What is Baumkuchen and how is it made

Baumkuchen is a speciality cake much loved by Germans. It takes its name, meaning tree or log cake, from the way the batter was originally deposited and baked, layer by layer on a thin log which was rotated over an open wood fire. It is said to have its origins with the ancient civilisations of the Greeks and Romans. It is believed the Romans brought the technique for producing the Baumkuchen as they conquered Northern Europe and in Germany the techniques were practised and enhanced to give the modern-day Baumkuchen.

A typical recipe is:

500 g butter

500 g sugar

500 g flour

The recipe can be varied by adding other fillings such as ground nuts, honey, marzipan and rum or brandy.

The method of baking is critical and it is doubtful that it can be carried out without special equipment. Normally baking is carried out in a specially constructed oven which is heated at the bottom with open gas jets. Above, there is a revolving hardwood tapering roller or tube upon which is fastened either a piece of cloth or, more usually, buttered greaseproof paper, which is tied with thin string at regular intervals to assist in the adhesion of the batter and subsequent removal of the baked cake.

The batter, which is similar to that used for Sandkuchen (a traditional Madeira-type batter), is poured over the greased paper while the roller is constantly revolving. To prevent large cakes from slipping off the rollers, the latter are preheated and the first layers of cake are baked more thoroughly than the following layers. As each layer is cooked, a further layer is poured over until the desired thickness is obtained. Baking is accomplished by adjusting the heat source and/or the distance of the cake from that source.

In order to obtain the characteristic regular wavy appearance, the rotating cake is scraped with a large metal comb and finished with a specially shaped rod. Using a broad palette knife the cake is then marked in rings where the pieces of string hold the paper. While still in the oven the baked cake is decorated with apricot puree which serves as a glaze. Other finishes such as fondant or chocolate can be added afterwards. The roller is then removed and the entire cake cut up into rings or used in an upright position as a speciality cake for Easter or other festive occasion.

Sometimes the cake is removed immediately from the roller and cut into a variety of sections (e.g. rings, wedges, slices). The crumb of the Baumkuchen is firmer and drier than that of Madeira cakes. The regulation of the flames during baking is very important and experience is needed to get the best results.

Continue reading here: What are the origins of poppadams

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