Aren’t these the cutest things?
If you’ve heard of Aebelskivers, also known as ebelskivers, you may have also heard of Solvang, California, a Danish village located on the Central Coast. Danish colonists founded the village in 1911, which has retained a Scandinavian flair ever since. My sister and I drove down there a couple months ago to check out the windmills, cheese shops and year-round Christmas stores, and took the time to enjoy a plate of these delicious pancake balls with raspberry jam. Aebelskivers are kind of like a cross between a pancake and a doughnut. When fresh, they have a delightfully crispy exterior and a slightly sweet interior, and are served sprinkled with powdered sugar. You can also fill the balls with jam, Nutella, fruit, and other fillings.
Chris grew up with Aebelskivers, not because he has Danish heritage, but because through visiting Solvang several decades ago, his grandmother acquired an aebelskiver pan, and started a tradition of making the pancake balls on family camping trips. So when Chris found a cast-iron aebelskiver pan at the local Goodwill, he snapped it up immediately.
This weekend, instead of our usual Saturday-morning pancakes, we made a batch of aebelskivers. And they were not just exciting as a novelty, but really good as well. The crust is crisp and golden, and the insides are fluffy and flavorful.
The recipe we used has the pancake balls subtly spiced with cardamom, which gives them a slightly lemony, nutmeggy flavor. To turn the balls, use a skewer to loosen the batter around the sides. Poke it through the middle of the batter right down to the bottom, and turn the entire pancake ball gently 1/4 turn. The center of the pancake ball should still be runny and the batter will run out, filling the extra space. After a minute or so, turn the ball 1/4 turn again so that the original bottom of the ball is now on the top.
My husband reminded me that these are a lot like the takoyaki balls we enjoyed in Japan (we also had the opportunity to cook them at a Japanese inn). They are indeed made in a very similar way, but the aebelskivers are rather larger and fluffier. And they don’t have octopus in them, or shaved fish flakes, mayo and soy sauce drizzled over top. Takoyaki are very good too…but very very different.
Aebelskivers – Danish Pancake Balls
Adapted from Sunset
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
2 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp melted butter plus extra
Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl (dry ingredients). Then mix together the next 5 ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry flour mixture and stir until incorporated.
Heat cast-iron aebelskiver pan over medium heat until it sizzles when a bit of water is dropped onto pan. Turn heat down to medium-low. Grease holes in pan by brushing melted butter on with a pastry brush. Fill holes with batter, being careful not to over-fill them, as batter will puff up slightly as it cooks.
Once a crust has formed (about 1 min), loosen the batter from the sides of the holes with a skewer. Poke the skewer into the center of the batter right down to the pan, then pull skewer up the side of the hole, turning the entire ball 1/4 turn. Batter will spill out to fill the hole in the pan. When the crust is set, turn once again to form a complete ball. Cook for a minute or two until entire ball is golden-brown all over. Using the skewer, remove from pan. Repeat with the rest of the batter, greasing the holes with butter between each batch.
Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and a dollop of raspberry jam.