Aspirational baking cookbooks are a dime a dozen, but instead of fiddling with fondant, Marit Hovland’s new Bakeland will have you dreaming about candied flowers and marshmallow butterflies. The Norwegian photographer and graphic designer creates impressive works of edible art that are inspired by the great outdoors. And while Hovland’s recipes look seriously complex, she slowly walks her readers through each step of the baking and decorating process.
Like the Scandinavian chefs and restaurateurs who have risen to prominence over the past decade, Hovland also follows the seasons in her kitchen. Bakeland, she writes, will take you on a “tasty trip through an entire year of Norwegian nature.” Since she’s not a pastry chef, she encourages home bakers to have fun in the kitchen and to completely disregard her over-the-top decorations because her treats taste great whether or not they’re adorned with a flower crown.
Even if you have not intention of making the recipes, this cookbook and its photography is absolutely stunning and would make an excellent coffee table book. Here are the recipes I swooned over while journeying through Bakeland.
White Chocolate Lime Cake with Almonds
White chocolate, almond and lime sounds like a delightful summer flavour combination. This cake (pictured above) is kicked up a notch with candied forget-me-nots. However, Hovland writes, “if you’re not in the mood to pick the flowers — or it’s the wrong time of year — you can make icing forget-me-nots.” Oh thank goodness!
Birch Bark Cookies
Just like in Norway, you’ll spot birch trees in the Canadian wilderness. But if you’re stuck in the city, you can bring the great outdoors to your balcony or patio by making buttery cookies and topping them with melted chocolate, egg white frosting and Oreo crumbs (seriously, make you own birch bark with the recipe here).
I wanted to see if I, someone who never coloured in the lines and now prefers making rustic treats, could follow Hovland’s seemingly straightforward instructions. So I decided to give this recipe a whirl.
While the cookies turned out well (they’re like a cross between shortbread and sugar cookies), I think my decorating skills could earn me a place on the Netflix reality show Nailed It! To be fair, I neglected Hovland’s instruction to temper the chocolate because I have neither a candy thermometer nor patience. Luckily, I iced only a few cookies. I plan to serve the rest plain (or slathered with Nutella).
Macarons with Passionfruit Cream
These too-pretty-to-eat passionfruit-filled macarons are inspired by the Norwegian coltsfoot flower, which has a tendency to bloom even before the snow melts at the start of spring. You decorate them by painting on the petals with a food colour and water mixture and then piping on little icing dots in the centre.
Walnut Pavlova with Whipped Cream and Berries
Hovland pays homage to cranesbill geranium, a purple wildflower that’s also found in Canada. She candies them to make them look all sparkly atop her show-stopping dessert. This cake is seriously impressive and time consuming to make, considering you probably have to pick the flowers well before you even turn on your oven.
Blueberry Crepe Torte
In terms of decoration, this crepe cake is easy. The hard part is making 12 crepes and stacking them between layers of homemade blueberry filling.
Cardamom Buns with Almond Filling
Cardamom buns, or boller, are a Norwegian specialty. These ones get dressed up with candied roses, but I suspect they’d still be delicious unadorned (well, with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar, for good measure).