A staple in Norway’s Christmas celebration, Julekake (Norwegian Christmas Bread), is a deliciously soft bread that you can easily make at home. Even without a stand mixer — give it a try!
What is julekake?
The literal translation of ‘Julekake‘ is Christmas Cake, but as you can see, it’s more of a Christmas bread than a cake. So, calling it ‘Julebrød‘ will also work.
Similar to Italy’s panettone, julekake is a soft, yeasted bread with dried or candied fruits.
But you know what makes this Christmas bread different? It’s the ground cardamom that’s added to the dough.
Julekake’s taste and smell — simply warming and heavenly.
Oh! And this Norwegian Christmas bread is traditionally served with coffee, but it also goes excellently with mulled wine.
IF YOU WANT MORE TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS DESSERTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, THEN YOU WILL LIKE THESE POSTS!
- Bread flour – bread flour is excellent for this Norwegian Christmas bread recipe.
- Raisins – just use your favorite brand.
- Butter – I typically use unsalted butter; melted, and cooled.
- Salt – you might need to use less if you are using salted butter.
- Yeast – as always, I use active dry yeast for making julekake.
- Egg – you only need this for the egg wash.
- Sugar – granulated white sugar is all you need for making this Norwegian Christmas bread.
- Milk – full cream milk, if possible.
- Cardamom – as you can see from the image of the ingredients above, I use cardamom seeds, then I just ground them before combining them with the rest of the ingredients for this julekake recipe.
To start with your julekake, combine a lukewarm cup of milk with yeast (photo 1).
Mix and set aside until foamy.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and ground cardamom in the stand mixer’s bowl (photo 2).
Once the yeast mixture is ready, add it to the dry ingredients.
Add melted butter (photo 3).
Mix until you get a smooth dough.
Place the ball of julekake dough in an oiled bowl (photo 4).
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until size has doubled (about ninety minutes).
Punch it in the middle to deflate — then flatten to add the raisins (photo 5).
Knead the julekake dough again (manually) and form it back into a ball.
Place it on top of a baking pan lined with a baking sheet (photo 6).
Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until it has increased in size (about thirty to forty-five minutes).
When the Christmas bread dough is just about ready, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Prepare the egg wash by combining the egg and the tablespoon of milk (photo 7).
Once your julekake is ready, brush it with egg wash (photo 8).
Place the baking pan in the oven for thirty-five to forty minutes, or until the top has turned into a darker color.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.
Slice your julekake, then serve.
- If you want a hint of liquor in your Norwegian Christmas bread, you can soak the raisins in the alcohol for 10-15 minutes and then drain them before adding to the rest of the ingredients.
- The dough for julekake is easy to handle. Hence kneading it with your hands is an excellent alternative if you don’t have a stand mixer.
- If you can find them, use cardamom seeds, and ground them yourself. They are noticeably more flavorful and fragrant than the ones in powdered form.
- You can also split the Christmas bread into two smaller loaves (prior to baking) if that’s how you want to serve it.
- Candied fruits. Satsumas and other candied fruits like orange peel can also be added to julekake.
- All-purpose flour. Yes, you can still use all-purpose flour, but bread flour will yield a softer, fluffier julekake.
- Other spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg can also be used. But do NOT skip the cardamom — it’s the only spice that’s used traditionally for julekake.
Butter. Just serve it with butter — that’s how we do it.
Or you can toast the slice but still spread some butter on it. Yum!
It’s quite easy, right? So, give julekake a try this weekend and let me know!
NOT CONTENT WITH JULEKAKE AND WANT MORE CLASSIC CHRISTMAS TREATS FROM AROUND THE WORLD? THEN CHECK OUT THESE POSTS!
Julekake Recipe (Norwegian Christmas Bread)
For the Christmas bread dough:
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp cup butter, unsalted & melted
- 1 cup milk, lukewarm
- 1 & 1/2 tsp active dry yeast, heaping
- 2 & 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds, freshly ground
- 1/2 cup raisins, heaping
For the egg wash:
- 1 small egg
- 1 tbsp milk
Preparing the julekake:
- Combine yeast with a lukewarm cup of milk. Mix and set aside until foamy.
- Using the stand mixer bowl, combine and mix flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom.
- Add the yeast mixture and melted butter.
- Mix until you get a smooth dough. (Manual kneading of the dough for julekake is also ok if you don't have a stand mixer).
Proofing the julekake dough:
- Form the dough into a ball and place it into a large, oiled bowl.
- Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside until double in size. It usually takes about 90 minutes for me.
- Deflate your julekake dough by punching in the middle and use your hands to flatten it on the counter-top.
- Add the raisins and knead a bit to incorporate evenly.
- Form it into a ball again; place it on top of a baking tray, lined with a baking paper.
- Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and set aside for about 30-45 minutes, or until it has slightly increased in size.
Baking your Norwegian Christmas bread:
- When the julekake dough is almost ready, preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Combine egg with a tablespoon of milk for your egg wash.
- Remove the kitchen towel covering your julekake and brush the top and sides (evenly) with egg wash.
- Place the tray in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the julekake has turned into a darker color.
- Set aside to cool a bit.
- Slice your freshly baked julekake, then serve.
- Cook’s Tip #1: You can use a bit of liquor in julekake by soaking the raisins in your favorite liquor for 10-15 minutes and then drain them before adding to the dough.
- Cook’s Tip #2: If you can, buy cardamom seeds and ground them yourself instead of purchasing the powdered one. The difference in aroma and flavor of the resulting julekake is noticeable.
- Cook’s Tip #3: It’s a very manageable dough, so manual kneading is an excellent alternative for preparing this Norwegian Christmas bread, if you don’t have a stand mixer.
- Cook’s Tip #4: Feel free to split the dough into two small loaves of julekake, if that’s how you want to serve it.
- Variation #1: You can use all-purpose flour if that’s what you have. But the result is better with bread flour.
- Variations #2: You can also add sultanas and other candied fruits to julekake if you prefer.