From Iceland — Words of Interest: The Secret Cheese

Words of Interest: The Secret Cheese

Published September 28, 2016

Words of Interest: The Secret Cheese
Photo by
Eunsan Huh

If you’ve been to Iceland, or live there, chances are you’ve probably had “skyr.” It’s a popular treat and you can find many flavours and variations, including a drinkable version. “Skyr” is often mistaken for yogurt, which is understandable, given its commercially sweetened flavour and frequent appearance at the breakfast table. But, if we’re going to get technical about it, skyr is actually a cheese.

It was brought to Iceland from Norway over a thousand years ago, and, back in those days, it was made with sheep’s milk. Today it’s made with cow’s milk (still, it’s pretty authentic, since Iceland does not import livestock, and the cows that make milk in Iceland today are direct descendants of the cows that made milk for the Vikings many centuries ago). It takes four cups of milk to make a single cup of skyr, which explains why skyr has such a thick consistency. As you can imagine, it’s a great source of protein.

Like Greek yogurt, skyr lends itself generously to a number of culinary uses, including mousses, muffins, breads, dips, smoothies, and soups. Here’s a recipe for “skyrkaka,” or “skyr cake,” that I learned from my friend David (who learned from his friend Brynja). It’s not traditional by any means (it calls for cherry pie filling, which is possibly the most American of all pie fillings) but it’s impossible to mess up, and tastes like a party.



1 package crispy chocolate chip cookies
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups vanilla skyr
1 can cherry pie filling, or other fruit compote


Step 1. Crush chocolate chips with Viking might until they resemble coarse gravel
Step 2. Lay cookie crumble to rest on cake pan or pie dish and spread to make an even layer.
Step 3. Whip heavy cream with mixer until stiff peaks form.
Step 4. Stir in skyr.
Step 5. Pour cream/skyr mixture into cake pan and spread cherry pie filling on top.
Step 6. Cover and refrigerate overnight, unless impatient and hungry in which case just leave it in there for a few hours and eat goopy cake.

Every Single Word in Icelandic is a pictographic exploration of the Icelandic language. I find an interesting compound word, then deconstruct and illustrate it as icons. The goal is to express how Icelandic can be deadpan literal and unexpectedly poetic at the same time.

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