The Swedish tradition of serving seven different kinds of cookies at a dinner, party or social gathering is a concept that dates back to the 1800s. It refers to the minimum number of cookie types that should be provided on one cake tray. In 1800, when wheat was introduced to Swedish fields, a competitive spirit among bakers developed, creating more and more recipes for cookies, “småkakor” (small cookies), biscuits, and cakes. In the mid to late 1900s it became tradition, that when a guest came to visit, a Swedish wife was expected to serve up seven kinds of cookies on one platter. If you made more than seven, it would be seen as showing off, if you made less, it was considered stingy. According to this tradition of the “kafferep,” all cookies should be home made. Because of the strict guidelines of this tradition, hostesses sometimes competed to outdo each other in how gourmet or complex their home-made pastries were.
The tradition has become so strongly rooted in Swedish culture that a book with the title “Sju Sorters Kakor” has become a staple of Swedish baking ever since it was first published in 1945. It was created when the grocery chain ICA collected 10,000 recipes as part of a competition, and from these, selected those they deemed best, to compose the first edition of ”Sju sorters kakor” (Seven types of cookies). Today you will find this book in almost every Swedish home. It is theorized that at the end of World War I, meaning the end of rationing eggs, flour, sugar, butter and fat, Swedish housewives became eager to bake. Today it is Sweden’s best-selling cook book with 3.4 million copies sold (as of August 2005), published by ICA Test Kitchen at the ICA Publishers, it is now in its 84th edition.