I love it when I encounter recipes that challenge my preconceptions. Cakes ought to be tender and leavening helps to achieve that. A cake can be leavened by yeast, by chemical reaction such as baking powder or baking soda with an acidic element, or by physically beating air into the batter such as whipped butter or eggs. What if there's none? Would the cake turn out dense and heavy like a brownie?
Dorie Greenspan's recipe for Swedish Visiting Cake in her book Baking From My Home To Yours allowed me to find out under the guidance of an excellent cookbook writer. This simple cake is incredibly easy to make without any fancy equipment. Even the list of ingredient consists of items widely available in a well-stocked pantry so there's no reason not to make this more often if it is tasty. I am happy to report that I have another great recipe in my repertoire. Greenspan wrote in the headnotes the name "Visiting Cake" originated from the fact that it was the cake people brought to each other's house when visiting, it holds an even more fitting meaning to me. It is something I can bake when I visit other people's kitchen.
In addition to almond and vanilla, I added 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom to the batter to play up the Swedish flavour. I topped the cake with sprinkles of pearl sugar which is often used in making kanelbullar. This cake is moist and tender. Unlike blondies, it is not dense. There is a simple elegance that befits an afternoon cup of coffee. As for the lack of leavening? Who cares if the cake tastes this good!
A note on the recipe: it calls for an 9-inch cast iron pan but says 9-inch round cake pan would work just fine. After filling the pan with batter, I decided the cake would turn out too thin. I scraped everything off into an 8-inch round cake pan and it is the perfect size.
More treats without leavening agents: