What I love about the world today is how small it is. How easy it is to connect with people all over the globe. And despite the hate and separation and extremism we see and experience every day, that part makes me hopeful. It also makes me feel grateful for the friends I found all over the world, too. And every year I send Christmas packages to the US, to a very dear and cherished friend. And sometimes, when there is still enough space in the box, I put a German classic into those packages: authentic German Baumkuchen.
However, I can only send the storebought variety. So when this dear friend finally came to visit four years ago, Baumkuchen was what I baked for him. It also happens to be one of my husband’s favourites. Now, while there has been quite a hype around Baumkuchen in the past years and while there are indeed several ways to make this specialty, I’ve often found that most recipes I saw on the internet weren’t quite authentic. The recipe I’m going to share is one tried and true version of the delicious cake with the many layers.
And since I promised last time that I wouldpost the recipe for the cake I used as the base for my velociraptor birthday party cake… here we go!
Baumkuchen simply translates to “tree cake”, because of the “rings” that are created by baking the separate layers of the cake, not unlike the layers of a tree. Originally, the cake batter is poured over a rotating rod in front of a broiler to form the rings of your tree cake. Since few of us have that technology at home, the rings of homemade Baumkuchen will come as thin layers. But you need to know in advance: while an authentic German Baumkuchen impresses when it comes to both looks and taste, it’s a time-consuming, elaborate cake to bake. It will take at least two hours to make it and it will require your full attention so it won’t burn. But it will be worth it, I promise. And since it is sealed by a chocolate glaze once it’s cooled, you can easily make it one or even two days ahead.
This recipe uses metric measurements, because you will need the precise amounts of every ingredient. Please also note that this is a recipe containing a small amount of alcohol, so it’s not suitable for children or people who don’t or can’t consume alcohol.
- 250g butter, softened
- 250g sugar
- one whole vanilla bean, scraped out
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- 150g flour
- 100g corn starch
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 100g marzipan
- 3 drops of bitter almond flavoring essence or bitter almond extract (see instructions regarding the appropriate amount of bitter almond extract)
- 4 tbsp rum (alternatively, you can use amaretto)
for the glaze:
- 100g dark chocolate, chopped
- 100g milk chocolate, chopped
- 50g butter
- this recipe requires two cake tins with the same diameter, an oven with a broiler setting, two large bowls and an electric mixer or stand mixer
Heat the marzipan with the rum in a small bowl. You can use a microwave to do that, but make sure to heat it in short intervals so you won’t end up with burnt marzipan. Stir thoroughly in between until you have a thick, gooey mixture. Let cool to room temperature again.
Set your oven to broil and let it preheat.
Mix and sift the flower, cornstarch and baking powder.
Separate your eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until very stiff. In the second large bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar, butter, the scraped vanilla and the bitter almond essence or extract. Beat the mixture on high speed using an electric mixer or stand mixer until it turns pale and fluffy. This might take a bit, so just keep going until you have the desired result. Stir in the softened rum-marzipan.
One spoonful at a time, add the mixture of flour, cornstarch and baking powder until everything is incorporated well. Fold in the egg whites until you have a very fluffy, light cake batter.
Now, your Baumkuchen-baking-adventure begins. If you need to pee, now’s the time do that, because from now on it will be unwise to leave the room for longer than a minute.
Spread about 3-4 tablespoons of your batter on the bottom of a greased springform or cake pan. The amount of tablespoons will depend on how big your cake tin or springform tin is. The layer should be so thin that you can almost see through it.
Bake the first layer for about 2 minutes under the broiler until it’s a lovely, deep golden brown on top. But you’ll have to watch your cake closely, because the layers are so thin that they burn quickly. You might have to remove your tin earlier or later than that, depending on your oven.
Depending on the temperature of the broiler in your oven, you might want to test the first layers of your Baumkuchen on one the lower racks. Because while you don’t want the layers to burn, you’ll also want to make sure that every layer is baked thoroughly, too. And if your cake layers remain pale, you can still move to a higher rack.
While one cake tin is in the oven, spread another very thin layer (again around 3-4 tablespoons depending on the size of your pans) on the bottom of your second cake tin.
Remove the first tin from the oven when the top is golden brown and it set aside to cool for a minute. In the meantime, bake tin number two.
Now spread another 3-4 tablespoons of batter onto your first layer of tin number one. Maybe you’ll scrape off a bit of your first layer in the process, because it didn’t set entirely. It happens. It won’t be the end of the world, I promise. Again, spread a layer so thin you can almost see through it.
Once tin number two is done and the surface is golden brown, remove tin number two from the oven. Let cool while the second layer in tin number one is baking. Then repeat the process.
You will always have one tin in the oven and one tin outside. While one layer bakes in the oven, you spread one new layer on top of the other cake.
Repeat the process until you have no more batter left. Let both cakes cool on a cooling rack.
While your cakes are cooling down, melt the butter and chocolate in a bain marie and stir well. Don’t overheat.
Stack your cakes on the cooling rack. Then pour the chocolate glaze over your cake. Make sure to cover the top and sides entirely to seal the cake.
Let the glaze cool and decorate your cake. You can use everything from confectioner’s sugar dusted on a stencil to fondant flowers, chocolate ornaments or dinosaurs. Or just leave it as it is. Most Baumkuchen cakes don’t last very long in our kitchen, anyway.
If you tried the recipe and enjoyed it, I’d be happy to hear about it! And if you like what you see here, don’t forget to subscribe and leave comments!
Note: Most recipes will tell you to use one tin. And you can do that. But it will take much longer than this method. By using two tins, you will end up with two smaller cakes that you can stack. And you will be much faster by working simultaneously with two tins.