The recipe I chose to make is probably one of the easiest on 196 flavors ever, a deliciously creamy dessert called multekrem.
Christmas, called “jul” in Norway and Scandinavian countries, actually predates the christianization of the Nordic country. As in a number of countries, Christmas is celebrated throughout the month of December with numerous concerts being held at churches and concert halls but also with the Santa Lucia celebration on December 13th, celebrated in Sweden as well and which is a highlight of the season for young kids.
Two weeks later at Christmas, it is Julenisse, the mythological creature equivalent to Santa Claus in Scandinavian folklore, who pays a visit to those same kids to bring them their presents.
Norwegian Christmas Eve dinner usually consists of ribbe (pork ribs), pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs), or lutefisk (dried fish that has been lying in water and lye, then cooked). It is also a custom for Norwegians to bake cookies throughout the month of December and in particular for Christmas dinner. The most famous Christmas småkaker (Norwegian for cookies) include goro (a cross between a cookie, a cracker, and a waffle), krumkaker, berlinerkranser (cookies prepared with hard-boiled eggs), Sandbakelser or rosettes (thin deep fried pastries).
But Norwegian nights are cold, very cold. That’s why a Christmas dinner is not traditional without alcohol! Aquavit, a potato-based spirit flavored with herbs is Norway’s national drink, and definitely helps with warming up. And then, there is gløgg, Norway’s take on mulled wine, a definite Christmas classic beverage.
But back to our multekrem. Multekrem is the traditional dessert that you will find on most Norwegian tables at Christmas, similarly to risalamande in Denmark. It is a very easy dessert to make… once you found the ingredients. It consists of whipped cream and sugar mixed with cloudberries and/or cloudberry jam.
What are cloudberries?
Cloudberries (multe in Norwegian) are arctic berries that grow in mountainous regions. This is why they are called cloudberries as they grow close to the clouds. Cloudberries may have an identity crisis as they are also known as salmonberry, yellowberry, bakeapple, bakeberry, malka, or “baked-apple berry”. Initially, the berry is pale red but it turns to a golden-amber color when ripe. Ripe cloudberries have a unique tart taste, which turns to sweet and creamy when overripe.
Cloudberries are often prepared into jams, tarts, liqueurs and juices. In Sweden, they are used as a topping for waffles, ice creams and pancakes. In Finland, they are paired with cheese. Canadians use cloudberries to flavor a special type of beer. In Alaska, seal oil and caribou fat are mixed with cloudberries to make an ice cream called akutaq.
Multekrem is traditionally served with krumkaker or kransekake. Krumkaker are thin cookies, similar in concept to Italian pizzelle, that are cooked between two waffle irons. They are then rolled into small cones around a wooden cone form. Kransekake are made of a series of concentric rings of cake, layered on top of each other in order to form a steep-sloped cone shape, glued with white icing.
I had a hard time finding cloudberries in Los Angeles. Indeed, cloudberries grow mostly in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere. Think Nordic and Baltic countries, Alaska, Russia or Canada and mountainous areas. In LA, my best bet was to go to the flagship Scandinavian store called Olson’s. There, I was able to find a small jar of cloudberry for the very affordable price of $17! But you gotta do what you gotta do and I really wanted to taste this berry.
Cloudberry, at least in a jam form, is not as tart as other berries. I liked the sweetness and the texture of the jam. I found multekrem to be really tasty and festive, but I think it would have been even greater with krumkaker. Maybe I will try it with Gavottes or other thin cookies next time, if I can’t find real krumkaker.
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup cloudberry jam
- Mint (for garnish)
- Whip the cream with sugar and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.
- Fold in the cloudberries and divide the dessert between small serving bowls.
- Garnish with a couple of cloudberries (or a spoon of cloudberry jam) and a mint leaf.