Baumkuchen German Tree Cake
Apart from being absolutely delicious, this to me is one of the most intriguing german cakes ever invented. Traditionally, thin layers of batter are brushed onto a rotisserie, creating an effect that resembles the rings of a tree trunk. It fascinates me mostly because I grew up eating the Indonesian version of this grilled, not baked, layer cake. Its true origins are unknown, except that this method of making cakes was already practised in Ancient Greece, and it is speculated that the Germans cake inherited it from their Roman conquerors. If only recipes could talk…
2 – 4 minutes per layer
WHAT YOU NEED
10 eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
90g (31/4 oz/ 3/4 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
280g (10 oz) unsalted butter, softened
250g (9 oz) marzipan, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract OR vanilla essence
Finely grated zest of 1 orange OR lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark rum
100ml (31/2 fl oz) thin (pouring) OR thickened (whipping) cream
125g (41/2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
Bits & Pieces
165g (53/4 oz/ 1/2 cup) apricot jam OR marmalade, mixed with 1 tablespoon hot water
1 quantity Dark Chocolate Ganache
25g (1 oz/ 1/4 cup) roasted flaked almonds (optional)
1 quantity Crème Chantilly OR Vanilla Crème Fraîche
WHAT TO DO
Grease and flour the side of a 23–25cm (9–10 inch) round cake tin, then line the bottom with baking paper.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl with a pinch of salt, and whisk with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add only half the icing sugar, but 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisk well between each addition, until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
Combine the butter, marzipan, remaining sugar, vanilla, zest and salt in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on high speed until pale and fluffy.
Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition. Whisk in the rum and cream, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Whisk in one-third of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Add the remainder, and stir gently with a whisk until combined.
Preheat the oven grill (broiler) for 2 minutes on medium, then spread 125ml (4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup) of the cake batter very evenly over the bottom of the tin. Grill until cooked through and evenly golden brown (2–4 minutes). Repeat this process until all the batter has been used up. Keep in mind that, as the cake gets higher, the surface will brown more quickly but might not cook through, so you might have to place the tin on a lower shelf about three-quarters of the way through.
Allow the cake to cool for 2 minutes, before running a paring knife around the edge of the tin to release the side. Turn out the cake onto a wire rack, and, while hot, baste all over with the jam. If the jam’s very thick, water down further with a little more hot water. Allow to cool completely before icing.
To ice the cake, place it on a serving plate. Tuck strips of baking paper under the cake to catch any falling ganache and keep your plate clean. Pour the ganache over the cake, and spread to cover the entire surface. Keep catching any cascading chocolate with a small rubber spatula and scooping it back onto the top of the cake until the ganache sets. Don’t overwork the ganache, or it will lose its gloss and become dull and matte. Carefully remove the strips of baking paper before sprinkling the flaked almonds over the top. Serve with your choice of dolloping cream.