Every Christmas my Norwegian grandmother baked a wonderful sweetened Christmas bread she called sestakake (ses ta kah kah), and that some call Julekaga. Baked in a loaf pan, it was filled with candied fruit and spiced with cardamom. There was no better Christmas morning than to cut and butter a slice of sestakake and have it with your morning coffee. Not everyone is familiar with sestakake, or the story of how it came to be, and so verse-afire now tells the true tale of the birth of that wonderful Christmas time treat, sestakake.
Once upon a time, they say, in a kitchen bright and gladsome,
A Viking boy looked up and said, “I really wish I had some.”
“Had some of what?” his mother asked, while reading from the saga.
“A sweet, a treat,” the young man said, “a slice of Julekaga.”
“I know from Jule,” his mother said, “I also know from kaga,
But I don’t know from both combined, sometimes you drive me gaga.”
“I’m sorry mom,” the boy replied, “it’s something I invented,
A Christmas bread, with candied fruit, and aromatic scented.”
“Sounds good,” the Viking mom replied, “but right now I am reading,
“’Bout Thor and all those Viking guys, and don’t have time for kneading.
Besides,” his mother said aloud, a frown upon her features,
“You should be thinking Viking thoughts, like maiming fellow creatures.”
“I do that all the time,” he sulked, “it’s just that when I’m finished,
I put my sword and shield away with cravings undiminished.”
She put her saga book away and led him to the kitchen,
“I’ll make your Julekag,” she said, “if just to stop your bitchin’.”
“You’ll need some pans and flour too,” the boy said all aquiver,
“Plus candied fruit and yeast and salt, and naturally a siever.
We need some sugar too, of course, as well as lots of butter.
I’ll clear the table off so you can work without the clutter.”
And that’s how, many years ago, a Viking son and momma,
Produced what we now all recall as seasonable drama.
When floured pans and baking bread smell permeate the kitchen,
That Sestakake urge begins and Vikings start to itchin’.
We slice it thick, we slice it thin, we slice it down the middle,
We butter once, we butter twice, we toast it on a griddle.
We dunk it in our coffee or we eat it while we’re walking.
We eat it while we drive the car, we eat it while we’re talking.
And all because a Viking boy dreamed dreams of baking wonders,
And taught to all the little Arnes and all the little Gundars,
The joys of making Christmas bread, and rounding out the story,
The secret’s handed down to us in all its Christmas glory