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Smörgåstårta is a fabulous, old-school Swedish sandwich cake, and I’ve long been a fan. This version features savory smoked salmon and shrimp salad fillings.

a smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake) on a wooden serving platter
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Why we love this recipe

I’m a huge fan of so many elements of Swedish culture, not least of all the unabashed affinities for deeply savory flavors and a generous dose of whimsy. This traditional recipe is a great example of both, and it’s easy to make at home.

This smörgåstårta has:

  • Satisfying, easy-to-assemble fillings made with smoked salmon, delicate shrimp, and hard-boiled eggs
  • Layered between slices of lightly buttered sandwich bread and frosted with pillowy whipped cream cheese
  • Simple, playful decorations made from thinly sliced vegetables and herbs
  • And for some reason, the vibe of a cute little camper van? It wasn’t intentional, but I’ll take it.

I first published this recipe here way back in 2011, adapted from Lotta Jansdotter’s Handmade Living. I’ve since updated the post for clarity and made some tweaks to the recipe itself. If you’re a fan of old-school food blog narrative, you can scroll down beneath the recipe card to read the original text.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

For the smoked salmon filling

ingredients in bowls
  • You can use your favorite variety of smoked salmon or gravlax — whatever makes you happy. 
  • Whipped cream cheese is nice and soft, making it easy to incorporate into the delicate filling. You’ll use it in several elements of this recipe.
  • A good-quality grocery store mayo is a perfect fit for this recipe.
  • Here’s how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs.
  • Prepared horseradish is grated horseradish that’s been mixed with vinegar and salt. It comes in a bottle but is not the same as horseradish sauce, which is creamy and not what you’re looking for here. Drain it well before adding to the mixing bowl.
  • I prefer to use fresh dill when possible, but a smaller amount of dill weed (dried dill) can work as a substitute if necessary.

For the shrimp salad filling

ingredients in bowls
  • Small wild shrimp from the freezer section are perfect here. They’re less expensive than larger shrimp, and you’ll be chopping them anyway. I like to buy them peeled and cleaned, either with tails on or off. You can transfer them straight from the freezer to a pot of simmering water and cook just until opaque.
  • I sometimes include a couple of hard-boiled eggs in the shrimp salad filling layers, too — you can see them in the assembly photo and the video. It’s totally up to you.

To assemble and decorate the sandwich

ingredients in bowls
  • Arnold Country White is my bread of choice for this recipe. It’s not too thin, not too thick, and easy to work with. You can use virtually any sandwich bread that you like in this recipe, from dark rye to sourdough, depending on the flavor profile and shape you’d like to achieve.
  • You’ll lightly butter the top of each bread slice (or both sides, if you’d like) to add flavor and create a barrier against the filling. Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price.
  • Whipped cream cheese acts as the frosting for this savory cake. Most brands are light and soft enough at room temperature that all you’ll have to do is spread it on. If not, you can whisk in a tablespoon or two of milk.
  • Traditional Swedish sandwich cake decorations usually include thinly sliced vegetables, herbs, and sometimes filling ingredients such as small shrimp, smoked salmon, and hard-boiled eggs. Here I’ve used a mandoline slicer to thinly slice some rainbow radishes and English cucumber, and a vegetable peeler to create long, thin ribbons of carrot to roll up into rosettes. I’ve plucked a few pieces of flat-leaf parsley from their stems and added those as well. You can get as creative as you like with this part of the process, or keep things very simple.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make this old-fashioned Swedish sandwich cake. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll make the fillings.
  2. Remove crusts from bread and cut slices in half, then lightly butter them.
  3. Assemble the cake, alternating bread and filling layers.
  4. Frost the cake with whipped cream cheese and decorate with vegetables. That’s it!
a smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake) on a wooden serving platter, with a slice cut out on a plate

Expert tips and FAQs

Got any variations?

Sure thing. For starters, you can really use any bread you like in this recipe, which gives you options in terms of flavor, texture, and shape. Dark, dense rye would not be out of place, nor would a sourdough boule, if you’d like to make a round cake.

