Never mind that it is delicious — the name tigerkaka, or “tiger cake” played a big part in making it a favorite in my family when my siblings and I grew up. For all English speakers — yes, this is a marble cake. But, you know, the Swedes wanted a cooler name… Something with more bite. Hence, tiger cake.
A VERY brief history of Swedish tiger cake
As I am currently away from my cookbook collection, I have to make do with the available archive. In Svenska Dagbladet, the name tiger cake appears for the first time in 1926, as part of a menu suggestion.
While I have to confirm more details of this cake’s history in Sweden when my dear cookbooks are on hand, sponge cakes became more common in Sweden in the 20th century. The reason was that baking soda or baking powder made it easier to get fluffy cakes.
One of the tiger cake’s Swedish champions was the brand Mazetti, which shares a recipe for “Mazetti’s tiger cake” in Svenska Dagbladet in 1935. Not only did they suggest that you’d make the recipe with their cacao powder, but also with their vanilla powder.
However, many old recipes also refer to it as marmorerad kaka, meaning “marbled cake”. A few older recipes use vanilla for the flavoring of the light-colored part of the batter, while others, such as the 1923 marmorerad sockerkaka, uses lemon instead. My great grandmother’s copy of Stora kokboken from 1946 suggests that you can use either. The recipe shared in the cookbook is a bit more time-consuming than other recipes — you whip the egg whites into thick foam before folding them in.
How to make a delicious Swedish tiger cake
Stora kokboken suggests that the lighter batter should be both at the top and the bottom of the cake. I’d say, do whatever floats your boat.
Butter and breadcrumbs
50 g (1/4 cups) butter
1 dl (2/5 cups) milk
2 dl (4/5 cups) sugar
a pinch of vanilla powder
3 dl (1 1/5 cups) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp milk
- Set the oven to 175°C (345°F). Grease a baking tin (sized 1,5 liters, or 6 cups) with butter and coat it in breadcrumbs.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once it has melted, take the saucepan off the heat and add 1 dl or 2/5 cups of milk.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together, preferably with a hand or stand mixer. You want the mix to become white and fluffy.
- Add the butter and milk mix to the egg mixture, together with a small amount (about 1/5 tsp of vanilla powder). Stir it so it is just blended.
- Mix the baking powder together with the flour. Stir the flour mix into the egg mixture. Take care to stir as little as possible but until you have an even batter.
- Pour the 1/3 of the batter into a smaller bowl and add the cacao and one tablespoon of milk to that batter, stirring until it is even.
- Here’s the fun part! Alternative the plain and the chocolate batter to the baking tin so you get a marbled pattern.
- Bake the cake in the lower part of the oven for about 35 minutes, until it is slightly golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let it cool slightly before you turn the tin upside down on a plate. You may have to help the cake a bit by cutting around the edges with a knife. Ready to serve!
Instead of vanilla powder, you can add the peel of 1/2 lemon or orange.
Want to add a bit more umpf to the chocolate part? Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of instant coffee powder to the milk before you add it to the chocolate batter.