The Krumkake Chronicles

This is a revisitation to a blog I wrote in 2011.  Since then, I am back in Public Radio, but now in a very "foodie" town of Birmingham Alabama.  

In the holiday season of 2012, I have new friends and colleagues who've never heard of Danish rolled, begin, again.  Traditions can help you rekindle good things that deserve to be repeated. Publix and Piggly Wiggly have supplied me with many eggs, much, butter and other needed supplies.

When I first came to Pittsburgh in 1995, I found the city filled with kind people, civil driving, and a staff at WDUQ that tended to be the generous, gift-exchanging kind of folk.

Early on, when we were fewer in number, as I was the General Manager, I would try to find special gifts like books and things. But, over time, as the years passed and the station grew, I ran out of book ideas unique enough for a burgeoning staff. There were only so many editions of “Life’s Little Instruction Book.”

Food became the next thing to share. Cub Scout Popcorn, given my association as Pack and then Troop Committee Chair. Later, as my sons moved on to adulthood, what next?

Little did I realize that a longstanding Hanley family tradition was in need of extending.

For decades, my mother made Krumkake. A not-widely known Norwegian rolled cookie. Owing to my mother’s Danish heritage, she had taken up making this cookie as her primary holiday baking activity back in the 70’s. It uses a lot of eggs and butter, and has some special features.



A Scandinavian Christmas cookie from the Danish side of the family

3 well beaten eggs

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c butter

1/2 c flour

1 teaspoon extract of choice (I use vanilla and almond)

You melt the butter, blend it all together and bake it on a special iron (from Norway, of course!). Roll and let cool.


For years, my mother had used a single iron that was placed over a stovetop burner. While the cookie you make and then roll was perfectly round in this iron, the process was very time consuming and less than perfect at keeping precise heat.

Later, my mother bought an “electric” two-sided iron. Instead of one cookie every 90 seconds, you could make two (In a PIttsburgh Christmas Miracle, I found one of my own in Pittsburgh at Wholey’s in the strip)!

As cookies go, this recipe uses a LOT of eggs and butter. The batch I show here was using 9 eggs and three sticks of butter.

The “roll and let it cool” part is what gets you. Despite what you may see online (and in the box of my electric krumkake iron), the wooden roller is not something we’ve ever used.

You take the hot baked cookie off the iron, put it down on a counter and quickly and with some danger, roll the cookie by hand. Or should I say, by fingertips!  Hot.  Hot. Hot. Burn. Careful!

They can be served with whipped cream, sprinkled powdered sugar or just plain as is. I have seen variations, like the mix of flour doubled up, which makes for a doughier cookie.  More sugar makes the cookie crisper (which seems to help in my new, more humid, Alabama environs).  What I've listed is the basic recipe I’ve settled on, with maybe a dash more sugar.

One trial effort last year, from Laura’s suggestion, was to take an unrolled cookie and use those tiny SOLBRÄND plastic bowls from Ikea to make a tasty pastry bowl out of the new shape. But those are in Ohiopyle, and this year most of the baking has been back in Birmingham. 

More testing to be done…but whipped cream, ice cream, fruit – it is all good.  One of the best features of making Krumkake is the mistakes and left over extra cooked bits can all become tasty snacks…

I started baking these cookies on my own a few years ago, also around the same time that my mother was no longer able to make these cookies. It has been good to keep the tradition going. And share them with my mother, father and their neighbors, too. I even taught my youngest son, Jon, how to make them.

Krumkake is what I started to share with my “family” at WDUQ. Hundreds of cookies, a dozen or two at a time. Many plastic containers, carefully packed with festive paper towel wrapping.

Like my mother before me, December is now a month where eggs and butter fill the fridge, the smells of melting butter and vaporizing almond and vanilla extract fills the air. 

I’ve managed to go through several dozen eggs, share Krumkake with friends and family in Pittsburgh, Washington, DC, California and Michigan.  And, now, Birmingham, Alabama and my new colleagues at WBHM.

I don’t plan on letting the tradition fade anytime soon.

All the best of great food, friends, family and the holidays to you now and every day.   © Scott Hanley 2016