Finicky Runeberg Tarts

IMG 1730 Edited Finicky Runeberg Tarts

Some people I know are naturally drawn to the cultures of the far East, others to the countries of South America. I gravitate towards Scandinavia, in particular Finland, and the reason is fairly ridiculous.

It started in March 2006. A few weeks before, I had moved to Charlotte from Tampa, started a graduate school program, started a new job, and knew one person in the city. One Friday night, I was living it up by sitting in my apartment, doing Economics homework in front of the television. A Conan O’Brien episode where he visited Finland came on, and I laughed repeatedly. So, that’s when I decided to like Finland. Whenever I associate laughter (or donuts) with something, I am forever a fan. At times, I am a simpleton.

February 5th marks the birthday of Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. As such, I tried my hand at Runeberg Tarts. Legend (i.e. internet research) has it Runeberg’s wife, Fredrika, baked these little lovelies for him to enjoy at breakfast.

My attempt at Runeberg Tarts resulted in something much less lovely. In hindsight, I suppose they weren’t really all that terrible, but I got caught up in related failures that included spilling coffee-twice, dropping nearly every utensil I wanted to used on the floor, and trying to make sense of recipes that called for sugar measured in ml (I eventually realized the authors probably meant dl). I started to think  my icing rings were too thick, but my hand was too shaky to make a nice, thin icing ring. It also didn’t help that I used a mini muffin tin rather than a cylindrical cake mold.  Frustrated, I scrapped the originals and frosted them all. My Runeberg Tarts morphed into mini Runeberg Cakes.

IMG 1782 Edited Finicky Runeberg Tarts

An amateur baker at best, it really peeves when I read a blog where the author laments being self taught, then proceeds to post photos of gorgeous, intricate desserts. Becoming a great baker seems near impossible when I read about lovely dishes that came about with seemingly no effort because let me tell you, every ounce of this blog – the baking, the writing, the photography – is still a giant effort. It pains me to post desserts that didn’t turn out the way I envisioned; desserts like these that I consider fails. But I post them because sometimes I could really benefit from reading someone’s “hey, look how much I screwed up” post.

I certainly wanted to give up yesterday, but in the end, I decided I owed it to myself to keep going. I was fortunate enough to realize though I have not yet mastered nearly as much as I had hoped, and perhaps I never will, quitting is the only sure-fire way to ensure I don’t get to where I want to be.

Though these may not look like a traditional Runeberg Tarts, I assure you they taste delicious. I’ve even been asked by my taster to hide them! Though the base for all Runeberg Tarts recipes uses almond of some sort, there are a lot of ways to boost the flavor. I used ground ginger snaps rather than ground almonds in the batter, and I added almond extract as flavor to both the batter and sugar syrup. Other recipes call for additional spices, primarily cinnamon, cardamon, or cloves, and other flavorings, like rum or amaretto.

I used a pastry bag fitted with a tip 230 to fill the tarts with raspberry preserves before topping the muffins. For the large frosting ring seen in this post, I used a round tip 12, though round tips 5 and 3 would probably be better suited to the task. I used leftover frosting I had on hand, but most recipes I came across simply suggested mixing small amounts of water, confectioners’ sugar, and a dash of almond extract for flavor.  Have fun experimenting!

IMG 1783 Edited Finicky Runeberg Tarts

Runeberg Tarts
Serves: 14 mini-muffins
  • For the Tarts
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ cup crushed ginger snaps
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • Raspberry Preserves
  • White Icing
  • For the Syrup
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Whisk together the flour, ginger snaps, and baking powder and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and the almond extract and mix until combined.
  4. Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix until incorporated.
  5. Spray a mini-muffin tin with vegetable spray and fill muffin cups about ¾ full with the batter.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin/tart comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool for five to 10 minutes, then use a toothpick to poke a few holes in each muffin/tart.
  8. While the muffins cool, boil ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, and 1 teaspoon almond extract.
  9. Pour the syrup over each muffin/tart and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  10. If desired fill each muffin/tart with a small amount of raspberry preserves.
  11. Top each muffin/tart with raspberry preserves and held in place by a ring of white icing.
To make the icing for the ring, mix a small amount of confectioners’ sugar with a small amount of water and almond extract.


Monday Muffins: Coconut Surprise

SAM 3856 Edited Monday Muffins: Coconut Surprise

My friend Cindy of The Worst Dessert I Ever Ate fame will celebrate a milestone birthday this week.  Surprise Cindy, this muffin post is an early happy birthday to you!

