Last September the Husband and I went on an amazing trip to Iceland. It was our 7th time visiting and we just can’t get enough of the place! Indeed since this trip we have visited again in February 2018 and are planning another visit this Fall! But let me not get ahead of myself. I’m just going to tell you about the September 2017 visit right now. Believe me, there be more to come. So last September, we were mostly focused on visiting the East Fjords, but we did spend some time revisiting the South Coast. Although we had been there several times, there were still plenty of things in the area that we hadn’t experienced. I first encountered this Varmahlíð Apple Cake
at The Garage Apartments, which are an absolutely wonderful base of operations if you are visiting that area of the country.
These lovely modern rustic apartments are found in former old garage that is located on a family farm belonging to Anna & Siggi. This picturesque homestead is nestled right up to the foot of the mountain topped by the Eyjafjallajökull glacier, under which the famous air traffic interrupting volcano resides.
Varmahlíð actually means “warm hill”. There is another Varmahlíð in North Iceland. With all the geothermal activity on the island it is easy to see why there would be more than one place known as Varmahlíð. But here I’m referring to an area on the South Coast near the Ejyafjallajökull volcano.
Siggi’s family has been living on this land for over 200 years. Now Anna & Siggi are operating a “gentleman’s farm” on the site as well as managing several apartments for Iceland’s ever-expanding tourist market.
Located exactly between the two famous waterfalls Skógafoss
these exceptional apartments are the perfect central location for taking in all the South Coast of Iceland has to offer. We of course visited the waterfalls, not our first visit but they never seem to get old. We spent some time on the black sand beach near Vik
and visited the plane wreck at Sólheimasandur.
Next we travelled out to the breath-taking Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar).
Once there we met the adorable Tóti, Vestmannaeyjar’s famous puffin
and saw the whole town turn out to rescue baby pufflings at night (for more info on the pufflings and Westman islands (see Iceland links below). We went on an exciting rib safari tour around Heimaey.
Drank some local beer at the Brothers Brewery,
visited the Eldheimar museum which documents the story of the surprise 1973 eruption of the volcano which caused the roughly 5,00 locals to flee on fishing boats in the middle of the night to the safety of the mainland. The eruption, which lasted for 5 months, buried 1/3 of the town in lava and destroyed over 400 houses and businesses. The resilient islanders did return and rebuilt the thriving community you will find today. Fascinating stuff! You really should consider visiting.
And if all the gorgeous scenery hasn’t convinced you, we had the best meal we have ever had in Iceland, which is saying something because the food there is fantastic. The restaurant is Slipurinn. Located in an old machinery shop this family owned eatery features seasonal local sourced dishes often including herbs and seaweed foraged right there on the island. Simply divine food in a friendly and casual environment. Don’t miss it!
Back on the mainland, we hiked the magnificent Fimmvörðuháls trail, a big accomplishment for us. This challenging 13 mile hike took us up over a mountain (approximately 3,600 feet elevation), past 22 waterfalls,
past the still warm lava fields from the most recent eruption,
between two glaciers,
over the Kattarhryggur (cat’s spine)
and down the other side through Goðaland (the land of the Gods),
finishing in Thorsmork (Thor’s Forest).
It was just jaw dropingly gorgeous and occasionally somewhat terrifying! – Narrow paths with steep drop-offs are not for the faint of heart!
And not only was the Garage Apartments location ideal for all our explorations, but Anna was also such an amazing host, so friendly, warm and welcoming. Her spacious apartments were stylishly decorated, sparklingly clean
and filled with thoughtful little touches,
and as if all of that was not enough, she served us scrumptious freshly home-baked desserts every day! This delicious Apple Cake was one of them.
This particular Iceland trip was chock full of activities and I can not tell you how happy we were to come back to find home baked treats waiting for us. What a pleasant surprize! Moist and tender and not too sweet, it was just perfect with a nice hot mug of tea. Anna kindly shared the recipe with me, which I will now share with you.
I must admit, I had to do a few conversions before baking this cake. I don’t have any measuring devices marked with deciliters – but I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. I baked the cake in an 8X8″ pan, but you could also use a 9X9″ – just make sure you adjust the baking time.
