Why ceremonial pancakes are one of Denmark’s highest honors

Victorious athletes and visiting dignitaries in Denmark get their just deserts/desserts at Copenhagen City Hall — the "Rådhuspandekager" or city hall pancakes. But where does the tradition come from?

Why ceremonial pancakes are one of Denmark's highest honors
City hall pancakes, or Rådhuspandekager, are an iconic Danish tradition. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

Sure, the fame and fortune are probably great, but Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard has a real honor headed his way on Wednesday. After his ceremonial ride through Copenhagen, the mayor will treat him to the plate of pancakes that has become a staple for celebrated individuals for 90 years. 

In 1928, when King Albert I of Belgium came calling in Denmark, a cook named Phillip Olsen at the historic Fredensborg Store Kro (that’s an inn) whipped up a new recipe he thought might appeal to a waffle-loving Belgian. The king was so taken by the dish that it’s been served to foreign officials, prize-winning artists, and victorious Danish athletes ever since.  

For an official reception, the town hall cafeteria churns out up to 1,000 pancakes, head chef Elisabeth Christensen told VICE in 2018. The team made 4,000 pancakes for Copenhagen’s Culture Night that year, she added. 

READ MORE: Denmark celebrates home-grown Tour de France winner Vingegaard

If you merit an invitation to town hall, don’t come looking for a flapjack — Rådhuspandekager look like a cross between a crepe and a cannoli. It’s a thin, crispy pancake rolled and filled with orange creme, topped with apricot jam and and toasted almonds. 

The town hall recipe remains secret, but after a Danish egg company popularised the pancakes in the 1960s they’ve become a household favorite.

If you don’t expect to win the Tour de France soon, here’s a recipe for how to prepare your own Rådhuspandekager. Or, gather a group and book a guided tour of City Hall, which includes a pancake and glass of sparkling wine (seems easier than all that biking). 

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Why does Denmark reopen parliament at the start of October?

Denmark’s new parliamentary year is always commenced on the first Tuesday in October. Why is the custom important and what can be expected this year?

Why does Denmark reopen parliament at the start of October?

Parliament is opened each year on the first Tuesday in October with a traditional speech given by the prime minister – somewhat comparable to a ‘State of the Union’ speech – in which she gives her assessment of the situation in the Scandinavian nation as the new political year begins.

In practical terms, the reopening of parliament means Danish lawmakers will go back to voting on and discussing law proposals.

The reopening of parliament meanwhile often sees demonstrators gather in front of Christiansborg. Different groups lobbied for causes including climate and childcare standards in 2021.

The opening speech is usually attended by the Queen and members of the Royal Family, who watch from the Folketinget parliament’s Royal Box.

After lawmakers attend a service at the nearby Christiansborg Slotskirke church – which is also used for royal ceremonies – the Queen and other royal family members arrive at parliament for the opening ceremony, where they are received by the Speaker.

This year’s ceremony will be attended by Queen Margrethe, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, and the Queen’s sister, Princess Benedikte.

The opening session is traditionally led by parliament’s longest-serving member. Formalities including voting for the Speaker and deputy speakers.

That is followed by the traditional opening speech from the prime minister.

While there are no predefined expectations as to the content of the speech, the Danish constitution states that the PM must make her assessment of the state of the kingdom and present some of the government’s initiatives.

Usually, the prime minister gives a speech at which she outlines the government’s strategies and key issues for the incoming parliamentary session, and sums up the previous year.

Two years ago, most of the regular traditions of the annual opening of parliament were observed amid Covid-19 restrictions, with the church service attended by most members of parliament moved from its normal location at Christiansborgs Slotskirke to the larger Holmens Kirke nearby, to allow social distancing.

Last year’s opening speech was used by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to talk about topics including affordable housing, international climate targets and education.

This year could be markedly different with the energy crisis and war in Ukraine dominating the political agenda.

An even more immediate point of interest at this year’s opening is the likelihood of an election being announced.

The Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party has demanded Frederiksen call an early general election, an ultimatum issued in response to the conclusions of an inquiry into the government’s 2020 mink scandal, which resulted in Frederiksen receiving an official rebuke.

The Social Liberals wanted an election called by the time of parliament’s return and have threatened to bring down the government through a vote of no confidence if an election is not called by October 4th. As such, an election would have to be called today to meet the demand.

Talk of an election is therefore high as parliament returns, but the government appears to have been given an extra day to call the vote, news wire Ritzau reported on Tuesday morning.

“The exact day means nothing for me. And I can also see that several commentators have noted that an election will be called on Wednesday [October 4th]. And that is completely fine with me and us,” Social Liberal political leader Sofie Carsten Nielsen said.

Legally, the government could wait until June 4th, 2023 to hold a general election – the last one was in 2019. Until now, Frederiksen has skirted the issue of calling an election when asked about it by journalists, but an announcement will now surely be made.

READ ALSO: Could Baltic Sea gas pipe leaks affect Denmark’s election timeline?