Teresa Garrison couldn’t believe her luck when she bought a Scandinavian almond cake pan and it came with the recipe so important to her.
Garrison, 68, of Camano Island, bakes the cake as a way to reclaim her Norwegian heritage.
She had tried the Scandinavian treat before — Scandinavia includes Denmark, Norway and Sweden — but it wasn’t until 2010 that baking it became a tradition.
Garrison’s mother and father didn’t talk about their lineage while she was growing up on Camano. All she knew was that her father’s grandmother was from Norway. She was in the dark about her heritage.
“We had just gotten through with World War II,” Garrison said. “We were focused on the pride of our nation. There wasn’t a sense of being Norwegian … We were real Americans.”
Then, when Garrison was in her 40s, she started to draw in the branches of her family tree. Family members told her about how her great-grandmother Julia Skarnes emigrated from Norway in the 1880s in the hopes of a better life.
Skarnes married and settled in Minnesota. Her daughter, Mable Garrison, moved to Washington and was one of the first women to graduate from Western Washington University in the early 1900s.
Garrison’s family tree inspired her to join Daughters of Norway Ingeborg Lodge No. 43 of Stanwood in 2003. Meanwhile, she invested in Scandinavian cookbooks — she wanted to embrace her heritage through baking.
Members of Ingeborg Lodge No. 43 swap recipes and share stories about their families’ history. In 2010, the Daughters of Norway founded the Nordic Fair to celebrate Nordic history and culture. (“Scandinavian” and “Nordic” are similar but not the same. “Nordic” relates to Scandinavia, Finland and Iceland.)
Garrison bakes about a dozen Scandinavian almond cakes for the Nordic Fair each year — she said baking is her favorite way to bond with others who share her heritage. The almond cake also is a favorite at the Nordic Fair in Stanwood.
The spongelike cake, made with almond extract, sugar, milk, eggs, flour, margarine and baking powder, is baked in a specially made curved loaf pan with corrugated ridges. In Norway, the cake makes an appearance during the holidays, especially Christmas and Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17.
All together, the Daughters of Norway will bake about two dozen cakes for this year’s fair, set for Oct. 19 at Stillaguamish Grange Hall.
“It’s a very cohesive way to pass the essence of the culture onto other people,” Garrison said of the fair she helped found. “And you can share it with your friends.”
Other Nordic fare at the event will include lefse flatbread, rye bread, krumkake, split pea soup, pie, rommegrot (porridge) and fruktsoppa (fruit soup). But it’s the almond cake — light and airy, with almond and butter flavors — that sells the fastest.
Fellow Ingeborg Lodge No. 43 member Alice Blandin credits Garrison’s baking skills.
“She just excels at making almond cake,” Blandin said. “She also cherishes her Scandinavian heritage.”
Garrison was already a passionate baker before she added almond cake to her repertoire. Garrison’s mother instilled in her a love of baking, teaching her daughter how to make Swedish heirloom cookies, shortbread and gingerbread when she was a girl.
“She used to make me beautiful birthday cakes in the shape of flower baskets and carousels,” Garrison said of her mother, Violet Garrison. “She was very motivational in the kitchen.”
Teresa Garrison said almond cake can be hard to pull off because it tends to stick to the pan. (If you’re worried about it sticking, let the cake cool overnight.) But, when it’s all said and done, Garrison said it’s worth the trouble. Especially when she tops the cake with confectioners sugar.
“It makes a really pretty presentation,” she said.
Garrison bought her childhood home, built in 1951. Which means she bakes all those almond cakes in the same kitchen her mom did her baking in, which has windows that look out to Port Susan.
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scandinavian almond cake
1¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons pure almond extract
¾ cups milk
1¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 stick melted margarine
Slivered or sliced almonds (optional)
Coat loaf pan with non-stick baking spray. Beat well the sugar, egg, almond extract and milk, then add flour, baking powder and margarine.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. Edges must be golden brown. Cool in pan before removing. Cake will break if removed too soon. Top off the cake with confectioners sugar or icing.
Optional: If you’d like, before pouring batter into the pan, sprinkle almonds on the bottom.