A Christmas treat – the famous German Chocolate Baumkuchen
by eat in my kitchen
A few days ago, I walked through a little park that’s close to our apartment. It’s a very quite place, you don’t see many people there. I like to go on my own when I need a break from the world, to feel some fresh air on my skin and think clearly again. That afternoon the air was crisp, the last golden leaves fell off the trees, and a trio of squirrels was busy collecting their nuts. I felt a bit chilly and as I pulled my scarf closer to my neck, I noticed a change, I could smell winter.
Winter brings many changes, I could sleep more, eat more, and bake more. Baking always plays an important role in my life, especially on the weekends, but during the Christmas season I become excessive. There are so many recipes on my list, my classics, but then I also want to try out new creations. The fabulous Baumkuchen has been on my mind since summer, I love this traditional German Christmas cake that’s usually baked on a spit. The name means tree cake, referring to the fact that it looks like the growth rings of a tree. This cake takes time and it’s a bit of work to prepare. First you bake a thin layer of batter for just a few minutes, then you brush on the next layer and continue until you end up with up to 20 layers (mine has 12, that’s more than enough). It’s a hit at Germany’s Christmas markets where you can see it being baked on rotating spits, close to a grill (broiler) or wood fire.
Baumkuchen has always been one of my Christmas favourites, especially to sweeten my teatime in December’s dark and cold afternoons. I usually buy the cake from the store, but then I had an idea. It was in summer. I don’t remember why I gave it a thought in the heat of July (I guess I felt some Christmas longings), but never mind. It dawned on me that I don’t need a spit and wood fire to enjoy this treat, that I could also bake it in a normal cake pan under the grill (broiler) of my oven. Cut into squares, it almost counts as Christmas cookies, but if you prefer, you can cover the whole Christmas beauty in chocolate and serve it as a cake.
My Baumkuchen is moist, refined with cinnamon and orange, with a strong taste of marzipan. If you have a free afternoon, get cozy next to your oven and bake a tree cake. I wish you a peaceful 1st advent!
Makes about 20 Baumkuchen squares
plain flour 60g / 1/2 cup
cornstarch 30g / 1/4 cup
organic eggs, separated, 6
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
marzipan / almond paste, crumbled, 120g / 4 ounces
unsalted butter, soft, 200g / 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon
brandy 2 tablespoons
granulated sugar 200g / 1 cup
vanilla bean, split and scraped, 1
ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
freshly grated orange zest 1 teaspoon
For the topping
bittersweet chocolate 100g / 3 1/2 ounces
butter 1 teaspoon
orange zest (optional)
Turn on the grill (broiler) of your oven or preheat to 220°C / 425°F (this only works if you can set the heat to come just from the top). Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm / 8″ springform pan or a tall 15 x 20cm / 6 x 8″ cake pan with parchment paper.
Sieve together the flour and cornstarch.
Beat the egg whites and salt until stiff.
In a large bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the marzipan, butter, and brandy until creamy. Add the sugar, vanilla seeds, cinnamon, orange zest, and egg yolks and continue mixing for about 3 minutes or until fluffy. Add the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well combined. Gently fold the egg white into the flour-butter mixture until combined.
Add about 3 generous tablespoons of the batter to the lined springform pan, it should only be a thin layer to cover the bottom. Using a wide spatula, spread the batter evenly. Place the springfrom pan in the top third of the oven and bake for about 3-4 minutes or until golden/ light brown, but not dark. Watch well and mind that the batter can burn within seconds. Take the pan out of the oven, add 3 tablespoons of the batter on top of the first baked layer of cake, spread well, and bake for 3-4 minutes or until golden / light brown. Continue the same way until you have used all the batter, you should end up with about 12 layers. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, take it out of the pan, and let it cool completely. Once cool, cut the cake into little squares.
In a small saucepan, heat the chocolate and butter over low heat or in a bain marie. Let it cool for a few minutes before you decorate the cake.
Drizzle the Baumkuchen squares with the chocolate and decorate with a little orange zest.