Julekage is a rich, flavorful bread which is traditionally served at Christmas in many Scandinavian countries. It is particularly popular in Norway and Denmark, and some American families make it as well to celebrate the Christmas season. This holiday bread is more like a cake than a bread, since it is so rich, and some people frost Julekage with a sweet white icing, which makes it even more like a Christmas cake.
The bread may also be known as Julekaka or Julekake, which means “Yule Bread” in Norwegian. Like many holiday breads, Julekage involves candied fruit and nuts, and it is heavily spiced. The traditional spice used in Julekage is cardamom, although nutmeg, cinnamon, and other flavors may be used as well. Many fans of the bread believe that it tastes best warm out of the oven, although it can also be toasted and served with butter. It also makes very intriguing French toast, thanks to its rich flavor.
To make Julekage, start by melting one quarter cup butter and setting it aside to cool. Whisk together a packet of yeast, a tablespoon of sugar, and one quarter cup water, and allow this mixture to stand for 10 minutes or so, until it turns frothy. Add the cooled butter to the yeast, along with one egg, and stir to make sure that the ingredients are well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together two and one half cups flour, three tablespoons of sugar, one teaspoon salt, a half tablespoon cardamom, and a pinch of nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring together until they form a loose mass.
Allow the Julekage dough to sit briefly before adding several tablespoons of milk. Your goal is to create a silky ball of dough, which may require as few as two tablespoons or as many as five. Stir constantly as you add the milk. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it briefly, integrating one and one quarter cup mixed raisins and candied fruit. Then, allow the dough to rest and rise for an hour before molding into shape and resting it again for 45 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit (177° Celsius).
Brush the Julekage with the yolk of one egg, whisked with water, to give it a shiny, crisp surface. Bake for 45 minutes, and frost it if desired with a plain white glaze. Some cooks also like to decorate their Julekage with nuts, either toasted or candied.