Baumkuchen

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With all the bûches de Noël I saw, made and ate last month, I almost forgot we Germans have a `log` cake as well: Baumkuchen, originally baked  on a turning spit, owes its name to multiple layers of dough mimicking the year rings of a tree (Baum). Unlike the bûches, Baumkuchen is not exclusively related to Christmas, but was first baked in medieval times to be served at wealthy people´s weddings, a symbol of growth, life and prosperity.

To make this cake at home, all you need is your oven broiler,  a little time to create layer by layer, and a wary eye to watch those layers as they brown. It´s a fun project for a cold day when a little extra heat is welcome (for you´ll have to open the oven door every few minutes), and with a little patience, you´ll end up with a beautifully layered, subtly rum flavored cake. Cutting it will always reveal some flaws, some layers not dark enough or uneven, some too thick or too thin – imperfections from a baker´s point of view, but then again not, see:

“Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down (….), one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.” (excerpt from Hermann Hesse´s Betrachtungen/reflections on trees)

If a beautiful, pondering piece of poetry isn´t a good excuse, then I don´t know.

May this New year be a happy, healthy, and prosperous one for each and every one of you!

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Baumkuchen – “Tree cake”:
4 eggs
125 g flour
75 g cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
60 g ground almonds
200 g melted butter
175 g powdered sugar
1 pinch salt
2-3 tbsp rum
2-3 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla seeds

glaze:
75 g apricot jam + 2 tbsp water
150 g dark chocolate
40 g butter
1 tsp rum

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk eggs with sugar and salt at high speed until pale and frothy. Melt butter. At low speed, gradually add sifted flour with baking powder, cornstarch and ground almonds while alternately pouring melted butter (slightly cooled) in a thin stream. Add vanilla, rum and a little milk (the latter only if needed) to obtain a thick, smooth and creamy batter.

Grease a small 20 cm /8 inch round springform or a rectangular cake mould with butter. Turn on your oven grill. When the grill is hot, add 3 tbsp of the batter and spread evenly with a spatula or the back of your spoon. Grill until slightly browned. Proceed by spreading 2 tbsp of the batter evenly onto the first, already baked layer, grill until browned and so on until all the batter is baked/grilled. The browning will need more time at the beginning and less time towards the end, so watch what´s going on in your oven to avoid burning.

Once the last layer is nice and brown, take cake out of the oven and leaven to cool.

Once cooled, heat apricot jam with water in a small saucepan. Strain trough a sieve onto the cooled cake and brush cake evenly all over. Leave to dry for 2 hours.

Make a chocolate glaze by melting cholocate with rum and butter over a double boiler. When melted, leave to stand for 2 minutes. Pour onto the cake and allow to drip down the sides. Leave to set.

This cake is best when you give it at least a few hours to rest and set. To serve, cut slim slices from the cake and cut them into small chunks – it´s a cake that you eat like cookies.

baumkuchen

 

 

 

 

28 Comments

  1. I love baumkuchen. When I was growing up, the best bakery was a German bakery in Vape Town and this was their speciality. I remember ordering this as my birthday cake several times.

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  2. This is such an impressive cake. I’ve seen these done before but I just don’t know if I have the patience to bake all of those lovely layers lol Great job 😉

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    1. Actually, it´s not that much work, and I am not a very patient baker myself. The batter is made very quickly, and the layer baking will perhaps cost you 30 more minutes. It will be done faster towards the end! Thanks for your lovely words — HAve a great weekend, Sabine

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  3. I’ve never seen such a thing … I have to try it – trees, after all, are amongst the loves of my life. And cake. But that has to be kept secret else my veneer of perfection might crack 😉

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    1. 🙂 Loving cake makes you an even lovelier person in my eyes!
      I adore or may I better say respect trees deeply, too. They never fail to impress me. HEre around Paris, there are numerous trees called arbres remarquables, remarkable trees, that I love to go see – old, huge , sometimes bizarrely shaped, real characters. It gives you an idea of your own insignificance and small-ness (if that´s a word).

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      1. Small-ness is surely a word! We call our dog Her Smallness quite often as a play on Highness since she is of limited stature but exaggerated sense of her own importance!!! Trees are extremely levelling, I agree!

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    1. Edible labors of love are the best 😉 But it´s not that much work, actually. You´ll get done with the amount of batter rather quickly. And I´ve never known there are Asian versions of tree cake!

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  4. Happy new year, Sabine! What a beautiful cake and I love the idea of holding a tree with its strength and layers as holy. I can get behind that sentiment. This cake looks truly decadent. Im always impressed when someone is adept at both sweet and savory dishes. You nailed it. Happy happy new year! Xo

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    1. HAppy New Year to you, too, Amanda. May it bring you whatever you hope for it to bring. And stay healthy – though this is such a granny thing to say, I mean it for it´s so essential. I´m always looking forward to hearing & reading from you! Have a wonderful weekend! Sabine

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  5. Frohes Neues Jahr, Sabine. Dein Baumkuchen sieht wirklich phantastisch aus, zum Reinbeissen. Das ist mein Lieblingskuchen und – real luxury- kommt jedes Weihnachten als Baumkuchenecken (mehr Schokolade) in einem hübschen Paket…. N xxx

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    1. Dir ebenso, liebe Nicole. Ich hoffe, es geht Dir gut, lange nichts gehört und gesehen von Dir und Deinen Leckereien. Was treiben die Kleinen?
      BAumkuchenspitzen im Paket hört sich natürlich unvergleichlich verlockend an, zumal mit dem Extra an Schokolade. Da ist meine Version ja geradezu light 😉 aber was solls, wenn´s schmeckt!!
      Ganz viele Grüsse, Sabine

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      1. Sehr mobil! Lassen einem keine Zeit zum Verschnaufen… Baumkuchen kann man da nur noch im Vorbeirennen naschen (wird also gleich wieder abgearbeitet). Alles wunderbar, heute gibt es endives en jambon, da habe ich an Dich gedacht. N xxxx

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  6. Hope you’re enjoying the New Year, Sabine. Imperfections are always welcome in my kitchen. How one earth would anyone know that I’ve actually prepared the dish from scratch it every raviolo is like the rest, if every noodle is a replicant of the one before; if each roll is a mirror of the others. No, imperfections are signs of an artisan’s work. (At least that’s what I tell myself.) I’m not at all familia with baumkuchen but it sure is a beautiful cake and totally fitting to be served over the holidays.

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    1. perfectly put John, I very much agree with you on the beauty of small imperfections.And yes, I did enjoy the New Year so far, though honestly what worries me is what´s going to happen in the US starting tomorrow – expecting the worst, hoping for the best. Be well! Sabine

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