And if you are planning a trip to Iceland anytime in the future and want to visit the South Coast, you’ll know exactly where you should book your accommodation. As a matter of fact, the Husband and I are taking our parents to Iceland this fall. It will be their first trip so we will be playing tour guides for them. And guess where we’ll be staying…That’s right! We are very much looking forward to our upcoming stay at the cozy Garage apartments. For further Iceland recommendations, see my guide at the bottom of this post. In the meantime, try this recipe and enjoy a slice of Varmahlíð Apple Cake while you plan your upcoming adventure.
Varmahlíð Apple Cake
recipe from: Anna, owner of the Garage Apartments
- 200 grams soft salted butter
- 2.5 Deciliter Sugar (1 cup + 1 Tablespoon)
- 3 eggs
- 1 Deciliter Cream (100 ml)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 -5 green apples – sliced
Preheat oven to 355° F (180°C)
Place the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and mix to combine. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add the cream and vanilla. Stir to combine.
Add the flour/baking powder mix to the batter. Mix until just combined.
Place the batter in a buttered deep 8X8″ baking pan and top with the apples. ( I sprinkled the top of my cake with cinnamon sugar, but this was not included in Anna’s recipe. If you love cinnamon like I do, just mix 1/4 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and sprinkle over the apples before baking.)
Bake for 45 -50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean at 355°F (180°C).
Varmahlíð Apple Cake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)
Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Varmahlíð Apple Cake:
Links for Planning your vacation in Iceland:
I have tons of links, as well as some lovely photos, and delicious Icelandic recipes in previous blogs that I have written about our adventures in Iceland. For some inspiration take a look at:
Here is a fun video that show you some of the beauty Iceland has to offer, which will surely get you excited for any upcoming Iceland visit. And it will teach you a few words in Icelandic as well. It is known as “The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World”! Sing along to Inspired by Iceland’s “A – Ö of Iceland”.
If you enjoyed this video, take a look at Inspired By Iceland’s site. They have great little videos showing you gorgeous scenes from each area of Iceland, while teaching you a few more Icelandic words along the way.
Westman Island links:
To Buy tickets on the Herjólfur Ferry as well as read about all the things to see and do take a look at: Visit Westman Islands.
Hotel Vestmannaeyjar – Great accommodation on the Islands.
Stofan Bakhús – Great bakery! Got the best kanilsnúðars there that I have ever had in Iceland! We also got some great sandwiches to take on a hike. Everything there looks delicious. Go be tempted!
On puffins: If you travel to the Westman Island at the end of August/beginning of September there is a good chance you will see baby puffins (pufflings) being rescued by the local children. At this time of year, the pufflings leave their nests but get confused by the lights of the town and rather than flying out to sea, they end up flying into town. The children go out at night with flashlights to find them. They take them home in cardboard boxes for the night. The next morning they take them to the Saeheimar Aquarium to be measured and weighed and the children can have their pictures taken with their little charges as well. Once done, the kids take the little birds to the shore and release them back into the wild during daylight hours so that they won’t become confused. We were lucky enough to be there when this was happening and it was unforgettable!
*On a sad note: Tóti the Puffin passed away in July. He was a great ambassador for Vestmannaeyjar and brought joy to many. The Husband and I are so glad we were able to meet him. He will be sorely missed.
Interested in hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail? See here:
If you are interested in hiking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, you can go all on your own. However, we strongly recommend going with a guide. Weather at the top of the mountain is very unpredictable and many tourists have ended up having to call ICE-SAR to be rescued. Don’t let this happen to you! We absolutely love the tour company Midgard Adventure and have gone out with them on many exciting adventures. They not only provided us with a knowledgeable and engaging guide but when we descended down into Thorsmork after our epic 9 – 10 hour hike, the folks from Midgard had grilled some hot dogs and were waiting for us with a cooler of beer as well as other snacks. It was just perfection! Check out their other tours as well. They are an amazing company! And they now offer cozy accommodation as well. Take a look at their basecamp where you can find a restaurant, cafe and bar as well.