Today in Finland is a very special day. It is Runeberginpäivä, the day of Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), the national poet of Finland.
Probably his major work was The tales of Ensign Stål, first published in 1848, in Swedish.
This collection of quite patriotic poems tells about the war of Finland, war between Sweden and Russia during the years 1808-1809. The first poem called Maamme, “Our land” in finnish language, even provided the lyrics for the finnish National Anthem.
Runeberg was a “pullahiiri”, finnish way to say that he loved sweets, and his wife Fredrika cooked all the goods to him. It happened so that after Christmas time there were a lot of piparkakku (ginger breads) and pulla (sweet breads) leftovers. So Fredrika wanted to make something out of them. That’s how she created Runebergintorttu: biscuits as basic ingredient, almonds and some liquor, like rhum or punch. On the top of the cooked little cake there is an “eye”, made out of raspberry for the center and powder sugar for the ring.
Since her husband had such a sweet tooth, she decided to add just a few drops of bitter almond oil so that the taste would be more bitter and Mr. Runeberg wouldn’t eat the sweets so much. Well, Fredrika’s idea didn’t quite work since the bitter almond oil only improved the flavour to a more mature direction. Many still insist, that the only true Runebergin torttu is the one with a small drop of this peculiar essence.