Blog-checking lines: 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).
The last time that Francijn hosted, she introduced me to a cake that I had never heard of before called a Gevulde Speculaas. It was one of my favorite challenges both for its flavor and uniqueness. She’s done the same thing again this time, introducing me to a cake that is made by cooking the layers one on top of the other resulting in a cake with rings like a tree and which is appropriately called Tree Cake (Baumkuchen).
Commercially, Baumkuchen is cooked layer on layer in a big spit above a large container containing the batter, with a broiler (grill) next to it. The batter is poured over the spit, and when cooked, the next layer gets poured and cooked, this is repeated; until you have 15, 20, or even 25 layers of cake. Click here for a picture. The little brown lines between the layers of cake are the reason the cake is called “tree cake”. Baumkuchen is very popular in Japan as well, where it is called baumukuhen it is served at weddings, because of its ring form.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to try to cook our challenge cake on a spit. Our challenge was a simpler version of Baumkuchen with the Schichttorte (layer) technique of smearing thin layers of almond sponge batter on top of each other and baking them one by one, creating a multi-layered cake. To make it even more delicious, the cake top is spread with melted chocolate.
I actually made two attempts at this cake, using different techniques and flavors each time. The first version was a vanilla cake baked in the manner specified by the recipe we were given. For the second version, I divided the batter and flavored one half with cocoa powder and one half with espresso. Following the recommendation of a few other bakers, I broiled the cake layers instead of baking them. I had much better luck with the broiled version (less overcooked on the bottom and softer throughout) and the layers showed up better with the definition between colors.
I managed to get 13 layers both times, though they don’t show up as well as I would have liked in the vanilla version. I used a muffin scoop to portion out the batter so that it would be consistent for each layer. It was tricky spreading the batter on top of each hot baked layer and I found that a pastry brush worked well.
It’s best to let the cake wait a day to fully develop its flavors before eating it, but we didn’t manage to wait that long! This was a really fun and unique challenge and resulted in a delicious cake no matter what method of cooking I used.
- 6 large eggs (room temperature)
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) (4-1/4 oz) (120 gm) granulated sugar
- ⅔ cup (160 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) marzipan
- 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) (7 oz) (200 gm) softened unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (180 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) confectioner's (icing) sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1 package) (8 grams) vanilla sugar
- ⅔ cup (160 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (sifted)
- ⅓ 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 couverture chunks
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure coconut oil
- Preheat your oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.
- Line your cake tin with parchment paper, grease both paper and tin.
- Divide the eggs. Beat the egg whites with the salt until nearly stiff, add the sugar and beat until really stiff.
- Crumble finely the marzipan. Beat it with the softened butter, confectioner's (icing) sugar and vanilla 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 1/12th to 1/10th of the batter on the bottom of the pan, keep the sides of the pan clean, and bake for (about) 4 minutes in the oven, until it is cooked and brown. Take the pan out of the oven, smear the next portion of batter carefully over the first, and bake for another 4 minutes or until cooked and brown. Repeat until all batter is used. If you need to flatten a bubble insert a tooth pick or similar to deflate the bubble.
- 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 couverture 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.
If you have a broiler, you may want to try making this cake with the broiler instead of baking it. Place the pan about 5 inches under the broiler and cook each layer for about 1 - 2 minutes until browned on top. This will result in a cake that is more evenly baked throughout and less brown on the bottom and sides.