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Kagemand: A Headless Danish Birthday Cake

July 22nd, 2014 by Anna

It is done. My husband just cut his head off, and everybody screamed. The party was about to end, but at least it was a tasty ending.

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In Denmark, kids celebrate their birthdays with a cake in a shape of a girl or a boy, which the Danes call a “Kagemand” (“Cake Man”). My husband discovered the idea while living in Denmark, and since then he secretly wanted a real Danish birthday party.

It was hard to find an original Danish birthday cake recipe, especially when you can’t read Danish, so I had to improvise. I used a recipe for a Danish pastry as a base and made some slight changes to create the birthday cake Kagemand.

Danish pastry dough recipe requires you to start making the dough one day before, so keep that in mind – you’ll need to start one day before the birthday party.

Danish Pastry Dough

1.5oz fresh yeast

2/3 cup milk

½ cup heavy cream (can substitute with ½ cup almond milk)

¼ cup caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp ground cardamon

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract

3½ cups flour

1½ cups unsalted (sweet) butter, chilled

1. Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Heat the cream gently to barely lukewarm, and then stir the yeast mixture into the cream and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

2. Beat the sugar with the eggs until light and frothy. Stir in cardamon, salt, vanilla sugar or extract. Add yeast mixture and blend well. Gradually stir the bread flour to make a soft dough. Knead the dough in the bowl for couple minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3. Take the chilled dough from the fridge and using a lightly floured rolling pin roll it into a 16-in x 16-in square about ½ in thick on a lightly floured surface.

4. Cut the butter into thin slices and place them side by side down the middle of the pastry square, ending about 1-in from the edge of the dough. Fold over the sides of the pastry so that the butter is covered. Seal the ends. Fold the dough intot hree layers like folding a napkin, rotate dough a quarter of turn, and fold into thirds again, making a small squares. Turn over dough. Repeat rolling and folding another two-three times. You should finish with a small square. Wrap the dough and chill overnight.

Now that you have the dough ready, it’s time to make the filling. You’ll want the filling to be fresh, so wait until the morning of the birthday to make it.

Almond Filling 

½ cup unsalted (sweet) butter

½ cup caster (superfine) sugar  – NOTE: personally, I only use 1/4 c so you can taste more of the almond flavor.

½ cup ground almonds or almond flour

3 tbsp double (heavy) cream (can substitute with almond milk)

½ tsp almond extract

Combine the butter, sugar, ground almonds or almond flour in a bowl, and stir the cream or almond milk and almond extract.

Making the Kagemand

Now that your filling is ready, take the dough from the fridge and roll out one of them into a 50-in long strip about 4-in wide. Add the almond filling down the middle of the dough along the entire length of the strip. If you want, you can add berries and nuts as well. Fold the sides along the length of the strip so that they cover the filling.

Divide the pastry into 2 pieces: one about 20-in long, and the other 30-in. Turn the 20in piece upside-down and make it into a bow. Do the same with 30in piece of danish pastry dough. Place on the baking tray first 20 in piece, that 30in right under it so that you will end up with the shape of a person.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and let it bake till golden in color. I also combined an egg with milk in a small bowl and brushed it over the pastry. NOTE: If your cookie tray is small, you may want to bake each part of the cake so that you don’t have it flow over the pan. You can hide that your cake is two pieces when you decorate it.

Take out the birthday cake, let it cool slightly and start decorating! By the way, you can ask your kid to decorate the cake with you. It’s lots of fun.

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chocodreamThe Danes love to decorate their kagemand with marzipan and gummies, and will also use chocolate paste, nuts, and berries – basically, anything sweet and colorful. They dye the marzipan and make them into clothing (especially for the girls’ birthdays, to create a pretty dress) and use the gummies to make hair, buttons, mouths, and eyes for the cake from it. For this Kagemand, I used marzipan for his shirt and bow tie; nuts, raspberries, gummies for his legs; and Belgium chocolate paste from The Chopping Block for his shoes. It turns out that people loved the chocolate, raspberries and almond together because his shoes were the first thing to disappear.

To make your kagemand really authentic, decorate him or her with Danish flags. To the Danes their flag belongs to the people, so you always know when a Dane’s celebrating their birthday, because they put Danish flags everywhere.

Once your birthday cake is done the real fun comes. When you’re ready to eat the birthday boy or girl take a big knife (with some help from mom and dad – remember safety first), the guests sing happy birthday, and then the birthday boy or girl puts the knife at the cake’s throat. The guests start screaming, and the birthday boy or girl cuts off the head the cake. You may think that Danes are weird, but they definitely know how to make a party unforgettable, fun and very tasty!

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Anna is originally from Siberia and got her master's degree in Saint-Petersburg, Russia before moving to the Windy City. Her priority in life is to make people happy, and that's why Anna is excited to work at The Chopping Block as a Retail Associate. Her passions in life are traveling, baking, dancing and dogs. She typically ends her evenings with a nice book, her husband reading next to her, a glass of good wine, and their pet hedgehog.

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