as Julekaka or Julekake, which means “Yule Bread” in Norwegian. Like many holiday breads, Julekage involves candied fruit and nuts, and it is heavily spiced. The traditional spice used in Julekage is cardamom, although nutmeg, cinnamon, and other flavors may be used as well. Many fans of the bread believe that it tastes best warm out of the oven, although it can also be toasted and served with butter. It also makes very intriguing French toast, thanks to its rich flavor.

Cardamom is the traditional spice used in Julekage.
Cardamom is the traditional spice used in Julekage.

To make Julekage, start by melting one quarter cup butter and setting it aside to cool. Whisk together a packet of yeast, a tablespoon of sugar, and one quarter cup water, and allow this mixture to stand for 10 minutes or so, until it turns frothy. Add the cooled butter to the yeast, along with one egg, and stir to make sure that the ingredients are well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together two and one half cups flour, three tablespoons of sugar, one teaspoon salt, a half tablespoon cardamom, and a pinch of nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring together until they form a loose mass.

A whisk may be helpful in making julekage.
A whisk may be helpful in making julekage.

Allow the Julekage dough to sit briefly before adding several tablespoons of milk. Your goal is to create a silky ball of dough, which may require as few as two tablespoons or as many as five. Stir constantly as you add the milk. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it briefly, integrating one and one quarter cup mixed raisins and candied fruit. Then, allow the dough to rest and rise for an hour before molding into shape and resting it again for 45 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius).

Julekage is particularly popular in Norway.
Julekage is particularly popular in Norway.

Brush the Julekage with the yolk of one egg, whisked with water, to give it a shiny, crisp surface. Bake for 45 minutes, and frost it if desired with a plain white glaze. Some cooks also like to decorate their Julekage with nuts, either toasted or candied.

Julekage contains candied fruit and nuts.
Julekage contains candied fruit and nuts.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon309237

No fuss about the frosting. That is the way my mother made it and she was of Scandinavian decent. So give it a rest. If you want it frosted go right ahead. It is truly awesome warm and buttered.

anon136959

Sorry, but frosting a loaf of Yule Kage is worthy of a visit by very Angry Norse women. To corrupt a true loaf of this heavenly bread with anything more than butter is heresy.

I cannot begin to repeat the comments my mom had for a neighbor who asked for the recipe after telling Mom that she loved it with jam. Gag. A good true Yule Kage needs nothing but warmth and maybe a bit of butter to please a true Norseman or woman.

anon136705

My Grandmother whose family came over from Norway gave the Julekage recipe to my mother who makes it every year at this time. It goes great with coffee.It makes me proud to know about the history of this bread.

anon56971

I love panettone. I never knew how it was made. Thank you for the recipe.

anon56887

Nice to have knowledge about pious celebrations of Christmas.

laluna

I guess different countries have their own version of Christmas bread. Julekage seems very similar to Italian panettone. It is so good.

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