Norwegian Christmas Bread (Julekage)

Norwegian Christmas Bread

If there were ever an opportune time to make this bread, it is now.  First of all – it’s Christmastime! And this bread was named for the season by our Scandinavian neighbors. I’ve been told that Norwegians cannot imagine a Christmas season without Julekage. (Is this true?) Second, at the end of the baking day you’ll have three gorgeous golden loaves, which means one to keep and two to give.

Norwegian Christmas Bread

I’ve often said that making bread from scratch is like wrestling, and as I made this recipe that sentiment rang true once again. Even though I used my standing mixer and dough hook attachment do most of the kneading, I still had quite a bit of punching and working to get the dough ready for the oven. Not that I’m complaining! I enjoy traditional no-shortcut recipes like this. The work puts me in a zen-like state and the rest of the world disappears.

This bread has a wonderful texture! It’s so fluffy and has candied fruit speckled throughout which makes for delicious and pretty slices.

Norwegian Christmas Bread

Julekage is lightly sweet, so the extra sweetness of pearl sugar and glaze on the outside is nice. I also really love the crunchy cap that pearl sugar gives to breads and pastries.

Norwegian Christmas Bread

I added a bit more candied fruit on top which is optional, but the jewel-like appearance made me happy.

Norwegian Christmas Bread

Lucky me! I found gjetost cheese locally, which is a caramelized goat cheese that is often enjoyed with Julekage. Wow, is it ever different! It’s mild and slightly sweet – definitely goat-cheesy with a hint of caramel flavor. If you’re able to find some at your local cheese shop, I highly recommend asking for a taste!

Norwegian Christmas Bread
Norwegian Christmas Bread

This bread is really lovely – and so fluffy! (Did I say that already?) If you’re looking to put your chef’s hat on and test your bread-making dexterity, this recipe is for you! It’s absolutely worth a day spent kneading, resting, punching, proofing, and proofing again, and everything else that comes with it (especially eating!).

One more little thing! I’d like to remind readers that I am an American baker that loves making recipes from other parts of the world. I try my best to procure authentic ingredients, but sometimes I am limited to what I can obtain locally (for example, I looked for dried currants which is a traditional ingredient for this bread, but I came up empty-handed). I am always happy to receive tips, tricks, hints, and suggestions from my friends abroad who are culturally tied to the recipes I make.

xo -h

Norwegian Christmas Bread

Heather Baird
This Scandinavian bread is speckled with candied fruit. Makes three loaves, enough to share.
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Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
2 hours rise time 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 15 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Norwegian, Scandinavian
Servings 3 loaves

Equipment

  • 3 cake pans, 8-inches

Ingredients
 
 

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup 120 ml warm water, 105°F to 115°F
  • 2 cups 480 ml milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup 98g sugar
  • 1/2 cup 113g butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 7-8 cups 840-960gall-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 150g golden raisins (sultanas)
  • 1 cup 170g mixed candied fruits
  • Eggs wash 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten
  • 1/2 cup 75g pearl sugar

Glaze

  • 2 cups 227g confectioners’ sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk or cream
  • Vanilla extract
  • Candied fruit for garnish optional

Instructions
 

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and blend in the milk, sugar, butter, salt, cardamom and eggs. Mix well. (Butter chunks will float to the surface here and it will look all kinds of wrong– just go with it). Stir in 3 1/2 cups of the flour and beat well. Stir in half of the flour and beat well. Add another 3 1/2 cups of flour, mixing to make soft dough. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
  • Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Set a timer and for 10 minutes and knead the dough on low speed. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time intermittently until a smooth, satin, elastic dough forms. You may not have to use all of the flour. Stop the mixer and add the fruit. Knead again at medium speed until the fruit is well dispersed throughout the dough.
  • Lightly grease a large bowl (or wash, dry and grease the mixing bowl) and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Punch down the dough and cover again. Let rise until doubled in bulk.
  • Grease three 8 or 9-inch round cake pans (I used two 8’s and a 7). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly (3-4 turns) until the dough is not sticky to touch. Cut the dough into three equal parts. Shape each piece into a rough ball. Using both hands, pick up a dough ball and using your fingertips, push the sides of the dough underneath the ball, tucking the ends underneath and rotating the ball as you work. Keep repeating the motion until the dough comes together in an even round shape (see video for technique). Place each dough piece in a prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand until doubled.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Cover cakes with egg wash using a pastry brush. Cover top with pearl sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and fragrant. Turn bread out onto wire racks. Let cool slightly before glazing.
  • For the glaze, place the confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl and whisk in just enough cream to make a very thick glaze. Whisk in vanilla. Generously glaze each loaf and top with additional candied fruit if desired.

Notes

Adapted from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas.
Keyword christmas bread, christmas cake, Gjetost, Julekage
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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Natalie
Natalie
3 years ago

This Norwegian Christmas bread looks simply delicious! I never tried anything like this – sounds delicious ♥

Sophia Henkel
Sophia Henkel
3 years ago

I made this bread my self for the first time last year after having the recipe for many, many years. I loved it, so did everyone I gave it to. I also happen to have found the gjetost cheese a few moths ago. I loved it so much I bought a second one and stored it in my freezer. Now I have to make this again and serve it with the cheese!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
3 years ago
Reply to  Sophia Henkel

Hi Sophia! I'm hooked on this bread – and I have an extra cube in my freezer too!

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

Hi Dear Heather, I am half Norwegian and we always have this at Christmas. Thank you for demonstrating how to make it so beautifully. I am away from my family and it brings back warm and wonderful feelings. You create wonderfully. Merry. Christmas.

Me
Me
3 years ago

SunMaid (raisins in the red box) sells dried currants in a soft orange box slightly smaller than the raisin and yellow golden raisin boxesI find them readily with the raisins in larger grocery stores. They are a very nice change in baking and in couscous.

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
3 years ago
Reply to  Me

I will look for them! Thank you for the tip!

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

This is more of a Danish Christmas bread. If it was Norwegian, it would be written “julekake” and the ingredients would differ a bit. Also the way you make it is a little different.
From a Danish/Norwegian

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
3 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Hi! Thanks for your comment. This recipe was adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas' Great Scandinavian Baking Book (James Beard Award-Winning). She describes it as 'Norwegian Christmas Bread'. Please feel free to share a different recipe with us if you have one. xo

Tendai Close
Tendai Close
7 months ago

I was born and raised in North Dakota (Norwegian central) and the bakeries in the grocery stores make this every Christmas. We call it Julekake and it looks just like this when done. The only exception is that it is baked as a round loaf and not a pan and they don’t put pearl sugar on it. But can’t go wrong with more sugar!! My brother and I were talking about it just today and we both remember nuts in it too. So while some versions don’t use mixed fruit nor have frosting on it, it is still authentic North… Read more »