As my devoted readers (a big hello to my mum) may have noticed, I haven’t participated in any of the Daring Bakers Challenges for ages. However, seeing as it is my fourth blogiversary, I figured I should give it a shot. And I had never heard of, let alone made, a baumkuchen so it would be a learning experience. At the very least I would hopefully learn how to pronounce it correctly rather than mentally referring to it as a bum kitchen (I’m childish like that).
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). According to Wikpedia, baumkuchen is a kind of layered cake. It is a traditional dessert in many countries throughout Europe and is also a popular snack and dessert in Japan. The characteristic rings that appear when sliced resemble tree rings, and give the cake its German name, baumkuchen, which literally translates to “tree cake”. Traditionally, baumkuchen is made on a spit by brushing on even layers of batter and then rotating the spit around a heat source. Each layer is allowed to brown before a new layer of batter is poured. When the cake is removed and sliced, each layer is divided from the next by a golden line, resembling the growth rings on a crosscut tree. A typical baumkuchen is made up of 15 to 20 layers of batter. However, the layering process for making baumkuchen can continue until the cakes are quite large. Skilled pastry chefs have been known to create cakes with 25 layers and weighing over 100 pounds. When cooked on a spit, it is not uncommon for a finished baumkuchen to be 3 to 4 feet tall. (Please note that I just cut and pasted this from Wikpedia)
We were permitted to use any recipe we liked so, being lazy, I chose this Thermomix recipe. I made a few changes – substituting my home made vodka/vanilla bean infusion for the vanilla extract, Limoncello for the rum and tapioca flour (arrowroot) for the cornflour. These substitutions were made from necessity rather than any particular preference.
The recipe warned that the layering process was tedious and I certainly found that to be true. I started off making layers from 1/4 cup of batter before rapidly increasing to 1/2 cup. In between each layer I was essentially running between the backyard to hang out laundry and to check on the baby, who slept almost through the baking process. I got bored, to be honest, and it struck me later that there were things I probably should have been doing in that time.
However, here is the completed cake:
I had planned to make a ganache but I had one of those nights where everything was going wrong – the baby was hungry, the 5 year old was hungry, the rice was undercooked, the fish was overcooked, the ice cream wouldn’t churn, I put the dishwasher on a 2 hour cycle and didn’t have any clean plates for my guests etc. It wasn’t one of my smoother efforts. So I basically just bunged on a mess of melted chocolate (albeit good quality Lindt) and hoped for the best.
The chocolate was still runny as it was served…
I can see layers!
By some miracle, the evening all came together and was completed by the cake, which became Mr R’s family birthday cake. The uneven layers of the cake which formed a cohesive whole were a metaphor for the evening, which was lovely – full of love, family and chocolate. So thank you, wonderful extended family and Francijn.