How to Host a Scandinavian Coffee Party
One of the most common styles of formal entertaining across the Scandinavian peninsula today is hosting a late-afternoon “coffee table.” A happy medium between the famous and lavish smörgåsbord feast, now limited primarily to the Advent and Christmas seasons, and the daily informal Swedish tradition of fika (“to go out for coffee”), the coffee table allows friends to gather to celebrate special events such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and weddings. Similar to the British tradition of high tea, coffee parties offer an abundant selection of cakes, cookies, and sweet breads to enjoy along with one’s beverage.
Preparing Your Coffee Table
As Beatrice Ojakangas, long heralded as America’s leading authority on Nordic cooking, describes in her indispensable The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, Scandinavian coffee tables were traditionally laid out with a standard array of seven items (uneven numbers being considered lucky). Hostesses would prepare a sweet yeasted bread, an unfrosted pound cake (baked in a bundt pan) and / or a sponge cake, an elaborate torte or layer cake, and different types of cookies and tarts to round out the required seven items.
Traditions change, and increasingly hosts and hostesses are dispensing with the standard numbers and types of baked goods. Tea and soft drinks are typically offered now along with coffee, and the desserts and cakes are likely to be purchased at a local konditorei (café) or bakerei (bakery). Yet good conversation and fellowship remain the same!
When hosting a coffee table, enhance your table with a nice tablecloth, candles, and fresh flowers. Scandinavian hostesses provide enough plates that their guests can use a clean plate each time they return to the table to sample a different item. If this is beyond the capacity of your china collection, feel free to substitute pretty paper plates and napkins.
Coffee Bread Selections
Pound Cake / Sponge Cake Selections
- Sugar Cake (Sokerkaka)
- Spice Cake (Mjuk Pepparkaka)
- Cardamom Cake
Frosted Layer Cake / Torte Selections
- Princess Cake (Prinsesstårta)
- Mazarin Torte (Mazarintårta)
- Icelandic Striped Lady Cake (Randalín or Vínarterta)