I’ll admit it freely, I’m not getting any better at posting anything on time here. Sorry about that. Last month’s baking challenge for The Daring Baker’s was actually a recipe that I have heard referenced in Japanese culture, but which originally stems from Germany or near there: baumkuchen. This beautiful little cake is made in painstakingly thin layers, one layer at a time until there are dozens of them, one on top of the other. Each layer is baked individually, so it browns on top and when you cut into the cake you can see each layer, tan against the lighter yellow of the cake, and since it is normally baked on a spit (which makes the resulting cake round), it got the name “tree cake”.
This is a cake which will test your patience. But the result is gorgeous and something I would highly recommend trying at least once. For little kids, try coloring small amounts of the batter and layering on different colors for a “fun” take.
6 eggs, separated
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup marzipan (5.3 oz)
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup flour
1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Get out a 9″ cake pan, grease, line with parchment paper and grease again (do NOT ignore the parchment paper. You will be tempted especially since I just told you to grease it exactly like the pan, but stay strong and ignore your inner demons! Line with parchment paper and grease again!!)
3. Beat the egg whites with the salt until soft peaks form.
4. Slowly add the sugar to the egg whites. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
5. Crumble the marzipan in a bowl. Cream together with the softened butter.
6. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, cream together with the butter mixture until smooth.
7. Add the egg yolks to the butter, one at a time, beat until well combined.
8. Fold in the egg whites and flour, alternating until all ingredients are well combined, but try not to lose volume.
9. Now for the fun part: put 2/3 cup of batter in the bottom of your pan and smooth it out with a spoon. You want it as flat as possible, though when working with a round pan I generally give it a spin before putting it in the oven (centrifugal force sends the batter to the outside, it eases back in during baking, but minimizing to “dome” effect seen on many homemade cakes).
10. Bake for about 4 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown.
11. Add another quarter cup of batter, smoothing it like the first one, and bake for 4 minutes, until golden.
12. Repeat step 11 until you run out of batter – this takes a while.
13. Allow the cake to cool then gently flip it out of the pan.
14. These can be glazed with either a simple sugar syrup or with a chocolate glaze (I did chocolate with cream and a touch of coconut oil as just a nice simple ganache to go over the top).
15. Slice in thin pieces and serve!
Notes about this recipe: It was certainly an interesting experience. Unfortunately I really don’t like marzipan, so the flavor threw me off a bit. Others I fed it to (family, friends, coworkers, the kids I tutor), said it was good, and it certainly didn’t last long, but for the work that went into it I feel like I could make something more satisfying. Still, a fun challenge, and one that I may pull out if I’m ever doing a gingerbread house contest – slice at an angle and this would come off really well as a grained wood. However, if you’re into marzipan and you have a free evening I highly recommend giving this cake a go.
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).