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Brunsviger: Danish Coffee Cake

Brunsviger is a yeasted coffee cake covered in a brown sugar topping. The cake is rich, but fluffy, almost like brioche and the topping is like crunchy-gooey caramel. This as a great alternative to cinnamon rolls on cold Sunday mornings.

The History of Brunsviger

Brunsviger originates from the Danish island of Funen, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. While you can now find the cake almost anywhere in Denmark, you’ll find it in almost every bakery in Funen. The cake is often served for Sunday breakfast with coffee. It is also sometimes used for Kagemand or Kagekone, a cake in the shape of a boy or girl eaten for birthdays and anniversaries. It is usually decorated with candy and Danish flags. Birthday parties traditionally start with the Kagemand being decapitated while all the children scream. Now that sounds like a classic fairy tale.

piece of brunsviger coffee cake on a white plate, antique fork, coffee mug with flowers painted on it, with cake in the background
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Tips for Baking Brunsviger

The base for this cake is an enriched yeast dough. Enriched doughs include sugar and fat, usually milk, butter or eggs. Fat shortens gluten strands and increases its elasticity. This results in a cake with a more tender crumb and a soft crust. Adding sugar to yeast doughs gives more food to the yeast and speeds up fermentation. Residual sugar promotes browning of the crust during baking and a sweeter dough.

I’ve kept the recipe for the topping pretty simple: dark brown sugar and butter. But I have seen versions which include various flavorings as well. You could add cinnamon, cream, honey, marzipan or even a packet of Danish Kagecreme, if you can find it.

Danish brunsviger coffee cake and slices on parchment paper
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Ingredients:

Yields one 9 x 12 inch (23 x 33 cm) pan.

For the Dough:

MetricCups
BRUNSVIGER DOUGH
240ml whole milk, warmed to 40°C
7g dry active yeast (1 packet)

50g granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

420g plain flour

85g unsalted butter, melted

TOPPING
215g dark brown sugar
170g unsalted butter
BRUNSVIGER DOUGH
1 cup whole milk, warmed to 105°F
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

TOPPING
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
the ingredients to make Danish brunsviger cake: a bowl of flour, pads of butter on parchment paper, active dry yeast in a glass bowl, an egg, and granulated sugar in a ramekin
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Bloom the yeast:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the yeast and warm milk together and set aside while weighing the other ingredients. The yeast should start to foam after a few minutes, otherwise the yeast might be dead.

Mix the wet ingredients:

Add the sugar, egg, and butter to the milk and yeast. Set the mixer on medium for a few seconds to combine.

Add in the flour:

Add in the flour and salt, and slowly work the mixer up to medium speed. Knead until everything combines, forming a dough.

Knead the dough:

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, approximately 6 minutes.

brunsviger dough in a kitchenaid mixer
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Let the dough rest:

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

risen dough in a mixing bowl, a baking pan lined with parchment, and brown sugar and butter in a small saucepan
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Shape the dough:

Grease a 9 inch by 13 inch pan and line with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to the pan, gently stretching it to the edges of the pan.

Proof:

Set the pan in a warm place and leave the dough to rise until puffy and roughly doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Prepare the topping:

Meanwhile, melt the butter with the brown sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently to ensure the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Set aside to cool slightly.

butter and dark brown sugar in a small enameled saucepan
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Preheat the oven:

When the dough is almost risen, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Prepare the dough for baking:

Press your fingers into the dough to form deep dimples. Pour the topping over the dough, being sure to fill the dimples and avoiding the sides of the pan.

Bake the cake:

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes. The dough will be puffed and the topping will be bubbling and gooey.

Let the cake cool and serve warm or at room temperature. Brunsviger is best the day it is made.

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