The Forgotten Vinarterta

The Forgotten Vinarterta

Jóhanna Guðrún Wilson Skaptason is one of the Western Icelanders who bakes Vinarterta when there is much at stake. On the occasion she sets the table with her seagull china service and then serves her ever-so-popular freshly baked, aromatic Vinarterta.

Proudly she claims the cake essential as wedding- or birthday-cake in her home town Manitoba. Since her grandparents, who were in the first settlement group from Iceland in 1875, Iceland has always held a special place in her heart.

Vinarterta is one of the traditions the Icelandic settlers brought with them from the old country. It was the most popular of cake and biscuits, and traditionally served on special occasions like on Christmas, at weddings and such. It’s preferably round with many layers of prune filling, nonetheless people argued about if it should have other kinds of jam, if there should be cardamom or vanilla in the dough, and if it should be with topping or not.

In time the Vinarterta’s popularity declined in Iceland, new trends made its way in cake-making where the meringue-cake took its place. Vinarterta, however, became the national cake of the Western Icelanders as a reminder of the old country. Surprisingly, her friends’ relatives in Iceland had never tasted such cake, unaware of its popularity in the New World.

Jóhanna has just turned 100 years old and still uses her mother’s (and namesake) Vinarterta-recipe.