Vinatarta – tackling a family tradition

Growing up, my favourite thing that my mom made at Christmas time was vinatarta – an Icelandic Christmas cake.  My mother-in-law has tried to make it for me too, but it’s just not the same (I think it’s because she uses cinnamon instead of cardamon).  I have my great-aunt’s recipe, and have often thought of trying to make it myself.  This year, with the decision to spend more time at home over Christmas, I thought I should finally be the mom that makes it part of the tradition for my girls!

The dough:
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
5 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamon

Cream butter and sugar well. 

Beat eggs and add to the butter mixture along with the rest of the ingredients.

Refrigerate for one hour or overnight to make dough easier to handle.

Roll dough and use plate to cut circles in dough.

If using a non-stick cookie sheet, you don’t need to grease it, but if it’s not non-stick, make sure you grease. Bake at 375 for approximately 8 minutes or until golden brown.  Be very careful when taking them off the sheets as they break very easily. Cool layers.

2 pounds of pitted prunes
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Cover prunes with just enough water to cover.

Cook until tender.  Puree in blender or food processor with other ingredients.  Cool.


Spread filling between laters of cooked dough circles.

Leave the top layer plain. You should have 5-6 layers.  (Note: my great-aunt’s recipe says this should make 3 cakes of 5-6 layers each, but I’m thinking she must use a smaller plate, as I only got one cake out of it.  Then again, I also broke 2 layers transferring them from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack.  And I ended up with a ton of filling left over…)

Wrap in plastic and then aluminum foil. Leave on counter for at least a day to season. Cake freezes very well (and will actually likely be better if you do freeze it for a couple of weeks).  For serving, cut cake in slices and then each slice into 3 to showcase layers.

I won’t know how mine tastes until Christmas comes around, but the leftover stuff I have seems to be good so far!

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6 thoughts on “Vinatarta – tackling a family tradition

  1. Jen @familyfoodfitnessandfun

    Wow…I can’t believe there is someone else out there who makes vinatarta!! I love that stuff! I have my Grandma’s recipe which is probably from her mom…but it’s basically the same as your recipe. And yes, you must use cardamom, not cinnamon! I make mine with 6 layers. I love that it tastes better the longer it sits.

    1. Sandra

      I’ve started making Vinatarta for Christmas since my family in N Dakota hasn’t been able to send it to us. My brother and I trade off each year. My kids think it’s cool to bake the cake on the bottom of the pans.

  2. Lisa Raymond

    The women in my family get together each year for a Vinetarta baking party…it’s now my sister, our children and grandchildren. We help each other role and assemble and admire each others creations. We have been doing this every year for over 35 years. It is one of those family traditions that will go on forever in our family. Though the group has changed over the years with the passing of our mother and sister and another sister moving away, we continue on and cherise all the past gatherings and reminisce each year about all the fun we’ve had. Glad to hear others are making this a family event.

  3. Norma

    There are many of us out there who love and make vinnetarta. I am of icelandic decent and as a child it was a staple in our home, thanks to my Amma. Since my Amma passed we seem to have drifted away from having Vinnetarta throughout the year, but continue to make it a staple at our family Christmas gatherhings. I thank my diligent sisters for that. I have tried to make it and it turns out “OK” but not great. I got the ‘cooking’ skills from Amma, but my sisters seemed to have recieved the ‘baking’ skills. I’m not sure which is better or worse. My husband has still managed to gain weight…!! Regardless, there are many of us Icelanders out there who still enjoy to make and eat Vinnetarta.

  4. Joan

    My fave cake still. Thanx for the recipe – I am going to give it a try real soon. I grew up in an Icelandic town – Lundar – and learned to love it there. It was the cake I always asked my Mom to make for my birthday. I like it plain with no icing.

  5. Kareena

    Thank you for this post! I grew up in a small Icelandic town in Manitoba and even though we were not Icelandic my Grandmother made Vinatarta every Christmas. She has since passed away, and I was not able to track down her recipe. But now I found yours…thank you! I made it last night, and although I won’t cut into until Christmas the components tasted and smelled absolutely perfect!


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