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Æbleskiver require a special pan. Photo by Chris Moore.
Æbleskiver require a special pan. Photo by Chris Moore.

Viborg's Pancake Balls

Jun 21, 2012

“Æbleskiver? What’s that? How do you spell it? How do you SAY it?” It’s funny when you realize that something that you take for granted is completely unknown to most of the rest of the world. So it is with my beloved æbleskiver. Unless you’re lucky enough to be of Danish descent or have been to Viborg’s United Methodist Church for their popular Danish Days æbleskiver breakfast (to be held at 7 a.m. on July 21, 2012), you are probably not familiar with this, the best of all possible pancakes.

What’s so special about pancakes, you ask? These are ball-shaped, thanks to a cast-iron pan with round indentations. The holes are liberally greased with butter or shortening, which helps prevent sticking, and the batter is turned once or twice with a knitting needle, chopstick or fork to create a spherical treat.

According to legend, the pancake of the Danes was invented by hungry Vikings. Raiding and pillaging worked up an appetite, so the Nordic warriors fried up pancakes on a war-battered shield — the closest thing to a pan they had handy. Believe that if you like, but the name means “apple slices,” not “post-raiding snack.” Long ago, the pancakes were served with an apple slice or dollop of applesauce inside, but today they’re generally made without filling. In Denmark, they’re served with a dusting of powdered sugar and a bit of jam. Around here, I’ve seen them topped with maple syrup, honey or cinnamon sugar.

In the old country, æbleskiver aren't for breakfast. They’re reserved for Christmastime, which seems like a pity. This was the most special of breakfasts in my family, a treat of treats. I remember Mom working over the cast iron pan with her knitting needle, deftly turning the batter until the buttermilky balls were golden brown. My brothers and I wolfed down the ‘skiver as fast as she could deliver them to the table, mashing them into the piles of cinnamon sugar on our plates. I’m not sure if Mom ever got to eat any, but I have no regrets over my youthful greed. Sorry for not being sorry, Ma.

There's plenty of æbleskiver recipes out there, but here's how my mother, a Viborg, South Dakota native, makes them. To get an idea of the process, view our æbleskiver-making photo gallery.



2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons sugar

Beat egg yolks. Add sugar, salt and buttermilk, then flour and soda. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and baking powder. Place small amount of fat in a heated æbleskiver pan.  Fill indentations about 2/3rds full. Turn the batter once or twice to create a more-or-less round ball, cooking until centers are done.


09:33 am - Fri, June 22 2012
Katie said:
Laura, where did you find your aebleskiver pan?
12:44 pm - Fri, June 22 2012
Laura said:
It was a gift from my mom. I'm not sure where a person goes to pick one up -- Holsen Hus in Sioux Falls, maybe?
01:35 pm - Fri, June 22 2012
serena said:
these pans are actually available thru avon! i got one....then i wasn't sure if i could use it on my ceramic stove i haven't yet....
08:29 pm - Fri, June 22 2012
Marsha Peterson (Ma) said:
Laura's pan was a gift for her birthday years ago and was purchased at Ace Hardware in Sioux Falls. They still carry them as well as everything you need to make lefsa. My pan came from my Viborg grandmother, Hannah Mark. I am not ready to pass mine on yet as I am sure that I have many good years left to make aebleskiver. I will say that the cast iron pans are the best. Yes Laura, I did get to eat some of those treats, but usually at the table by myself after the 3 of you had moved on to other things! The same thing happened when we made lefsa. Thank you for sharing those special memories. Love you.
07:14 am - Sun, June 24 2012
Renae said:
My sister gave me one of the pans from Avon this year and it actually works quite well. It's smaller than the ones my grandma had and the holes are probably a bit smaller too, but works just fine. (I was a little skeptical that Avon would know how to do aebelskiver pans but apparently they do!).

Thank you so much for this article, the timing was awesome since I just got my pan two weeks ago. I'm from Viborg and am on the Danish Days committee (and am also a member of the Methodist Church here in Viborg) and can vouch that there is not a better breakfast in the world than the Viborg UMC Danish Days breakfast! Thanks again for the story, love it!
10:13 am - Tue, June 26 2012
Kristi Renken said:
I cant believe you guys never shared this wonderful treat with us! They sound good!
09:54 am - Tue, July 10 2012
*Just Fran* said:
Williams-Sonoma offers these pans and last Christmas did a big spread promoting them in their catalog. There is also a vintage cast iron one at Second Impression Palace in Mitchell that I pick up and then put back down every time I visit the shop. I have never had these pancakes, but you have fed my already eager interest.
02:26 pm - Fri, May 31 2013
Amanda Peterson said:
I was given my æbelskiver pan from my dad. I think it had belonged to his grandma at one time? Grandma (Margaret Peterson) would know where it came from. (I, too, am a member of the United Methodist Church) You can still buy them at Ace Hardware. I live in Dell Rapids now & many up there didn't quite know what they were. I made them for my significant other & he's now hooked! …so are his buddies ;) Grandma got me started putting Apple Butter on them, but my other half would much rather dip them in butter & sugar. I still prefer the apple butter.
03:13 pm - Fri, May 31 2013
Laura said:
Ah, apple butter! That was not something I ever used, but now that you mention it, I remember introducing a bunch of my big-city friends to aebleskiver once. One of the ladies there decided dipping her skiver (and her bacon) in homemade apple butter was the thing to do.

08:41 pm - Fri, May 31 2013
Jill said:
My pan was my Grandma's pan. I am from Viborg and I carry on the traditional of aebelskiver on Christmas Day for my family. My daughters both have pans as well. I bought one on ebay. I still like the big heavy original pans and not the new ones. My favorite topping is butter and sugar or grape jelly. Apple butter is good too.

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