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 Daring Bakers I participated in was in January of 2012. That’s right. 2 years ago. In January of 2012 we had just moved in to our rent house in Houston and not too long after I discovered I was pregnant with Betsy. With a move and a new baby that year I was kept pretty busy. By that time I was out of the habit and blogging wasn’t a priority, so 2013 came and went without any Daring Bakers challenges. But with my resolution to blog more came a desire to get back into it. I’d forgotten how many things I’d made that I’d never have made otherwise. Thanks, Daring Bakers. This is a fun group to be a part of and I’m glad to be back. Hoping to continue participating this year without interruption…with the exception of the month of June. And maybe July. We’ll see how it goes.
Tree cake, or baumkuchen, is something I’d never heard of or seen before taking a look at the January challenge. And to be honest, I might not have made it even if I had seen it somewhere. The process of making the cake is time intensive, baking the cake in 10-12 layers, and the cake batter is more involved than cakes I’ve been making recently. Separating eggs and beating egg whites to stiff peaks and folding them in is something my lazy self has not had the desire to do. But it was a lot of fun and I actually enjoyed the entire process and the final result.
One of the only problems I encountered is that I didn’t do a great job of estimating how thick to spread my layers in order to end up with 10-12 total. My first layer was too thick, then the next 6 or so were too thin, and by that time I had so much batter left over that my final cake was probably 16 layers total and had baked for at least 12 extra minutes. This made the bottom of the cake (the first layer I made) pretty dark. I’m afraid this also made the cake just a tad dry. I also chose not to glaze the cake with jam before glazing it with chocolate. That would’ve likely added some moisture. BUT the flavor of the cake is really amazing. The almond flavor is present but subtle. I ate all the edges I trimmed off just plain and they were terrific. It’s a really dense and sturdy cake. Great to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.
I used a recipe for my baumkuchen from Allrecipes that is very similar to the one Francijn provided but has cornstarch in the batter. The cooking method I used was Francijn’s, baking each layer for 3-4 minutes at 450°F. I glazed the cake with dark chocolate melted with a little vegetable oil and it came out beautifully and was a nice contrast to the sweet cake.
Here’s a little step by step.
Batter and prepared pan
Cake: baked and trimmed
This challenge was a fun one and was definitely out of my current baking comfort zone. A perfect Daring Bakers challenge. Thanks, Francijn!
From allrecipes.com and Francijn
- 14 tablespoons (2 sticks minus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
- 5 1/2 ounces almond paste
- 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 7/8 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 6 egg whites
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 ounces of good dark or semisweet chocolate
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Grease an 8×8 pan then line with parchment paper. I used two sheets cut to the width of the pan and crossed them. Trim excess overhang on all sides. Grease the paper and set pan aside.
- Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the almond paste in chunks and beat until well combined. You may see small chunks of paste, but no large chunks. Scrape the bowl down.
- Add in powdered sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla and beat well. Beats in the yolks, one at a time, until batter is smooth.
- In another bowl beat eggs whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add in the granulated sugar and continue to beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Fold whites gently into the batter, then sift flour on top and fold it in as well just until everything is evenly distributed.
- Spread some batter, enough to lightly cover the pan, onto the bottom of the prepared pan, being careful not to get batter on the sides of the pan (this batter burns and can then drop onto your cake and be baked in). Bake for 3-4 minutes, until layer is lightly browned. Continue spreading and baking layers until the batter is gone. Aim for 10-12 layers total.
- Let cake cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely. Trim the edges off (and save them for snacking!).
- Melt the chocolate and oil in a double boiler (or in a small saucepan over very low heat being extra careful not to burn it) until smooth and melted.
- Spread the chocolate onto the top and sides of the cake. Let harden (I did this overnight) then flip cake over onto a sheet of parchment and spread chocolate onto the other side of the cake. Note: You don’t have to glaze the bottom/other side with chocolate. I covered the cake and chocolate overnight, remelted the chocolate the next day and glazed the other side. Don’t try to glaze the bottom before the other chocolate is nice and set.
- Slice and serve.