Ostkake (Swedish Cheesecake)
I love this plate.
Ost = cheese
Kake or kaka = cake
Ostkaka (or ostakaka) was the Swedish cheesecake dessert we served at my friend’s Surströmming party (sour herring). It’s another understated but surprisingly addictive Scandinavian dessert…fresh-cheese with eggs and sugar.
My friend gave me this recipe from a 1927 Swedesburg Cookbook and I swapped out the flour with rice flour but no one noticed. Here are more early 1900’s Scandinavian Recipes from the Centennial Church Cookbooks in Nebraska and Iowa.
About making curds
Cheese rennet contains enzymes that coagulate the milk and separate the curd from the whey. It can be purchased in both liquid or tablet form. Sources of rennet include the stomach of mammals, plants (figs, caper leaves, nettles, thistle, mallow and Creeping Charlie), fungi and bacteria.
I have used vinegar and lemon to curdle milk for paneer (Indian fresh cheese) and dry rennet starter for making chevre, but this was my first experience with liquid rennet. The rennet coagulates the milk at a much slower rate and doesn’t greatly increase the acidity levels, so the resulting fresh cheese is still sweet.
My second round of Ostakaka was made using the paneer method of lemon juice to curdle the milk and it worked pretty well, leaving a light lemony taste to the dessert. Traditionalists won’t do this…but sometimes you have to use what is around you!
Rennet can be found in some grocery and specialty food stores or ordered online. New England Cheesemaking Supply is a great company with loads of information about all-things-cheese. This page is all you ever wanted to know about Milk and Cream.
The recipe calls for raw milk or non-homogenized milk. It will be difficult to find raw milk in many areas, but most organic milks are non-homogenized. Just for the sake of experimenting I made a second batch using whole milk that was both pasteurized and homogenized. It worked pretty well, though the raw milk version resulted in the best curds.
Ultra pasteurized milk will not work according to the New England Cheesemaking site. It has been heated to a higher temperature which alters the proteins so they won’t form curds, or won’t form them well.
I hope the idea of making your own fresh cheese isn’t intimidating—it’s easier than it sounds! Then add sugar, eggs and cream. Voilà.
I found some recipes that use ricotta cheese…I’ll leave that up to your discretion.
As with many traditional dishes you will find variations of ratios and flavorings. Some call for vanilla, almond extract, cardamom and/or cinnamon. Again…I’ll leave that up to your discretion.
Prep Time: 2 hours (much of that time is waiting…) Bake Time: 1 1/2 hours
The Ost (cheese)
Heat to 110 degrees:
1 Gallon Whole Raw Milk, as fresh as possible (at least whole—but DO NOT use ultra pasteurized)
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
In a bowl, make into a thin past:
1/2 cup of the milk
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons Rice Flour (or whatever you have)
Dissolve in another small bowl:
1/2 Tablet Cheese Rennet (for Liquid Rennet—start with 1/2 teaspoon, add more if needed)
1/4 cup cool Water
When the milk has reached 110 degrees, turn off the heat.
Whisk in the flour paste and mix thoroughly.
Add the dissolved rennet and stir gently until the milk curdles.
Let the milk sit for 1 hour to separate.
Heat oven to 350 or 375 degrees
Cut the fresh cheese into small squares (if it is thick enough) and drain off the whey using a colander lined with cheesecloth.
The Kaka (cake)
Transfer the fresh cheese to a bowl and add:
2 beaten Eggs
6 Tablespoons Sugar (a heaping 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
(Optional flavorings: almond extract, vanilla, cinnamon and/or cardamom)
Pour into an 8×8 pan and bake at 350-375 degrees for approximately 1 hour + 45 minutes or until browned.
There may be residual whey when the cake comes out of the oven, it will be reabsorbed.
Serve with a red berry sauce: Lingonberries, Loganberries or Strawberries and Whipped Cream.
- Make the fresh cheese with the paneer method:
- Follow the directions the same as above, but instead of rennet add a scant half cup of Lemon Juice to curdle the milk.
- There will be a mild lemony flavor to the cheesecake—not a bad thing!
- Use ricotta cheese instead of making the fresh cheese
- I didn’t measure the curd from the milk—it looked like about 4 cups
2 thoughts on “Ostkake (Swedish Cheesecake)”
We love making this recipe. With our High School, Swedish, Foreign Exchange student this summer in Los Angeles, she brought us the liquid rennet from Stockholm, so we could make Ostakaka for her. I had not used the liquid form before. She has not made this dessert at home, so we made it with her here. I found that the raw milk we used and the liquid rennet made it much thicker, and it separated much faster than I recall when using the tablets. However, I used 1 1/2 gal. of raw milk, thus adding more flour and rennet as I calculated with my best judgement. We used 3 eggs as well. We added cardamom seeds, broken from the pods and placed into the milk batch, let them soak in the mixture while it firmed and separated. We kept these seeds in the pudding, adding vanilla and sprinkling cinnamon on top before baking. Our US Swedish roots are from Oakland, Nebr.
That’s great!! I love the addition of cardamom seeds. I used the liquid rennet once and it worked well, I think it is easier to find these days. My friend Dennis brought me this recipe, he is an American Dane from Elk Horn, IA which has close ties to the Swedish community in both Iowa and Nebraska. Thanks for your comment!