This type of Norwegian Christmas cake is a strange phenomenon, as we really bake it all year long. It is largely for sale in the stores all year too. And we call it Christmas cake whenever we eat it. It is mostly served either with just butter, or with butter and brown cheese. The name is so incorporated in people my age’s everyday speech that I do not think we really remember that the name really has to do with Christmas.
A traditional Norwegian recipe from the popular food site MatPrat
The name of this cake is almost a contradiction in terms as it is usually eaten the whole year round in Norway, but I know few who actually eat it during Christmas. At home we had it it ever so often as it was one of my father’s favourites. In Norway one usually serve Christmas cake sliced with butter and Norwegian brown cheese (a rather sweet cheese typical for Norway). Just butter will do nicely if you can’t get hold of brown cheese (most people find that jams and jellies don’t go well with Christmas cake).
Brown cheese or whey cheese is the generic name for cheeses that are made by boiling the whey and adding milk and/or cream. Brown cheese is according to international definitions not really cheese, because the whey is separated. Rather, it is classified as a caramelized concentrate of whey added milk and cream. A consequence of the production process is that almost half of the dry substance is lactose, which is what causes it to turn brown and giving it the marked sweetness in taste.
Brown cheese is a distinctly Norwegian dairy products. The only place outside Norway where such cheese to some extent is produced is in Sweden east of Sør-Trøndelag. Beyond that there is also some cases of using precooked whey in other cultures, but without any industrial production having come out of it. It is regarded as Norway’s national sandwich spread, and whole wheat bread with brown cheese is often used as an image of Norwegian prudence and frugality. Norwegians abroad often miss the brown cheese deeply, which has lead to frequent serving of waffles with brown cheese at the Norwegian Seaman’s Missions around the world. You can also buy brown cheese several places where many Norwegians are vacationing or have settled, including Spain.