LOCATION – Helsinki, Finland
Date - 5-7 Feb
Temp -5 degrees, feels like -10
by Kate Blumer
When it is cold, one needs sustenance, in the form of cakes.
Sweet cakes, the best.
Savoury cakes, can be good.
Cakes with cinnamon, can never be bad.
So I am going to share with you my many Finnish cake experiences, and when I have finished, you too will want to visit Helsinki and try these tasty morsels.
1.Korvapuusti (cinnamon and cardamom bun)
These traditional Finnish beauties; chewy cinnamon-flavoured pastry delights. What’s not to like, think/know I consumed at least 2 at breakfast. My kind of start to the day.
2. Finnish Runeberg’s Cakes (small sponge cake)
I was not sure what to expect from these little cuties. Lets just say they crumble and in the same moment melt in the mouth releasing cardamom and almond warmth. Combined with the syrupy jam dollop, this leads to something quite remarkable.
3. Karjalanpiirakka (savoury rice pies).
Well when I saw the eggy butter that people were lashing over the top of these little numbers, I was certain they would not be for me. I was correct. They taste purely of potato with a hint of warm egg. Wrong.
4. Laskiaispulla – (a traditional sweet bun)
Whilst sliding around a frozen market on Sunday when waiting for the bus, 2 buns with cream were purchased. One bun was eaten in cold conditions. The cream was nearly frozen - not so good. However, when eaten on a warm bus with defrosted cream, delicious. In essence - a fresh cream doughnut. Apparently I don’t even like cream…
Not a cake – well spotted – but I really do feel that the reason for such furious bun and cake consumption was to manage the -5 degrees Celsius conditions in Helsinki and be nourished enough to enter the local sauna with confidence.
I am afraid to announce that there was no cake shop at the minimalist Finnish sauna. This felt odd considering we were offered a napkin (surely for cake crumbs around mouth?) and a locker key. However, I soon discovered the small napkin was for placing under a (my) bare bottom in the sauna and out in the snow.
Now, I want to tell you that I broke the ice and swam in the Baltic with the local ladies (naked save a smattering of neoprene gloves and booties to cover their modesty), but the receptionist told me that only the experienced ice breakers should enter the water, no matter how many insulating cakes had been consumed 24 hours in advance. Shame.
Helsinki – highly recommend it for a weekend. But don’t go jogging in minus 5 temperatures - it takes most of the weekend to thaw out again.
Kate Blumer in Scandinavia, reporting for BETC London.