Back in the BC days (before Coeliac, I’m not actually 2000 odd years old, though I think I sometimes look/feel it) I would be pretty delighted with a friend greeting me at the airport with a bag of treats from a local bakery. Now the vastly reduced options and often questionable quality of gluten free goodies means I’m a cake/bread seeking missile, and I’m quite likely to do backflips around the arrivals lounge. Ok exaggeration, but I will pay your airport parking and be eternally grateful. In fact after munching my way through that bag of treats we went back and I managed to drop €35 on bread, pies and cakes to pig out on over Juhannus (Midsummer).
If you guys cast your mind back, to celebrate Finland’s 100th birthday I did a round up of my gluten free favourites from Finland and I now have a very notable addition… ladies and gentlemen I give you Kakkutupa!
Admittedly it isn’t the most accessible location if you’re on a city centre break in Helsinki located as it is in the city’s north west suburb of Konala, but for the quality and for capturing the real taste of Finnish baked goods it’s worth the pilgrimage (also their fresh bread keeps for a few days so would be fine sitting in a hotel room, whereas a lot of GF bread in the supermarket is frozen). On the other hand if you’re hiring a car and going to out to the countryside to enjoy the traditional Finnish Mökki (summer cottage, preferably with a super hot sauna and a refreshing lake to jump into afterwards) then this bakery makes an ideal place to stock up on all manner of Nordic treats.
Let’s start with the basics, the bread. I tried four different types, all in the try-rye style and all very good likenesses of the glutenful ruisleipä cousins. One, “Rusinaleipä” was a ruispalat style dark, flattish roll, and another slightly lighter longer shaped roll “Porkkanaleipä” with grated carrot through it, something I’ve had before in a frozen Finnish gluten free bread, and before you pull a face it works! It ups the texture game and stops it from being a dry crumby mess. Another was the lighter puolukkaleipä, again full of flavour and with a great texture.
After missing proper rye bread for a few years, I was in heaven! All were perfect for making voileipä, Finland’s cousin to the smørrebrød, a Nordic open sandwich and breakfast table mainstay.
The fourth was my favourite though, the Saaristolaisleipä style loaf, a dark, slightly sweet bread originating in the the archipelago around Finland’s south west coast, and translating as Islander’s bread, it makes the perfect foil for topping with cured salmon and herrings.
All of the breads nailed the proper chewy rye bread texture and flavour with none of the gluten (the bakery is entirely GF), no cork matting mouth feel, and no weird overpowering buckwheat taste even though tattari features heavy in the mix, they’ve done an awesome job of hitting the right balance.
Next up, all eyes on the pies. I think everyone who has read this blog before, or who has looked at my insta will know of the love I have for a good Karjalanpiirakka so I was excited to try some from a gluten free bakery rather than getting my bake on or hitting the supermarket freezer section. The pies I tried were quite small “cocktail pie” sized ones, and I don’t need much persuasion to have a cocktail with my pies.
They were pretty good but not my perfect pie, possibly still lacking a bit in the flavour department, but I don’t want to mark them down overly on this because getting the balance between thin, flexible pastry that doesn’t get rubbery when you cook it and replacing the rye flavour is a bit of a delicate balance, one I’ve been tweaking repeatedly myself for the last three years and still keep making changes to. They’re good pies, no mistake, warm them up and slap cheese or egg butter on top and they’re great pies.
But they’re not the only pies, they also do some small but tasty spinach & feta and ham & cheese pies that feel like they’re sitting on the fence between a tart and a quiche. Both were full of flavour, and had some of the best GF pastry I’ve managed to get my mouth around. AND kept me somewhat in check when I was going round a Finnish supermarket when almost every single isle has a gluten free section. Yes, that goddamn good!
All good so far but we’re now down at the business end. Yup caketime! I’ve written before about the Finnish love of a good coffee and cake session, kinda what the Swedish neighbours call Fika, the Nordics have some killer cakes and the ones I got at Kakkutupa didn’t disappoint. Let’s start with the tart, it’s as good a place as any. Perfect pastry, if it wasn’t for the bakery being entirely GF I would think there had been a huge mistake! Like even if it was a normal one the Bake Off crowd would have been in raptures kinda base, no soggy bottoms here (sorry that’s all my bake-off knowledge gone now… pooooof). Fresh fruit, creamy custard and a glossy glaze, this was definitely a tart with some heart!
I tried two takes on blueberry cake, one a more loaf like cake flecked with coarsely ground cardamom that have each bite bright pops of flavour, and was the perfect companion to a strong black filter coffee, not too far removed from the Nordic spiced blueberry banana bread I posted up at Christmas when I was housebound, bored and baking in a hope of clinging onto some semblance of sanity.
The second blueberry cake was a layered cream cake. Sorry Victoria sponge, you may have my middle name but you’ve got nothing on this cake babe. The Pet Finn was triggered into paroxysms about childhood cakes his äiti made, and had to be fended off with a fork after being allowed a taster. It was more than just a pretty face, it was a damn good cake, some of the lightest gluten free sponge I’ve had, I would love to know which unicorn got evicted from its cloud so I could enjoy this cake, plentiful whipped cream, blueberry jam, and a dusting of powdered blueberries around the outside so I can pretend that this cake had some Nordic superfood credentials.
Aaand finally the Scandi classic Princess cake. I’m forever drooling over the ones in Scandi Kitchen when I pop in for treats, but it’s strictly look but don’t touch because it’s the real deal and loaded with gluten. I’ve been meaning to bake one but my cakes aren’t really renown for being princess pretty, so when there was one last lonely piece left I knew she had to be mine. Princess cakes are some more of the angel-fairy-stardust light sponge with raspberry jam, whipped cream and creme pât topped with eau de nil toned marzipan (none of that violently yellow vile nonsense that ruins many a good Christmas cake I promise!). The cake originally came about as a baking lesson for Swedish princesses, hence the name, and the princess level pretty. Kakkutupa’s version is royally good!!
When I visited it was the start of Midsummer weekend, which is maybe a bigger deal in the Nordics than Christmas and the lady serving apologised to me for the lack of selection, even though I felt spoilt for choice! In many ways (quality, selection, price) it feels like the Finnish version of London gluten free legends Beyond Bread. They also helpfully list their ingredients in full on their website Kakkutupa.fi and many of their items are listed as maidoton… dairy free!
They’re a gamechanger and it is definitely worth the trek to the ‘burbs to get your hands on their baked goods so you get the full Funland experience! Talking of which I will be flying back out there in a few days, along with a little trip to Estonia… Can’t wait!