When my great grandparents came to Canada in 1920, they brought many of their traditions from Denmark along with them. One holiday tradition in Scandinavia is to have rice pudding on Christmas Eve. The pudding contains one whole almond and whoever gets it in their dish gets the Almond Gift, usually a marzipan pig symbolizing good fortune. As my family settled into life in rural North America, this Christmas Eve custom transformed. For reasons unknown, the rice pudding became a Danish Apple Cake and the gift became a small token, often a trinket or toy. I should really say “gifts” because, at some point someone (I believe it was likely my grandmother) added one or two more almonds and gifts into the mix just for the fun of it.
My family has had this dessert on Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember (and I’m sure much longer). I still have a little china dinner bell I received when I was a child and my grandmother made the dessert. This year I’ll be making the cake, and it will be transformed once again into a gluten free version. If you’re looking for a light and airy, not to mention fun, dessert, then this is the recipe for you. The “cake” itself is more of a parfait. It’s easy to make and tastes awesome – a bit like apple pie. Hmmmm, maybe that’s why this tradition was transformed!
What you’ll need:
2 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups gluten free crumbs (you can use gf “graham” cracker crumbs – we like kinnikinnick brand-, vanilla wafer crumbs, or ginger cookie crumbs. If you can’t find them in crumb form, you can make crumbs by pulsing the cookies in your food processor. The traditional recipe uses bread crumbs which would also work – gf of course!)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
TIP: Add more spices if you are using plain gf bread crumbs or if you want it a bit spicier.
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Lots of whipped cream
Optional: 1 or more whole almonds and, of course, 1 or more presents! The gifts are fun – especially if there are children present – but the dessert really stands on its own.
What you’ll do:
Melt butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add crumbs, sugar, and spices and heat until blended and slightly toasted.
Remove from heat and spread on cookie sheet or plate to cool.
In a parfait bowl, alternate layers of crumbs and applesauce. Refrigerate overnight.
Just before serving, “poke” the almond(s) into the dessert and cover with plenty of whipped cream. You can garnish with chopped maraschino cherries.
Photo credit gf and me 2013