Voileipäkakku celebrates Finland’s independence

Voileipäkakku (lit. ‘sandwich cake’) is considered a delicacy served at Finnish family celebrations. This dish has been served at Finland’s Independence Day Reception (informally called ‘Linnan juhlat’, lit. ‘Party at the Palace’) at the Presidential Palace since 1961.

Voileipäkakku is a savoury cake that is compiled of layers of bread slices and savoury fillings, much akin to a gâteau. The cake, iced with mayonnaise or fresh cheese, is traditionally decorated with rosettes made of gravlax, ham shreds and/or cheese slices.

Voileipäkakku traditionally has an elongated shape but round ones are also prepared. It is best to prepare the cake the day before eating but not to ice or decorate it until just before serving. The amount of voileipäkakku needed for serving is 120 to 150 grams per person.

The first voileipäkakku recipes were spreading in Sweden in the 1940s, and the dish landed in Finland in the next decade. The Kotiliesi magazine, which catered to housewives, published its first voileipäkakku recipe in 1956.

Voileipäkakku’s position as a festive delicacy is affirmed by the term ‘cake’ in its name, its similarity with a gâteau and the fact that it is rarely served. It has been deemed laborious to prepare; often it is ordered to the feasting table from a bakery or a catering company.

During the 1950s and 1960s, sweet coffee table offerings were accompanied with savoury options, most often small decorated sandwiches. For the organiser of the party, however, it was laborious to prepare the sandwiches. A voileipäkakku, on the other hand, could be prepared on the previous day for the most part, and took less time and ingredients than individual sandwiches. It also remained fresh at the coffee table for a longer time compared to small sandwiches.

During the latter half of the 1950s, Finnish cooperatives, small farmers’ associations and Martha associations were organising events to teach how to make the dish. Around the same time, voileipäkakku also emerged as part of the selection at cafés and bakeries.

The cake joined the recipe selection of domestic cookery books in the early 1960s. At the ‘Linnan juhlat’ Independence Day Reception, voileipäkakku replaced sandwiches in 1961.

Early recipes used to fill the cake with different butter-based pastes, such as cheese butter, parsley butter or mustard butter, liver sausage, and pastes made of ham, sausages or smoked fish. Both meat and fish fillings could be used in the same cake.

The cake was iced either with filling paste or mayonnaise, but whipped cream could also be used. Typical decorations included parsley, radishes, tomatoes, cucumber, eggs, apples, boiled plums and pickled cucumbers.

Lohivoileipäkakku (Salmon sandwich cake)
10 servings
12 slices of wheat bran toast
6 slices of rye toast
1 3/4 dl milk or lemon water
200 g cold smoked salmon
200 g hot smoked salmon
1 bunch of dill
400 g crème fraîche
600 g fresh cheese
1/2 dl finely chopped chives
50 g Le Gruyére AOP cheese, grated
1/2 dl lemon juice
black pepper and white pepper
1 dl mayonnaise
200 g unflavoured fresh cheese
100 g crème fraîche
Le Gruyére AOP cheese, grated and diced
cucumber spirals
sunflower shoots
pea shoots
  1. Cut the cold smoked salmon into small pieces. Finely chop the hot smoked salmon.
  2. Finely chop the dill. Mix the chopped dill, crème fraîche, fresh cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice and the peppers. Divide the mixture into two bowls.
  3. Mix the cold smoked salmon into one bowl and the hot smoked salmon into the other.
  4. Finely cut out the edges of the bread slices. Set six (2 x 3) bread slices onto a serving plate, tightly side by side. Soak the bread slices with milk or lemon water.
  5. Spread the first fish filling on top. On top of that, layer the rye toast slices and soak them. Add the second fish filling and, to roof the cake, the last wheat toast slices. Soak.
  6. Let the finished voileipäkakku rest in the fridge until the next day.
  7. Mix fresh cheese and crème fraîche. Spread the mixture on top of the cake. Carefully smooth the sides of the cake. Decorate the surface of the cake with grated and diced Le Gruyére AOP cheese, cucumber spirals, and shoots.
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