Tippaleivät – Finnish May Day fritters


In England, for May Day we all – of course – morris dance around poles bestrewn with ribbons and get drunk on ale*. I’m not sure we have any particular traditional celebration foods. So I was looking around for treats from other nations. I came across tippaleivät (plural) or tippaleipä (singular).

Tippaleivät are eaten in Finland as part of celebrations on Vappu, the Finnish May Day, Walpurgis day. Love that word, Walpurgis. Walpurgisnacht. That’s German of course, though Germany has a relative of tippaleivät, cruller, the US has its funnel cake, while they’re all also arguably a distant relative of the South Asian jalebi. Mmm. Jelabi.

Frying 2

Basically they’re just swirly fritters, which can be flavoured with lemon zest and vanilla, though the latter can come via a dusting of vanilla-flavoured icing (powdered) sugar. I’ve seen recipes for yeasted versions, versions with baking powder, and versions with no raising agent at all. I’ve taken the middle path.

My Finnish friend Tomps tells me that tippaleipä means “drop bread” – as in, you’re dropping the batter. I’ve read lots of tips on how to shape the fritters as you fry them as you just pipe a worm of thick-ish batter straight into the oil. Some people say use a ladle, others a metal ring of some persuasion, or even a tin can with both ends removed.

But using a ladle and a piping bag simultaneously over hot oil seems a tad fiddly to me, whilst most tin cans these days have a plastic lining – not ideal in oil at 180C (360F, for those of you in the 19th century). So I just did mine free-form. They’re perhaps not the neatest, but they hit the spot.

Squeezing, dribbling

Happy May Day! Happy Vappu! And indeed happy Beltane!

2 medium eggs (about 100g beaten egg)
25g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
100g milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence [optional]
zest of half a lemon [optional]
Sunflower or rapeseed (canola) oil, for deep-frying
Icing sugar, for serving

1. In a large-ish bowl, combine the egg and sugar, and vanilla (if using), and beat slightly.
2. Sieve together the flour and baking powder, add the salt and zest (if using).
3. Alternately add flour mix and milk to the egg, beating to create a thick batter.
4. Put the batter in a piping bag fitted with a smallish nozzle, max about 5mm. Alternatively you could use a plastic freezer bag and snip off the corner. Just keep it away from the hot oil!
5. Heat the oil to 180C.
6. Drizzle a thread of batter into the oil, forming a nest shape.

Dribbling, frying
7. Cook until golden, about 4 minutes, then take out and drain on paper towels.

8. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

In Finland, they’re eaten with a lemony mead drink, sima. We’re just having ours with coffee and hot chocolate.

Tippaleivat, overhead



* Or not. Due to the convention of Bank Holiday Mondays, today isn’t a national holiday – that comes on Monday. Which isn’t actually May Day.


Filed under Cakes, Pastry, Recipes

6 responses to “Tippaleivät – Finnish May Day fritters

  1. Hello, could you please put your measures in the U.S. form please its very hard to follow your scrumpsus receipes

    • Hi Patricia

      This is something I’ve thought about, but I’m British, and work in grams and celcius. I’ve always used scales; I’ve never used cups and we don’t have “sticks of butter” here in the UK, or in Italy where I was living when I started this blog. We buy butter in pats of 250 or 500g, for example.

      Using grams is simply easier and more accurate, especially when scaling and calculating. Even in the US, many serious bakers will only use grams – check out many of the recipes on The Fresh Loaf for example. I’ve chatted on The Fresh Loaf with American bakers who get really frustrated with poor translation between gram recipes and cup recpes and are happy to just use the grams.

      I’ve tried to translate to cups, but it’s awkward and very time-consuming, and frankly, it messes with the accuracy. Never mind variables like the difference between a US and an Australian or NZ cup, further complicating things.

      I’ve mentioned it on and off over the years here how problematic I find it; just look online at conversion tables, and people can’t even agree on, say, how many grams of flour in a cup (as how much flour goes in a cup depends on how compacted the flour is anyway). However, this may be useful for conversion.

      Check out Gluten Free Girl’s blog where talks about her decision to switch: http://glutenfreegirl.com/2011/03/why-we-dont-use-cups-in-our-recipes/ and even gives a list of links of where to get affordable electronic scales in the US.

      Seriously – invest in some electronic scales! They don’t need to be expensive, and are a great addition to your kitchen equipment.

      Now if only I could encourage all those US bloggers to use grams…


  2. I think you need to write a book about deep fried things. Call it Sweet heart attack heaven or something. The smell of deep-fried sweet things was so pervasive and mouth-wateringly good that it was hard to concentrate on work this afternoon. And they were a very good accompaniment to coffee.

    On the question of cups, it’s a tricky one. I think it’s hard for UK people to convert accurately to cups when we aren’t used to the concept and testing is tricky. If you convert and it goes wrong, that’s a waste of lovely ingredients, and frustration for the US baker. At least you know that the concept of a gram is relatively international. But it does mean buying more kit.

    What can you deep fry for me tomorrow?

  3. deliciouslynell

    Neat! I loved learning about this sweet treat.

  4. June

    Just started reading your blog. Thank goodness I’ve found you. Wonderful. I’m American and I find it much more accurate to use grams than cup measures. There are many great scales that will read in grams or ounces. I prefer grams – more precise. I’m very glad that you write your recipes as you do.

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