The Land of Trolls and Apple Cake

This is a repost of one of my favorite blog posts and recipes. I just wanted to share it one more time!

I grew up with little Norwegian troll dolls that relatives brought back from Norway. Legend has it that these mystical and often dangerous creatures who live in Norse caves and under bridges, have a proclivity for munching up naughty children who wander too far from home. Then there are the smaller beautiful female trolls called Huldra, who are accused of attracting human males by their bewitching singing voices and lovely appearance to do their bidding, or simply as mates or pets.

As a child, I fully believed the mythology and thought of Norway as an ethereal magical place. Years later, my son, mother and I made a pilgrimage of sorts to Norway, where I discovered that it was indeed as enchanted in reality as it was in my imagination.

When my Mother was first diagnosed with Lymphoma in 1985, my son was two years old. He didn’t really understand what was going on when Grandma’s hair started falling out of her head or why she was spending so much time in bed, but his innocence added a bit of levity to a grim situation. The wigs my mother occasionally wore fascinated him. At one point, he thought that everyone had removable hair, giving an occasional unexpected tug on friends and family member’s hair to see if it would come off like grandma’s. There was also a sweet bond that grew between the two of them as he seemed to sense when she needed gentleness and a quiet touch. He would stroke her arm, look into her eyes and tell her that he had magic in his eyes and say, ‘I’m going to give you some of my magic Grandma, so you will feel better.” With that said, he would quickly blink his eyes a number of times as this is how he passed his magic along to her.

While they were in her garden planting roses, she told him that one-day when she was feeling better, we would go to Norway so she could show him where she was from and the garden where she played as a child.

Years later, the roses had bloomed, she had endured a couple of grueling rounds of chemo, radiation and an experimental Interleukin treatment, and she was finally well enough to travel to Norway, so off the three of us went. To say that the trip was meaningful is an understatement. Visiting the home that my mother grew up in, the house my grandfather built, brought to life the stories she told of the cold dark winters and long sunny summer days. Standing in the school that she attended, where Nazi’s entered one day, removing teachers and children who were sent to extermination camps, never to be seen again, was sobering and unthinkable that such an atrocity could have ever happened. What was most memorable was the friendliness and warmth of the Norwegian people and the utterly astounding beauty of the landscape. We arrived on June 21rst, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. In Norway that meant celebrations and bonfires. An artist friend picked us up by boat at the marina in Oslo whisking us off on a ride through the fjords to his house that sat on the edge of an island. We were there to join a party where buckets of fresh shrimp and round loaves of bread were served up with mayonnaise, cucumber salad and a glass of white wine. The party was set in his studio, a massive barn with giant doors opened at either end. A formidable bonfire was burning on the rock formation just outside the back of the barn where guests sat around watching the sun barely dip down to the horizon, never becoming dark, only lowering enough to bring daylight to dusk. Upon leaving the party, we all walked through the woods to the other side of the island where we were met by a ferry that would take us back to the marina in Oslo. Mind you, we were making this trek in the middle of the night in the dim dusk of the northern summer night. It was a jovial parade of party goers all holding hands as we meandered our way through the woods where the trolls slept undisturbed under the bridges and footpaths. The next time I visited Norway, it was again a pilgrimage. This time it was with friends and family to return my mother to the country she adored. As our flight approached Oslo, the friends who had never been to Norway commented on the beauty and almost unreal colors of the landscape, the emerald-green grass that covered the hillsides and the deep blue sea and fjords. As a family, we agreed that we would celebrate my mother’s life with a trip to Norway instead of having a funeral. Our plane touched down one year to the day of her passing.

It was a brilliant way for all of us to at once, remember the stunning woman who had graced our lives and also, by way of an antique Norwegian boat making its way through the fjords, to bring her journey full circle – to bring her home. Except for the actual moment we released her ashes into the waters of the fjords, there was no sadness, only celebration.

It was an emotional letting go and healing of dinners and parties in her honor with American and Norwegian friends and family, all there to celebrate my mother…

…Norway, family, friends, and relationships that live beyond a single lifetime, often surviving and thriving for generations. Yes, this is a magical place.

A few words about Norwegian cuisine:

Norway is an extraordinary country where the sea offers a bounty of amazing seafood …

… grass-fed sheep and cows allow farmers to produce divine cheese and dairy products. I passed these two looking relaxed and happy as I was driving through the countryside.

In the short summertime, you can find gorgeous fruits and veggies, the fruit being particularly delicious as the cooler temperatures slow the ripening process which delivers more intensely flavored produce than what we taste here in the States.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, much of my love of food and cooking comes from the hours spent sitting in the kitchens of my grandmothers. One Norwegian and the other Mexican. The rich aromas and flavors that are distinct to those countries are nostalgic for me and while the foods are extremely different they both use warming spices. Mexican food with chili peppers and cinnamon, Norwegian cuisine using nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and peppercorns to add depth to their rich baked goods and sauces.

appl-cke

Here is a lovely aromatic treat of subtle spices and tart apples baked in a warm buttery cake.

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup flour
3 Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cardamom

Apple-cake-1-web(2)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350°F
Grease a 9 inch spring-form pan and then line the pan with parchment.

Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and sugar has dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat for 3 minutes.

Combine baking powder, flour, salt and nutmeg or cardamom and sift over the batter. Fold the batter until just mixed through. Pour half the batter into lined pan.

Peel and core and slice two of the apples and arrange over the batter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Cover apples with remaining batter.

Peel, core and slice the last apple. Arrange the slices over the batter in a decorative pattern. Sprinkle top of apples with sugar. Bake on the lowest oven rack position for approximately 50 minutes.

Allow to cool until warm. Dust with a bit of confectioner’s sugar and serve.

Enjoy!

