Smörgåstårta: A Swedish sensation for the centre of your summer table

Lilly Higgins: This savoury cake layers bread with meat or seafood

Smörgåstårta: the topping used to decorate the cake indicates the filling

Smörgåstårta: the topping used to decorate the cake indicates the filling

 

A few years ago, researching recipes for The Great Irish Bake Off, I came across the smörgåstårta. It’s a savoury sandwich cake from Sweden that layers bread with various fillings, from hard-boiled eggs to smoked salmon and shrimp. It looks just like a beautiful dessert cake, but there’s cream cheese instead of sugary icing and caviar instead of sprinkles. It’s perfect for family get-togethers, picnics and birthday parties – and a beautiful alternative to a mountain of triangular sandwiches tightly wrapped in cling film. In Sweden every celebration table has a smörgåstårta as its centrepiece.

You can make a huge rectangular one to feed a crowd, putting multiple slices of crustless bread next to each other to form each layer, or use a single cob loaf, like I’ve done here. In Sweden a smörgåstårta might be topped with rolls of cheese, ham or roast beef; peeled shrimp, caviar and slices of boiled egg; or Marie Rose sauce with tuna and spring onion. Whatever topping is used to decorate the cake indicates the filling.

Recently I spotted a stunning smörgåstårta on the Instagram feed of Lori Stern, a chef and baker from California whose use of edible flowers I love – her flower-petal shortbread cookies are popping up everywhere. Here in Ireland our own gardens are able to provide so much despite the weather. Now the sun is shining the tiny violas, calendula and pansies are coming out; you can eat calendula and pansy petals, and all of a viola. Herbs like rosemary, chive and thyme have flowers you can use with sweet or savoury food. Break up a single chive pompom and scatter the little purple bell-shaped flowers over grilled cheese or on a pasta dish for a subtle burst of onion.

Now that summer is here there’s all the more reason to be outside and bask in the sunshine whenever we get a chance. Just don’t forget to pack a picnic.

Smörgåstårta

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 medium wholemeal or rye cob loaf
400g cream cheese
100g sour cream
Juice of ½ lemon
1 cucumber
3tbsp snipped chives or dill
10 radishes, finely sliced
400g smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces
Edible flowers (optional)
½ butterhead lettuce, to garnish 

Method
Slice the crust off the top, bottom and sides of the bread, then trim the loaf so it’s nice and even. Cut the loaf into four horizontally, so you have four large round slices of bread to stack on top of one another.

Mix the cream cheese with the sour cream and lemon juice. You may need to use a fork to beat it until it is creamy and smooth.

Cut the cucumber in half. Peel one half into long strips, to use for decoration, and thinly slice the other half, to use in the filling.

Put the base slice of bread on a serving plate. Spread thinly with cream cheese and scatter with some of the chives or dill. Top with some salmon, cucumber and radish slices. Repeat with the remaining layers.

Cover the sides and top of the sandwich cake with the remaining whipped cream cheese. Decorate with chives, curls of cucumber, salmon and edible flowers. Tuck pieces of cucumber and butterhead lettuce around the edge of the plate. You can cover the cake and keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. It usually tastes better when the flavours have been able to mingle for at least a couple of hours.

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