Lisa Hovis/Collage by NPR
All Things We’re Cooking is a series featuring family recipes from you, our readers and listeners, and the special stories behind them. We’ll continue to share more of your kitchen gems throughout the holidays.
Most cookies go into the oven to bake, but krumkake are not most cookies. Instead of the oven, bakers typically use a krumkake iron on an open flame to make these traditional Norwegian butter cookies.
Lisa Hovis has been making krumkake since she learned as a young girl alongside her Grandma Hovis. Every Christmas, Hovis’ family would make the 16-mile drive from DeKalb, Ill., to Rochelle, Ill., where she and her mom would join Hovis’ paternal grandmother in the kitchen.
The rest of the family would hang out in a room nearby where they could smell the sweet treats as they waited to bite into the crispy cookies, which Grandma Hovis called krum kage. In the kitchen, the batter came together quickly.
“It’s basically sugar and eggs, and then you take the unwhipped, whipped cream and you beat that well. You add flour, vanilla and a dash of salt,” Hovis said. “And once you have that all blended, you take about a tablespoon … and then you pour the tablespoon on and the iron closes for about 30 seconds or so and then you flip it.”
After the flip, the other side bakes for about 30 seconds. A knife or a fork comes in handy at this point to help you get the delicate cookie off the iron before wrapping it around a dowel to form a cylinder.
Just like pancakes, the first couple of cookies are trial runs, best eaten as a snack by the bakers themselves. Be sure to grease the iron between each cookie, and keep the batter thin enough that it spreads easily when poured, Hovis said.
A bit of a purist when it comes to krumkake, Hovis said she doesn’t need to add anything to the cookies to enjoy them, but it’s not unheard of for people to stuff the cookies with whipped cream or fruit.
Hovis’ grandma died when she was 13, but the krumkake tradition didn’t end then. Today, Hovis makes the cookies for her friends and family with the same iron her grandma used, which dates back to at least 1913.
“When I make it today, it’s just like you’re transported back to that memory, and even though she’s no longer with me, her recipe keeps her alive,” Hovis said.
This Christmas, Hovis is headed to her aunt’s house in Tucson, Ariz., where she plans to make krumkake with her two nephews and her aunt’s granddaughters.
“I’ll be able to share that with them, tell them the story of their great-grandmother,” Hovis said. “And hopefully they will have an interest in continuing that … so the recipe and the tradition can carry on.”
Krum Kage (Krumkake)
Recipe submitted by Lisa Hovis
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- dash of salt
Beat sugar and eggs well.
Add half the cream to the sugar and egg mixture and mix well.
Mix in the flour and beat until very smooth, then add the rest of the ingredients.
Pour on a very hot iron and press until browned.
Remove and immediately roll onto a stick until cool. Enjoy!