35 comments

  1. Hannah Hernandez

    I absolutely loved reading this Auntie. For these past couple of days I haven’t been able to get Grandma and Norway out of my head. I have to go back…

  2. Helen Wheeler Shaw

    Eva , I so look forward to reading your blog posts. You have an amazing way of blending ‘the sacred’ of memories, words and food. What a remarkable cookbook you would create, a compilation that would celebrate the joys of culinary delights with the intricacies of your life’s journey. What a fascinating read that would be.
    Thank you for sharing these beautiful bittersweet memories ( and photos) of your mother and her homeland with us…. and the wonderful apple cake recipe.. I can almost taste it thanks to your incredible photography !

  3. linda osteraa

    Love how you told your journey(s) so genuinely and lovely. Also love the picture of you and your mom, maybe its because that is how I remember her. Beautifully done:)

    • It is one of my favorite photos too. We were taking a road trip through Norway and stopped to have a roadside picnic. It was a happy moment that we shared and a beautiful memory for me to have. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and also for the kind words. She certainly loved her time with you and the rest of the family. xox

  4. Lovely cake…and a lovely story! How glad I am that you got to go back to Norway with your beautiful mother,(great picture in the water!), and how touching that you took her ‘home’. What a wonderful post!

    • Thank you so much! Yes, I have so much to be grateful for with regards to my mother and our wonderful and complete relationship. I feel blessed for sure.
      Thank you for stopping by and having a read – I truly appreciate it!
      Cheers!

  5. What a lovely and touching story! It’s a marvelous thing that you accompanied her to Denmark. What a treasure that must have been for her. I’m very sorry for your loss. You were very attentive to her while she was living, and I’m sure her loss has left a big hole in your life. Right down to the delicious cake, this is a very special post. oxo

    • Thank you so much. She was a bright light and such fun and I was so fortunate to have her as my mother. Thank you for taking the time to read my very long post and for your kind words. xx eva

      • brooklynlady62

        Thank you for your help. It cleared up. I really want to try this recipe for the holidays. My family is from Sweden, and this would be perfect to make and share with my family.

  6. brooklynlady62

    I read the blog you wrote and now I want to go there. My family is from Sweden, and I have always loved pickled herring. My daughter wants to learn Swedish and talk in Swedish with me. She also wants to visit Sweden as would I. Maybe someday we will have the chance.

      • brooklynlady62

        Autumn and Winter have always been magical for me. And now my daughter loves Winter and being in California, we don’t get to celebrate Winter for very long.

      • I understand. I grew up in California, and while I love the weather there I also love the changing of the seasons. I now live in Colorado where we should have snow but instead it is 60 degrees out…good for a bike ride but not for skiing.

  7. Sharon Dickerson

    My fathers family came from Norway. My father was adopted as an infant but they were the only family I knew. My father was the only grandchild that learned enough Norwegian to speak to his grandmother. The pictures of Norway are beautiful. I will never go there in person, but you gave me a very nice vacation. Thank you for bring back those memories.

    • Thank you, Sharon. There is a rich history there to be enjoyed if even only by memories, stories told, traditions and the flavors of our ancestors.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for sharing a bit of your story.

      xx eva

  8. Dick and Ellie Flackman

    Your Mom and I reconnected when she called to let me know of her cancer. We spent alot of time going over memories of days gone by. It was great seeing her at Dad’s wedding to Reidun. LOved your Mom lots. We were sharing the Osteraa geneology but never received the updated version. Dick and I went back to Norway and Thorfinn gave us a great tour. Spent alot of time talking about your Mom. Thank you for the post since we didn’t find out about your Mom’s death until 6 monthes later. Love Ellie

    • Dear Ellie,
      We are so fortunate to have been able to visit our parents homeland – Norway is a magical place for sure. I have such fond and vivid memories of both of your parents but mostly of my tall and handsome Uncle Eric with the killer smile. I know my mother cherished her time with all of you and loved all of you dearly. xox Eva

  9. Errol Osteraa

    Hi Eva

    Interestingly enough, I just found an envelope in my Dad’s things with a handful of B&W negatives one of which is the image of your Mother on skis in front of the house posted above. It is an unusual size (2 1/2 x 4 5/8) and doesn’t match any of the Kodak sizes. Probably a panoramic camera. There is more to the image than shown….perhaps you cropped it. There is a house behind the little girl in white off to the right. There are other negatives from around the house showing what I believe to be my Dad and Uncle Bill. There is also one of Grandpa and Grandma and several of what I believe to be end of war victory celebrations in Oslo.

    Errol

    • Hi Errol- I have recently found some photos of our parents and grandparents amongst my mothers belongings that I will scan and post to you on Facebook. Pictures of them are such treasures, aren’t they? It is so nice to hear from you and all of the other cousins. xox Eva

  10. Lane Edwards

    Eva can you provide a rough estimate of the number of cups of batter this recipe makes? I want to make this in 3″ pans (for two deserts) and if I have a good idea of the number of cups of batter I can do the conversion. One inch of batter in a 9″ pan requires about 4.5 cups of batter. One inch of batter in a 3″ pan requires about .5 cups of batter. After I know the volume needed I can “scale” it and then put batter in pans using the scale rather than a measuring cup. Thanks bunches!

  11. Nancy

    This is such a beautiful story, Eva. Seriously touches my heart as we did the same for my mother last summer, only the trolls of Norway was Sasquach of Montana. I think I can speak for all of us though and say we would love to go to Norway . . . I read recently that it is the happiest country in the World.

    • Thank you so much, Nancy. Whether it is Sasquach or the trolls, we are fortunate to have those special memories and stories of our beautiful mothers who graced our lives and our unique and meaningful ways in which we say good-bye. xo

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