You can also include basically any sandwich filling that holds together well, in addition to or in place of the ones recommended here. Traditionally, a Swedish sandwich cake includes either meat or fish fillings, but you can make a vegetarian or vegan one if you like.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

You can. Many smörgåstårta recipes call for chilling overnight either before or after frosting to let the layers come together. I don’t find it necessary, but you can do so if it helps you out schedule-wise. Leftovers will keep for a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge.

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a smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake) on a wooden serving platter

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a smorgastarta (swedish sandwich cake) on a wooden serving platter
4.75 from 8 votes

Smörgåstårta (Swedish Sandwich Cake)

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
Smörgåstårta is a fabulous, old-school Swedish sandwich cake, and I've long been a fan. This version features savory smoked salmon and shrimp salad fillings.
Prep: 45 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
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Ingredients 

For the smoked salmon filling

  • 4 ounces (113 grams) smoked salmon, finely chopped
  • cup (60 grams) whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh horseradish or prepared horseradish sauce
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the shrimp filling

  • 1 pound (454 grams) cooked shrimp, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced fresh dill
  • cup (80 grams) mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons (22 grams) whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional: 2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped

To assemble the Smörgåstårta

  • 8 slices firm white bread, crusts removed, and 3 of the slices cut in half crosswise
  • 4 tablespoons (56 grams) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (360 grams) whipped cream cheese, at room temperature

To decorate

  • Thinly sliced cucumber
  • Carrot, sliced lengthwise with a vegetable peeler
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Parsley leaves

Instructions 

  • To make the salmon filling, combine the salmon, mayonnaise, cream cheese, dill, horseradish, eggs, and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine well.
  • To make the shrimp filling, combine the shrimp, dill, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and pepper in a medium bowl and stir to combine well.
  • To assemble the Smörgåstårta, start by buttering the bread slices, either on one or both sides. Lay 1 1/2 bread slices on a cutting board to form a long rectangle.
  • Top with half of the salmon filling.
  • Layer another 1 1/2 bread slices on top, and top with half the shrimp filling.
  • Repeat with the remaining bread and fillings, ending with a layer of bread. You will have half a slice of bread left over.
  • Press gently on the sandwich from the top and sides to compress the layers a bit.
  • To frost the smörgåstårta, spread the top and sides with cream cheese.
  • Decorate with the vegetables and parsley (or other ingredients of your choice), any way you like.

Notes

  1. You can use your favorite variety of smoked salmon or gravlax — whatever makes you happy. 
  2. Small wild shrimp from the freezer section are perfect here. They're less expensive than larger shrimp, and you'll be chopping them anyway. I like to buy them peeled and cleaned, either with tails on or off. You can transfer them straight from the freezer to a pot of simmering, well-salted water and cook for a couple of minutes, just until opaque.
  3. A good-quality grocery store mayo is a perfect fit for this recipe.
  4. Prepared horseradish is grated horseradish that's been mixed with vinegar and salt. It comes in a bottle but is not the same as horseradish sauce, which is creamy and not what you're looking for here. Drain it well before adding to the mixing bowl.
  5. I prefer to use fresh dill when possible, but 1/2 teaspoon of dill weed (dried dill) can work as a substitute for each 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh dill if necessary.
  6. Arnold Country White is my bread of choice for this recipe. It's not too thin, not too thick, and easy to work with. You can use virtually any sandwich bread that you like in this recipe, from dark rye to sourdough, depending on the flavor profile and shape you'd like to achieve.
  7. You'll lightly butter the top of each bread slice (or both sides, if you'd like) to add flavor and create a barrier against the filling. Here and virtually everywhere, I start with a cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. This sounds fancy but doesn't have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is sold in most supermarkets at a reasonable price.
  8. Whipped cream cheese acts as the frosting for this savory cake. Most brands are light and soft enough at room temperature that all you'll have to do is spread it on. If not, you can whisk in a tablespoon or two of milk.
  9. Traditional Swedish sandwich cake decorations usually include thinly sliced vegetables, herbs, and sometimes filling ingredients such as small shrimp, smoked salmon, and hard-boiled eggs. Here I've used a mandoline slicer to thinly slice some rainbow radishes and English cucumber, and a vegetable peeler to create long, thin ribbons of carrot to roll up into rosettes. I've plucked a few pieces of flat-leaf parsley from their stems and added those as well. You can get as creative as you like with this part of the process, or keep things very simple.
  10. You can also include basically any sandwich filling that holds together well, in addition to or in place of the ones recommended here. Traditionally, a Swedish sandwich cake includes either meat or fish fillings, but you can make a vegetarian or vegan one if you like.
  11. Many smörgåstårta recipes call for chilling overnight either before or after frosting to let the layers come together. I don't find it necessary, but you can do so if it helps you out schedule-wise. Leftovers will keep for a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge.
Adapted from Lotta Jansdotter's Handmade Living.

