Fika in late autumn
A recipe for cardamom miso banana cake.
The Swedish Fika, like Danish hygge or Finnish sisu, is one of those curious Nordic concepts that defies perfect translation. It is a thing best understood through experience.
It is certainly not a mere coffee break. It is not a quick pause in the working grind for a moment to relax. It is a defined effort. An event to be planned, anticipated and embraced among friends and friends yet to be. It is a time for consideration. A tradition, to be sure, but one without ceremony.
Reading things as the outsider, fika only becomes explicitly serious when it isn't considered serious implicitly. The Swedes adore their bastions of comfort. And to treat fika as something less than it is (as I experienced first-hand when suggesting a mid-service slice of apple was fika once during service) is a sure way to insult this near-sacred institution.
As for specifics, great food is a necessity, along with coffee so black one could almost cut it with a knife. But with all the hot drinks, freshly-baked cakes and confectionary, fika can't be so-called without the warmth of good company. My recipe for a spiced banana cake, seasoned with miso, is the perfect accompaniment for such an occasion.
Now, if there is one thing I adore about Swedish food, it is the use of cardamom in cakes and pastries. The citrusy, almost electric zing, gives cakes and buns the most vibrant aroma, cutting through even the richest of treats. Banana meanwhile is far from being a Nordic ingredient, but I forgive myself its use here. The recipe calls for 3 or 4 old, over-ripe bananas that are only barely clinging to life. This cake will see their brilliance preserved for several days at least, and that's a very Nordic thing to do indeed. I hate when banana cake recipes call for a prescribed number of "leftover bananas", as though one is bound to have a certain number "leftover". My recipe calls for at least two, but four will give you an even moister cake.
Add some of that coffee along with a good friend and this cake will make for the perfect fika.
Cardamom and miso banana cake
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