Prior to posting the chocolate coconut cupcakes last week, I didn’t know coconut was Cindy’s favorite.  Though knowing Coconut Chip is her favorite Graeter’s ice cream flavor, I probably could have guessed.  Cindy actually suggested a coconut month or a coconut week, but a lone Monday Muffins post will have to do for now.

SAM 3839 Edited Monday Muffins: Coconut Surprise

I’m glad the suggestion jump-started my thinking about coconut, because this is one of my favorite muffin recipes so far.  As you can tell, jelly isn’t just for the center of donuts anymore!   The raspberry center provides just a slight bit of tart to balance the sweet coconut.

Of course, you could enjoy this muffin with any jam of choice, and I can’t think of any flavor (well, maybe grape) that wouldn’t be the perfect compliment to the coconut.  Stir in some dried pineapple for another variation.

Happy Birthday Cindy!

SAM 3849 Edited Monday Muffins: Coconut Surprise


Coconut Surprise Muffins
Serves: 12
  • ⅓ cup (5 tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 12 teaspoons raspberry jam
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Stir together the egg, milk, vanilla extract, and butter (when cooled but still liquid).
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and brown sugar.
  4. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients.
  5. Stir until combined, then fold the coconut.
  6. Fill each well of a paper-lined or greased muffin tin halfway full.
  7. Place a teaspoon of raspberry jam in each well, then fill nearly to the top with the remaining batter.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Neapolitan Cupcakes

SAM 2268 Edited e1313190389825 Neapolitan Cupcakes

Neapolitan refers to all things Naples, Italy.  Marinara sauce, a romance language, and a very large dog to name a few.  But when I think of Neapolitan, ice cream comes to mind.

A carton of Neapolitan ice cream could usually be found in the freezer of my childhood home.  Neapolitan would typically win the “If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could only bring one flavor of ice cream, what would it be?” game.  I liked to choose mint chocolate chip, but my mother pointed out Neapolitan provided three flavors in place of one.  It was hard to argue with logic like that.

SAM 2256 Edited Neapolitan Cupcakes

These Neapolitan cupcakes are made with one cake batter divided into three flavors: vanilla, chocolate, and raspberry.  Wait a second, raspberry?  Isn’t the pink stripe in Neapolitan strawberry?  Typically, yes.  Though historically, raspberry was also a reasonable flavor.  I did not have strawberries on hand, but I did have a bottle of raspberry extract.  So, raspberry flavor went into the cakes.

A bottle of raspberry extract was one of the first gifts someone very close gave me at the beginning of our courting.  “That’s odd,” I thought at the time.  “Sweet, but odd.”  Looking back, it strikes me how things so ingrained into your being can be seen as unique to someone else.  It never occurred to me that baking could be seen as a hobby, or even a luxurious treat, to someone else.  It was simply something I enjoyed.  Besides, I had to eat!

SAM 2265 Edited e1313190243204 Neapolitan Cupcakes

To make the cupcakes, I used one cake batter divided into thirds and flavored and layered accordingly.  To further simplify the task, layer the vanilla batter in first, then divide the remaining batter just once to flavor and layer the chocolate and raspberry.  Or omit the raspberry altogether and make black and white cupcakes like the infamous black and white cookies.  Another way to incorporate all three flavors is to layer two batters and frost the cupcakes with the third flavor.  The options abound, so suit yourself.

When the cupcakes came out of the oven, my companion immediately asked, “Can I have one?”  Of course.  My companion-turned-tester remarked how truly wonderful it was to eat something freshly baked and just out of the oven and suggested I write about that experience.  I was to take the opportunity to really encourage people to take a little time to bake, because eating a fresh baked good was good for the palette and the spirt.  And not only does the baker reap the reward, but the people the baker cares about do to.

SAM 2276 Edited Neapolitan Cupcakes

Have a lovely weekend!

Neapolitan Cupcakes
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • ¾ granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1½ teaspoons raspberry extract
  • red or pink gel food color
  • Icing
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar together.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the milk and the vanilla.
  5. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until well incorporated.
  6. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners and fill each well with a scant tablespoon of vanilla batter.
  7. Divide the remaining batter in half and add the cocoa powder to half and the raspberry to the other half. Mix well, adding a small amount of red or pink gel food color to the raspberry flavored batter.
  8. Layer the remaining chocolate and raspberry batters over the vanilla to create a three-layered cupcake.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
  10. While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Beat ½ cup butter and the confectioners’ sugar until combined.
  11. Add the vanilla and beat at high speed until the icing is light and fluffy.