The Christmas season is almost here. It is nearly pitch dark here at quarter after four in the afternoon and across the fields and on the road there is just the lighest dusting of snow barely making the gravel look white. The other Saturday after the sun had set, my friend Kaisa Peni released her second recording, called Ihme for the Christmas season. Ihme could be translated as Miracle or Wonder. Click on the youtube link below and pretend to be with us at the recital as you read this blog post and perhaps you will feel the peace of Christmas.

I have found it to be the perfect music to play early in the morning as I have lit a few candles and go uptairs to wake up the sleepyheads for school. I am nearly as much of a sleepyhead. Maybe I am not really a morning person even though for years I really liked to believe that I was.

ihme julkaisu debuteAs I listen to the music, the house is peaceful for once and I have a fuzzy feeling in my stomach. Maybe it is anticipation. This is what Christmas is supposed to feel like: a gentle, relaxed atmosphere in the soft light of candles with your loved ones.

ihme collageKaisa is accompanied on the recording with baritone Elja Puukko, her daughter Jatta and her friend Sanni. Ilia Kalioujnov-Salminen is the very talented pianist. In addition to traditional Christmas music, Ilia has composed and Kaisa has written the words to two new original pieces. I think they just might be my favorites as I found myself humming the melody as I was doing things around the house.

ilia kalioujnov-salminen collage

kaisa peni ihme 3

For the event I made pumpkin squares with a gingerbread mousse filling and a gluten-free no-bake cake. Usually when baking for an occasion, I try to make the gluten-free option complimentary in flavors so that no one needs to feel left out. As we were celebrating a Christmas recording I thought the pumpkin and gingerbread flavors would have both a traditional Christmas flavor as something a bit different usually not found here as pumpkin is not very common. On the recording there is a bit of an international flair as well. There are two songs sung in Russian and one in English. You may remember if you have followed the blog for some time that a year ago Kaisa published her first recording Rauha. A year ago I made Sacher squares with homemade apple jam made with locally sourced apples.

ihme leivos pumpkin square

Pumpkin squares

makes 45 5×5 cm squares

For the pumpkin squares and gluten-free cake, I used the purée of one small pumpkin. It comes out to about a total of 3 dl or 1 and 1/3 cups of purée.
For the pumpkin sponge cake I used the recipe by Joy of baking which I tweeked a bit. Here is the link to the tutorial video, but below are the amounts and the recipe.

For the 45 servings I made three sheets of the pumpkin sponge. Two of them were layered with the filling in between and the third was cut in half, filled and then layered.

The recipe below is for one sheet of pumpkin sponge

1.8 dl/ 3/4 c (95 g/3.4 oz) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
dash of nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 dl/generous 1/2 c (150 g/5.3 oz) sugar
1/2 dl/1/3 c (50 g/1.8 oz) brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 dl/ 2/3 c (150 g/5.3 oz) pumpkin purée

Line a baking sheet with sides with parchment paper. Lightly butter it or spray with a non-stick spray.

Place the room temperature eggs and sugars into a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip until light and fluffy. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a separate including the flour, baking powder, soda, spices and salt. Mix the vanilla extract with the pumpkin purée. Click here for a recipe on how to make your own pumpkin purée.

Fold in the dry ingredients into the egg batter. Last fold in the pumpkin purée. Pour the batter on the lined baking sheet and bake at 180 C/350 F for about 8 minutes.

Once golden brown and springs back to the touch remove from the oven and let cool just slightly. Take another sheet of parchment paper and place on the table. Sprinkle with sugar. Now flip the baked sponge cake onto the sugar so that the top is on the sugar. Carefully remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake (that is now facing to the top). It pays to do this step while the cake is still warm as the parchment paper is so much easier to remove. The sprinkled sugar assures that the cake does not stick to the other sheet of paper.

Filling for 45 servings

1 liter of cream
24 small gingerbread cookies crushed (90 g/3 oz)
5 gelatin leaves
800 g/28 oz quark or a thick Greek or Turkish yoghurt
1 dl/ 1/2 c (105 g/3.7 oz) packed brown sugar
1 dl/ 1/2 c (85 g/3 oz) sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
dash of following: ginger, cloves and nutmeg

Place the gelatin leaves in a bowl of cool water. Let soak according to the package instructions. Bring some water to a boil and set aside. Crush the gingerbread cookies. Whip the cream and fold in the quark. Next fold in the cookies and check for taste. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves and place into a very small bowl or dish. Pour a little bit of the boiling water over the gelatin leaves and mix until dissolved. Fold in the gelatin by pouring it in a stream and constantly stirring.

Spread the filling on the cake and place other sheet cake on top.

Cover the cake with cling film and place into the fridge while the ganache is being prepared. You may also let the cake rest overnight.



I have noticed that working with white chocolate is a bit more tricky than dark chocolate. The cake nearly absorbed the first batch of ganache. I would suggest sealing the cake with a very thin layer of apricot jam.

