Recipe: Latvian Birthday Cake (Kringel)


Birthdays are fun but birth days are even more so. Family and friends hugging, smiling, crying – everyone in wide eyed at the wonder of a new child’s most innocent gaze. Since Keith’s grandson was born last week, I thought it appropriate to make a birthday cake in his honor. I sought out such a thing in Latvia,only to find something very unexpected. Latvians have a tradition of baking pretzel-shaped sweet bread – not exactly cake – and topping it with candles.

The Kringel, as its called, can be used to celebrate birthdays and name days – which, as it sounds, is the day dedicated to celebrating your particular name. From what I’ve read, Latvians celebrate name days with gifts and parties, and often these celebrations are even larger than their standard birthday celebrations.

So let’s get to celebrating, Latvian-style. Welcome to the world, little Kaiden Ray.

Recipe inspired by Latvia (Cultures of the World, Second).

Makes 1 large pretzel


2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp saffron
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
2 tsp thin strips of lemon zest
2 tsp this strips of orange zest
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick 0f butter, softened)
5 1/2- 6 cups flour
1 cup raisins


1 egg for egg wash
1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds


Whether you are brand new here, or you’ve been around a while…

Skyscraper in Latvia. Photo by Normunds Rustanovics. Koknese Castle, Latvia. Photo by Stgubr92.

… you are worth celebrating.

So let’s do it!

To start with, simply dissolve yeast in warm water with saffron and a pinch of sugar. Let set five minutes.

Then, mix the bubbling mountain of yeast with remaining ingredients (except almonds) in the bowl of standing mixer, only adding as much flour as needed to form a soft dough.

Knead dough for ten minutes. The dough will continue to look sticky – feel with your hands to see – while still moist, it’ll most likely not stick. Look for it to clean the sides of the bowl.

Let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Roll into a long log (about 3 feet), then cross ends over each other to form a pretzel. Be sure to leave at least a  fist-sized opening in each of the pretzel holes, or they will close up when baked. Let rise again for thirty minutes, while the oven is preheating to 350F. Brush with loads of beaten egg and sprinkle with almonds. The egg will give it a shiny crust.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Cool sightly, add birthday candles and …

… you know what to do next!

Enjoy while still warm with butter, jam, and powdered sugar.

Perhaps with this as your view:

The Rudņa river in Latvia. Photo by Alinco Fan.

Thank you, Latvia!

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  1. neat, Sash…almost like an Irish ‘Bread’….except the ingredients are contrastingly ethereal as in delicate & refined…saffron!…almonds!…cardamon!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’m eating leftovers now – it’s sweet, and raisin-tastic. Very good with a cup of tea. Although, I will say, it is rich so it’s best not to take too big of a slice!

  2. Welcome to the little one! We have name days also in Italy – it depends on the region really, but in some parts it is bigger than birthday. Also, since often children tend to have their father’s or grandfather’s name, and this is often the patron saint of the place, it tends to be a generic, widespread party.

  3. Jessica Bennett says:

    Wow, saffron- that’s pricy! Looks delicious though! Welcome to the world, Kaiden (beautiful name, by the way- and not so common, so he might be celebrating with too many people for his name day).

    And I just saw over on the right that I missed voting in the poll for Lebanon. Guess making yogurt wasn’t a popular idea. Oh well. You should do it anyway one day just because :)

  4. Birth days are more fun than birthdays if you are not the one who just gave birth. In that case, it may be the most amazing day of your life…but I wouldn’t call it fun! But you know that better than me ;o) Welcome to your “grandson”, what a unique day it must have been for K. And now Ava is an auntie! Pretty kringel.

  5. Interesting to see something familiar. :D
    I would, however, correct your source on the point that this dish is called klingeris (kliņģeris), not kringel and so far I haven’t ever heard about anyone using saffron in the dough. :)
    But then again, I don’t believe there is some “true” recipe for klingeris nowadays.

  6. I loved his post. Making a traditional cake for a brand new baby is a gorgeous idea!

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