Nutrition

Calories: 410kcal, Carbohydrates: 19.2g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 32.4g, Fiber: 1.1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sandwiches
Cuisine: Scandinavian
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Here’s the 2011 text

Smorgastarta Recipe Savory Swedish Sandwich Cake 780 | Umami Girl
2011 photo

Something of a Swedish fetish

Having already shown you how to cure your own gravlax and promised you the recipe for a savory Swedish birthday or tea cake called Smörgåstårta, I probably don’t need to spell out in further detail that I have something of a Swedish fetish. It’s a good thing, too, because Smörgåstårta is kind of a nightmare to spell.

And even once I’d wrangled those umlauts and A’s into submission (or wised up and made Command + S the Smörgåstårta key on my computer, because what could go wrong there?), I still wouldn’t be able to enunciate the term “Swedish fetish” with any accuracy, replicability, or lack of projectile saliva.

Challenges

Finally, I doubt many of you have tried to style a Smörgåstårta for a photo shoot. If you have, please get in touch with me privately to pass along any suggestions you may have for post-traumatic-stress recovery. At any rate, I’m grateful at least that I don’t have a Finnish fetish, because that would be even harder to say, and people might think I’d said I have a spinach fetish, which I do. I have no idea where that would leave us, but I’m certain it wouldn’t be anywhere good.

Solutions

Despite all of that, the moment I first became aware of Smörgåstårta, I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until I’d made one. (That was even before I realized it would give me an opportunity to say things to the toddler such as, “Finish your Smörgåstårta and then you’ll have your nap,” and “No, this is not your birthday cake.”) Anyway, I first laid eyes on a Smörgåstårta six months ago, so I’m pretty exhausted at this point. That could explain a lot, actually.

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.75 from 8 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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10 Comments

  1. A tip for the styling of the photoshoot. Traditionally you cut smörgåstårta into cubes and eat it “vertically”, not into slices.

    Great recipe, loved it!

    1. Thank you, Maynard! This post is due for a major update, so I will keep that in mind for the reshoot. Appreciate your insight.

  2. I too was afraid of the pickled herring… Now I have tried it, and it made me lick my licks for about an hour and a half afterwards, I too have a fetish.

    This cake looks right up my street!

    Love your blog.

    Jenny from Silver Screen Suppers x

  3. I must admit that I was expecting a sweet cake but I am pleasantly surprised. I fell in love with pickled herring when we were in Kiel, Germany for 2 weeks. I had it for just about every meal and prepared in numerous never-in-my-wildest-dreams ways. This is definitely novel. Come to think of it, this “cake” is like a layered sandwich! I don’t know if I’ll have the guts to make it but a lovely, entertaining post all the same!

  4. Gotta make this! I was married to a Swede long ago and came out of the marriage with two wonderful children and an abiding love for pickled herring (which my family called ‘bait’). Costco has big jars of it.

  5. Carolyn,

    This looks and sounds delicious. We both love pickled herring and smoked salmon. I actually loved those before Dennis, but he’s a good eater and seems to love all foods. I know it will be a big hit!

  6. I love that you have a Swedish Fetish!
    The Smörgåstårta is now going through a revival here in Sweden right now after having been something grandmother and mother would serve and all of a sudden it´s supercool. I´m not surprised that umamigirl caught that trend!

  7. Hilarious! I’m too lazy to try it myself but I’d love to taste it! The photo looks great too – worth it!