I am one quarter Icelandic. My great grandpa came to Canada from Iceland when he was 18. He travelled here with his mom and sister, a few short years after his father died at Sea. He farmed in Manitoba before setting out to Saskatchewan.
That is where he met my great grandma. She had come to Canada with her family, as a young girl. This year, they would have been married 100 years as of November 17.
I have never really known the Icelandic side of my family in person, just through stories, my genealogy research and recipes. Much like this one.
A few years ago my mom and I tried to find my great grandma’s Vinatarta recipe, without any luck. So I started googling, and relaying the recipes I found to my mom, until we found one that seemed the closest to what she remembers making with her mom (who learned it from her mother in law… my great grandma). Ultimately I love this recipe, because it is one my mom and I built together, based on years of family traditions.
Vinatarta is a traditional Icelandic Canadian cookie, typically made and served at Christmas time. It is made up of layers of a cake/cookie and a spiced prune filling. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t like it when I was a kid. It is more of a grown up taste. But I love it now. This Christmas, we were going to make it together again, but I decided to surprise her with it instead. Shhh Don’t tell her.
This took me about a morning to make and assemble, and then a few minutes to cut into pieces.
For the Cookie/Cake Layers:
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
4 cups of flour
3 TBSP Heavy cream
1 tsp Almond Extract
1 1/2 tsp. Cardamom
Sift the dry ingredients together, set aside. Preheat Oven to 375F and find a round cake pan (or two… or 6)
With a stand mixer: Cream butter; Add Sugar, and beat very well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the Almond extract.
Add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl of the mixer, alternating with the Heavy Cream… Start and End with the Dry ingredients.
Knead well together, and then Divide into 5 or 6 even balls (depending on how many layers you want… We do 6). On the bottom of a round cake pan, spread each ball out individually, keeping the thickness of the dough even on the cake pan. You do this one the bottom of the pan, so you can remove the cookie layer easily… If you made it IN the pan, you would have a nicer circle, but would have a hard time removing it. Continue with this until all 6 layers are baked. Let them cool completely while you do the next part.
Prune Jam Filling:
Place about 1 pound of dried, pitted prunes in a large saucepan. Just barely cover with a combination of water and Spiced Rum.
Simmer until the prunes are soft.
Puree the softened prunes, using more water/prune juice/rum if needed to get the job done.
Return to the pot, with 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup Spiced Rum. Cook until thick (think Apple Butter thickness)
Add Spices to taste: We use, 2 tsp of Cinnamon, 2 tsp of ground Cloves, and 2 tsp. of Cardamom.
Let everything cook together until nice and thick… Cool completely
Take a cookie layer, and 1/5 of the prune filling, and spread around
Top with a cookie layer, and cover it with another 1/5 of the filling… Continue until you have your best looking cookie layer on top. Press lightly together, and cover with some plastic wrap. Let sit for a few days (at room temperature, or, preferably, in the fridge)
After a few days… Cut the whole thing into slices, and then cut the slices into whatever size pieces you want.