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This Cylindrical Pastry Is Finland's National Treasure

Most sweets are trash, Runeberg's torte is the one exception.

by Ilkka Sirén
06 February 2019, 10:24am

Welcome to #NotAnAd, where we post enthusiastically and without reservation about things we’re obsessed with from the world of food.

I’m a firm believer that sweets, especially pastries, are straight trash and a waste of everyone’s time.

There is, however, one exception, and that’s Runeberg’s torte, invented in my hometown of Porvoo, Finland. It’s not much to look at: It’s basically a cylindrical-shaped pastry, a noble cousin of muffins if you will, with a dot of raspberry jam and some icing on top. The real secret, however, is what lies within. Chopped almonds provide texture and deep nutty flavors. A dash of rum or arrack gives a delightfully boozy element and contributes to the heavenly mouthfeel of the pastry—if it’s done correctly. Too moist and you might as well drink the entire bottle while you’re at it. Too dry, it feels like someone is force-feeding you cat litter.

But when the balance of ingredients is just right, the slightly spongy interior manages to be dense but delicate, while the crust is crumbly yet remarkably firm. The raspberry jam on top might seem like a distraction at first, but it provides a lovely touch of brightness to the overall experience.

The torte is named after Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Finland’s national poet (related: Finland has a national poet—in addition to writing the words for the Finnish national anthem, he’s best known for a poem called “The Moose Hunters”), who lived in Porvoo in the 1800s. The story has it that Mr. Runeberg, like a fucking legend, enjoyed this very pastry with a glass of punsch every morning. Nothing like meeting the day with a double dose of liqueur, amirite?

Runeberg’s wife, Fredrika, is often credited as the creator of the torte, because a recipe for it can be found in one of her book from the 1850s. However, another prevailing theory is that a local baker named Lars Henrik Astenius invented it—and that the name comes from the the poet’s renowned gusto for the dessert. Which, what a legacy.

These days, Runeberg’s torte is prepared all around Finland but only for a limited time. They start popping up in January and reach sugar-rushed climax today, February 5, Runeberg Day.

Some torte lovers like to save themselves in the ramp-up to have their first Runeberg’s torte of the year on the actual Runeberg Day. I don’t get that. It’s a pastry, not tantric sex. Some fundamentalists also think that it’s not a proper Runeberg’s torte unless it’s made in Porvoo. I don’t believe that shit, either. It is, however, definitely Porvoo’s gift to the rest of Finland, and Finland's gift to the rest of the world. It should be treated as the national treasure it truly is—but only if it’s made right, otherwise don’t bother.

This article originally appeared on Munchies US.