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).
Wow, this was a fun challenge! And a fairly labour-intensive one! You need to have a good measure of patience, given you need to cook each layer separately, but the result is definitely worth it! Being a continental style cake, the taste is quietly sophisticated and not overly sweet. Everyone loved it. I do recommend making your own almond paste if your only other option is the sweet processed stuff you get in the supermarket – it’s a breeze to make and you feel really righteous when you tell everyone that not only did you make this super cool looking cake, but you made your own almond paste as well! They’ll think you’re God’s gift!
BAUMKUCHEN (TREE CAKE)
- 6 large eggs (room temperature)
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) (4-1/4 oz) (120 gm) granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) marzipan or almond paste
- 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) (7 oz) (200 gm) softened unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1 package) (8 grams) sugar
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (sifted)
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) apricot jam
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange liqueur (optional)
- 1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) dark chocolate (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure coconut oil
- Preheat your oven to hot 450°F/230°C or use your broil/grill option (which is the traditional method and which ensures the bottom of the cake doesn’t dry out and burn).
- Line your cake tin (approx. 25cm round spring form pan or 20-22cm square) with parchment paper, grease both paper and tin.
- Divide the eggs. Beat the egg whites with the salt until nearly stiff, gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff and glossy.
- Finely crumble the marzipan or almond paste (my paste was soft and pliable so didn’t need crumbling). Beat it with the softened butter, confectioner’s (icing) sugar and sugar until soft and creamy. Add the egg yolks one by one and beat well between each addition. Add the stiff egg whites and flour and gently fold it into the batter, trying not to lose too much air.
- Smear a good half cup or so of the batter on the bottom of the pan and broil (grill) for about 4 minutes in the oven, until it is cooked and brown (you need to ensure it’s brown, as this is what defines the layers, but be careful it doesn’t burn). Take the pan out of the oven, leave it for about a minute and smear about a quarter to a third cup portion of batter carefully over the first (you’ll find that the batter you smear on will quickly melt, given the hot cake beneath it, but this is fine and in fact makes it easier to smear and for the batter to self-level), and bake for another 4 minutes or until cooked and brown. Repeat until all batter is used. If you wish, you can smear on some warmed apricot jam every few layers between batter layers to increase the flavour, but that’s entirely optional.
- Let the cake cool down for a few minutes, take it out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and let the cake cool completely on a wired rack. Trim the edges.
- Heat the jam a little, pass it through a sieve, and add the orange liqueur (optional). Cover the cake with the jam and let it cool.
- Melt the chocolate with the coconut oil in a bowl above warm water. Pour it over the cake to cover completely, move the cake to a cool place and wait until the glaze is dry.
- You can leave it as is, or decorate with sliced almonds (see my version below) or coconut.
Freezing and storage : The tree cake tastes better when you wait one day before eating it. Eat within a week. Store in an airtight container, but not in the fridge. Freezing is possible: cut into portions, wrap tightly in cling film and freeze up to two months.