The January 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Francijn of “Koken in de Brouwerij”. She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).
This past weekend we got our first real snowfall of the winter. It started on Friday very lightly and just kept going, never heavily, just a light, steady snowfall. Practically everyone I know back in the U.S. lives on the East Coast and has been pummeled with wintry weather many times this season. Over here in Austria, the land of mountains and skiing, we are having a very mild winter. Yes, I am in a city so I shouldn’t expect much snow, but friends and students who have gone out the country-side to go skiing have said that there isn’t much snow out there either. In fact, Austrians are pretty annoyed about the lack of snow because it means that in order to get in their beloved ski time, they need to put out fake snow, which costs $$$. Or rather, €€€.
I’m not a skiier, so I don’t want snow for that reason. I just think winter seems more like winter when we get some of the white stuff. Besides, when it is snowy out I have a real excuse to stay inside, take over the kitchen, and bake.
This Baumkuchen is my second Daring Kitchen challenge and first for the Daring Bakers. I was so excited to see that this month’s recipe was for Baumkuchen. Baumkuchen is a Northern/Central-European cake traditionally baked on a spit over a fire. The earliest known recipe is from 1450 and around this time it was a popular wedding treat. In German, the name literally translates to tree cake, which comes from the cake’s unique layers that resemble tree rings. It is also typically flavored with another European favorite, marzipan. The whole cake is then covered in rich dark chocolate. You can buy Baumkuchen at a wide variety of establishments, from cheap grocery stores like Aldi to fine cafes.
Sometimes the cake is also flavored with orange and, as I love a good Terry’s Chocolate Orange, I couldn’t help but put that flavor into my cake, too. I added some fresh zest to the cake batter and replaced the usual apricot jam with orange marmalade. Definitely a winning combination.
Chocolate Orange Baumkuchen
Adapted from 101 heerlijke recepten voor cake & gebak via Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij
- 3 eggs, separated
- pinch salt
- 1 1/4 cup + 1 T granulated sugar
- 7 T butter, softened
- 1/3 cup (2.5 oz) marzipan
- 1/3 cup + 2 T powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla sugar (don’t try and sub in vanilla extract)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 tsp fresh orange or clementine zest
- 2 T orange marmalade
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks (about 3.5 oz)
- 1/2 T butter
- sliced or slivered almonds, for decorating (optional)
Turn your oven broiler on high (or to about 450ºF if you have a temperature option). If your oven doesn’t have a broiler, simply pre-heat to 450ºF. Grease and line a 4″x8″ loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on the two skinny ends. Be sure to grease both the pan and the parchment paper!
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt. Do not do this in a plastic bowl, as egg whites are very sensitive! Copper is best, but any metal, glass, or ceramic bowl will do. When the egg whites are nearly stiff, add the granulated sugar in three stages and continue beating until they reach the stiff peaks stage. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, cream the softened butter. Crumble the marzipan into the creamed butter and beat with orange zest, powdered sugar, and vanilla sugar until soft and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Gently fold in the egg whites and flour (use a large wooden spoon or a rubber spatula for this step).
Smear a few tablespoons of the batter onto the bottom of the pan and bake/broil for 3-4 minutes, until the top is golden-brown. Remove from the oven and add another layer of batter. Bake/broil for another 3-4 minutes, remove from the oven, and continue until you are out of batter. The less batter you use for each step, the more layers you will get. I would aim for making at least 6 layers; I had 7.
Let the cake cool (the original recipe says to let it cool on a wire rack, but I left mine in the tin for most of the cooling time).
Flip the cake over so the wider end is sitting flat on a piece of parchment paper, a wire rack, or a baking tray. If the cake is on a wire rack be sure to place something underneath it to catch the drips, like parchment paper, foil, or a baking tray. Warm orange marmalade until it can be easily passed through a fine sieve. I zapped mine in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Spread the strained marmalade over the top of the cake. Allow to cool.
Melt chocolate with butter in a double boiler. When melted and smooth, pour or spoon over the cake so the top and sides are completely covered. If desired, decorate with slivered or sliced almonds.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Best one day after baking.