2 dl/ 0.8 c heavy whipping cream
340 g/12 oz white chocolate

Pour the cream into a bowl and microwave on high for about 1 minute or so that it boils. Roughly the chop the chocolate up. Remove the boiled cream from the microwave and mix in the white chocolate. Stir until a smooth consistency.

Pour the white chocolate over the cake. Melt a few squares of dark chocolate in a separate bowl. Form a piping tube out of parchment paper and pour the melted dark chocolate into. Make thin stripes all along the cake. Using a knife, pull the tip of it through the stripes, alternating the direction every other time.

ihme leivosI have a confession to make. I have been writing this post now for about five days, trying to find those little fuzzy-tummy candle-lit moments. Those moments have not come by nearly as often as I would like. First there is a simple explanation. My husband has been away recently on business, meaning that I am running the household.  Originally I had been planning to write my blog after the house is quiet and with everyone asleep. No such thing. My two youngest are night owls by nature and keep me entertained until the minute I go to bed. And since I have started writing this post, the landscape has turned into a wonderful winter wonderland that just invites us all outside.

The night of the recording debut, I also served a gluten-free no-bake pumpkin cake that turned out delicious. I think it would work perfect for Thanksgiving as would these pumpkin squares above. So instead of working on this post for a week, I saved the cake for my next post. I am planning on posting the new recipe in the next few days. Hope everyone has a wonderful week and Happy Thanksgiving!



  1. I love the sound of your Christmas anticipations…it’s hard for me to feel Christmassy here in Australia in the roasting heat, away from family, and work pressures mounting…but the image (and idea) of waking up to soft candlelight and music with a snowscape outside is so magical! You’ve made me feel just a little bit Christmassy this morning!

    1. So glad if the post made you feel a bit Christmassy 🙂 Yes, it is so easy to loose the feeling of Christmas peace when days are just packed! It would be interesting to experience a Christmas in a warm country. I’m sure it is just as festive, but perhaps with some different attributes.

  2. I’m loving the music as I read the post. It’s beautiful. Your pumpkin squares are just wonderful looking, absolutely perfect and sound delicious. I just love this time of year, the holidays are such a wonderful magical time of year.

  3. The bars sound yummy and do I wish I understood Finn? Oh, yes…seems you neglected the fact your name is listed on the recording also…Kaisa does have a wonderful voice and may try to find more…Thank you

  4. Thank you for sharing the music of your friend. There are so many talented people in the world. So supportive of you to write about her and to bake for her performance! Those squares look amazing and what a lot of work for you. Thank you for spending your spare time to share things with us. I really don’t know how you do it!

    1. Yes, I agree so much talent, and often it can be found in our circle of friends. You know, I feel that blogging gives more than it takes and planning a blog post on a dreary November afternoon sure is a great way to beat the blues and puts an energetic vibe through me. And I like to think that even if my kids “organize” the house and laundry and spread handprints and crumbs all over the place, my blog is a place that stays all neat and tidy. 🙂

  5. Vesi herahti kielelle. Mä oon kans paljon kuunnellu tuota levyä ja huomannut hyräileväni uusia kappaleita. ps. Millos sulta tulee video-postaus? Mä voin kuvata ja yritän olla repeämättä. Jotenkin niin huumori tuo videon leidi ku kehui taikinoitaan ja täytteitään vähän päästä. 🙂

  6. You make everything sound so peaceful and snow-covered lovely. A perfect atmosphere for holiday preparations. The cakes both look wonderful and I’m sure they were much appreciated at the recording debut. What fun to go to such a debut! Very special.

    1. In all honesty it isn’t all peaceful ALL the time, but I suppose that is what I strive for and truly enjoy and cherish those moments…it gives energy for the more frantic ones 🙂

  7. Well done Laila, for putting this lovely post together, even with your little night owl distractions! Such beautiful treats to serve at a musical event, with the customized cookies on top – almost too nice to eat. Really looking forward to your gluten-free no-bake pumpkin cake post too (we have a number of coeliacs in our family).

  8. As usual, a wonderful post. Brilliant photography, serene recital and gourmet cooking almost too nice to eat. Loved it.
    Also beautiful that you support your talented friend and family.
    Thank you Layla
    Visiting from an overcast should be spring day here in Sydney, Australia

    1. Thank you Alexa. Our snow has now melted away completely and kids and adults alike await for fresh snow. It makes the dark seem so much brighter even if the moon if behind clouds. I would be lovely to pop into Australia and get a dose of your spring weather! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  9. Hi TOC!

    Wow! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful piece of music. I now have it bookmarked, so that I may listen to it in the morning as well. Not sure about lighting the candles. I don’t even know if I have candles.

    Your writing is superb. I felt like I was right there with you as you shared those Christmas flavors with the people at the recording. Really, very thoughtful indeed having both gf and regular treats. Thank you.

    Have a superb rest of your week.

    ~Janet @ The Kitchen Bridge

    1. Hi Janet, thank you for your compliments! Hope you have a chance to listen to it in the mornings as you wake up 🙂 …perhaps you will have to make a trip to the store to get a few candles. The soft light embraces the dark making this time of year so much livable.

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