Icelandic ‘Happy Marriage’ Cake | Hjónabandssaela

I’d been itching to try this recipe for ages. Look at the whimsical name! I was instantly intrigued. It’s a bit of a misnomer really though; it isn’t a cake at all, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s actually the perfect cross between a crumble (or a ‘crisp’, maybe) and a flapjack. It firms up as it cools and its chewy, oaty fruitiness reminds me a little of Berry Bars and other bakes of that ilk – in fact, when I make this again (and I will, because it’s gorgeous) I will probably make it in a brownie tin and slice it into squares in an attempt to make it last a bit longer – it is extremely moreish!

This is a wildly popular sweet treat in Iceland and with good reason. It’s utterly gorgeous. You could be forgiven for thinking Happy Marriage cake (sometimes called ‘Wedded Bliss’ – both rough translations of the Icelandic “hjónabandssaela”) is traditionally served at weddings – it’s not. The name owes more to the key ingredients of rhubarb and oats being such a beautiful pairing, and as the cake is so simple and inexpensive to make it was thought any wife (!) could make it. Another theory was that the cake generally gets better with age, like a good marriage; but to be honest this lasted us barely twenty-four hours so I don’t feel adequately equipped to comment on that.

You could make your own rhubarb jam for this if you wanted to. Every recipe I came across used either rhubarb jam alone or a combination of rhubarb and strawberry jams. I wanted to do something a little bit different so I used rhubarb jam and – for extra fruity texture – a punnet of strawberries. You need a combined total of about 300-350g for the filling so do whatever is easiest for you. Also, if you have any crystallised ginger (maybe leftover from the Ginger and Walnut Carrot Cake?) try adding a few chopped up tablespoons for a little fire. Alternatively, you could switch it up entirely and use a blueberry filling – rhubarb and blueberries both grow in abundance in Iceland so it will remain reasonably authentic!

You will need a 9″/23cm tart/quiche/pie tin – grease it really well and line the base

For the crust:
230g oats
200g soft light brown sugar
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional, only if you’ve got it)
175g Stork (foil wrapped) or any vegan butter
2-3 tbsp non-dairy milk

For the filling:
1 punnet of strawberries (about 200g) washed and chopped
200g rhubarb conserve

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, ginger and cardamom (if using). Add the cubed vegan butter and rub it into the dry mix, just like you would with a crumble. Use a fork to help mash it if that’s easier. Sprinkle in a tablespoon of milk at a time until you end up with a fairly sticky dough. (You might not need to use all of the milk).

Spoon approximately two thirds of the mixture into the prepared tin and use your hands or the back of a spoon to smooth it evenly and mould it to the sides. Combine the strawberries and jam and pour the mixture in, covering the bottom.

Use a small spoon to distribute the remaining oat mixture over the top. I used a fork to gently spread out each dollop. Take your time doing this as you want to make sure you cover the fruit reasonably well – although a few gaps revealing hints of ruby red looks really pretty! When  you’re happy with it , place it on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for around 35-40 minutes. The top should look golden and quite crispy, although there will still be a slight wobble underneath. It will firm up a bit as it cools. I recommend leaving it to cool for a good hour in the tin, otherwise  it will crumble when you slice it. Having said that, it is best served warm with something creamy – single cream (we like Oatly or Alpro non-dairy creams) or a scoop of Swedish Glace is pretty dreamy.

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