Kladdkaka, a simple chocolate cake that says ‘Welcome!’

by Bonnie Sparrman

What is it that causes a person to return time and again to a certain coffee shop, friend’s home, park bench, library table or even to a specific corner of the airport? Why do we feel more welcome in one place, and less so in another? The chipmunks under our deck certainly chose their spot and are sticking to it. We notice commuters claiming the same seat on the bus day after day. The same happens in church. Sure, we might call ourselves creatures of habit, but I think consciously and unconsciously we plant ourselves where we feel comfortable. If we have a choice, our senses guide us to places that say, “Welcome! You belong here. Come in, relax; put your feet up. Make yourself at home!” Just like Chippy under the deck, we know what feels hospitable.

So what speaks “Welcome!” to your soul? It’s possible that you smell your welcomes. Are you drawn to the fragrance of chocolate wafting from the oven or to billows of smoke rising from the barbecue? When it comes to food, we undoubtedly own our preferences in both fragrance and flavor. As a small child, nothing said “Welcome to Sunday School!” like the aroma of coffee that met us at the church door. To me, church and coffee belonged together. I loved both.

People are also welcoming…or not. How do we make others feel welcome? And even more fundamentally, why should we? How about the fact that seven times, the New Testament praises hospitality and encourages us to do it without grumbling?

Hmm…someone must have grumbled a time or two over an abundance of guests or perhaps over visitors they didn’t know or invite. The reason I suspect the latter, is that the word for hospitality in Greek; philoxenos, means “friend of strangers.”

And then there’s the wondrous idea expressed in Hebrews 13:2 where it says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

By now you may be wondering how a simple chocolate cake could relate to welcoming strangers or maybe even angels. I’ll tell you. While vacationing at my brother’s beach house, my husband and I happily anticipated one night alone, sans the usual crowd of family members filling every room. However, a phone call late in the afternoon squelched any romantic ideas in a snap. It seemed that my hospitable brother and sister-in-law had invited another couple to share the house with us that night. “Who were they?” I inquired wondering which of our common friends were coming up from the city. Ha! They were complete strangers, met on a bike ride – a couple cycling coast-to-coast on their honeymoon. As a guest myself, who was I to protest?

We readied the master suite for our unknown visitors and scurried to mix up this simple everyday cake that Swedish hosts have produced for us in minutes. After taking the honeymooners to dinner, this dessert promised an aroma of chocolate that would surely welcome our weary strangers who might be tired after cycling and tent camping for over 2,200 miles.

We enjoyed getting to know this fine couple, who appreciated a nice place to stay and tasty food to eat. A week later we read their travel blog with amusement. Apparently their decision to risk a night with strangers was the cause of their first marital argument. One was willing to take a chance on unknown hosts and one wasn’t. The best part however, were their words about “the tastiest dessert of their entire journey, and how glad they were to have joined us.” Good old kladdkaka…as casual and spontaneous as our cycling guests! It did the trick of welcoming strangers who for all we know could have been angels in disguise.

PHOTOS: Karl-Jon Sparrman

RECIPE: Kladdkaka (Chocolate Mud Cake)

Serves 8


4 oz. unsalted butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces (60% Ghirardelli works well)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3 eggs, room temperature
¼ cup all-purpose flour (For a gluten-free version of Kladdkaka, substitute rice flour.)

Butter the bottom and sides of a nine-inch round cake pan with removable sides. Or, place a piece of parchment into the bottom and up the sides of a regular nine-inch round cake pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate. Allow the heat of the butter to melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool until mixture is a bit warm to the touch.

Place eggs in large bowl of stand mixer or use a hand-held electric mixer. Beat eggs with whisk attachment until they are light in color and form a ribbon when a spoon of the beaten egg is drizzled over the rest of the mixture.

Measure flour into a sieve. Fold chocolate mixture into beaten eggs using a rubber scraper. Add flour by tapping sieve over mixing bowl of batter. Fold just until flour is incorporated.

Scrape cake batter into prepared cake pan. Smooth top. Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350 degrees. Do not over-bake. The center will appear to be barely done.

This is an “everyday cake” served in many Swedish homes. It can be whipped up quickly at suppertime and is delicious served warm with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar on top. It’s also very tasty with ice cream or whipped cream and some fresh berries. The night at the beach house we served it with fresh peaches because that is what we had.