by: Max M Rasmussen

Grandmas Klejner (klenät - fattigmann - kleynur - kleinur)

Klejner, klenat, fattigmann, kleynur, kleinur - Max M Rasmussen
Video Recipe - Classic Danish/Scandinavian cake specially eaten at Christmas. I have certainly not seen it in other parts of the world. And this really IS grandmother's recipe. That is, not my grandmother, but my wife's father's grandmother. But that counts as well.


yields about 30 klejner

  • 2 eggs
  • 125 g (4½ oz) butter
  • 125 g (4½ oz) sugar
  • 1½ dl (5 fl oz) whipping cream
  • 1 tsp salt of hartshorn (ammonium carbonate or baker's ammonia)
  • 450 g (16 oz) flour
  • 1½ grated zest of lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (is not in grandmas recipe, so it is optional. But most danish recipes do use it.)

for boiling/frying

  • 1 kg (2 lbs) lard or vegetable fat, or mixture of these.


Day 1 - mixing the dough

Knead all the ingredients together and let the dough rest for a day in the fridge. The time in the refrigerator makes the dough elastic and so elastic that it can be twisted without breaking, and the cakes also raise up better when they fry. The waiting period can be reduced, but the dough becomes less elastic, and you get more deformed klejner.

Day 2 - frying / boiling

Put flour on the dough and your work surface. Roll the dough flat. Very flat. Approximately 5 mm (1/4 inch) thin. It's almost as thin as you can make it without rolling the dough into pieces.

Cut out the rhumbus shapes. For example, with a pizza knife or bread knife. Begin by cutting long strips. Then cut those diagonally across.

Cut an incission in the middle, and fold one tip through the incission to wring the klejne-knot.

Deep fry in hot fat 170ºC-180ºC (338ºF-355ºF) for about 2 minutes on each side. Until evenly brown and the release of bubbles is almost over.


Ammonium carbonate is an old type leavening, which was actually derived from deer antlers in the old days.

Back in the the olden days the used only pig fat (lard) for frying. Nowadays it is more common with palm oil. Palmin is ok for a vegetable oil, but it is not healthier than lard :-S Lard tastier, makes for a crispier dough and about half the price. I typically used to mix lard and palm oil. But currently I use only lard.

You can use other tasteless vegetable oils like corn or grapeseed oil too. Not olive oil though.

The lard smells a bit of fried pork like when frying, but the cakes does not taste of it when you eat them.

If the fat is not hot enough, they take too long a time to cook and absorb faar too much fat. So the right temperature is critical for the fat. You really should use a cooking thermometer.

"Klejner" is synonymous with "small change" in Danish and the Norwegian word is "fattigmann" which directly translated means "poor man". So it probably a poor mans cake, and one that could be made without an oven.


Aaaand since I posted the recipe the Internet has been kind to point out that there is at least this list of names: