Around the turn of the 20th century, nearly 150,000 Scandinavians put down roots in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps the rugged landscape reminded them of their homeland; O.B. Iverson, a Norwegian immigrant who settled north of Seattle in the 19th century, wrote, “The jagged summits of the Olympics now appeared clear and cold, sticking out of the dark, green bank of firs on the foothills. I thought of Norway. This scene was different but just as beautiful.”
With come-ons such as that, it’s no wonder they came. By 1910, about one-third of Seattle’s foreign-born residents hailed from Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Finland. They established a Nordic community in Ballard and defined a young city’s ethnic identity—a legacy that endures.
Today, Seattle is still home to a thriving community of Nordic descent—who are responsible for some truly phenomenal treats. This waterside bakery in the city’s North Queen Anne neighborhood churns out hard-to-find Scandinavian cakes, pastries, and breads.
Byen’s most iconic offering is Swedish princess cake, which features pastry cream and raspberry jam layered between vanilla sponge, topped with a dome of slightly sweet whipped cream, all wreathed in green marzipan. Jenny Åkerström, a 20th-century Swedish baking expert, is behind the now-classic cake and its unusual hue. The first recipe that resembled prinsesstårta appears in 1948—but it’s listed as grön tårta (green cake). When the cake was later renamed, no one issued a color change.
Other regional specialties include kladdkaka (a gooey, Swedish chocolate cake in mini and regular sizes), kringle (a sweet, filled pastry) by the slice, tebirkes (poppyseed pastry), lefse (potato flatbread), skolebrød (custard buns), kransekage (wreath cake), semla (custard-filled sweet rolls), lussekatter, and lingonberry or marionberry cheese danishes. Swing by in the afternoon for a fika, the Swedish version of coffee and cake, with a slice of something sweet and one of their house-made cardamom lattes.
Know Before You Go
The bakery is open daily.