1773 Baumkuchen (or tree torte)

(Baumkuchen) (Ili tort drevesnyj)


Beat ½ garnets clarified butter in a stoneware bowl until white. In another bowl beat egg yolks and sugar until white, ½ garnets of each; then combine the egg yolks with the butter. Add ½ garnets of very dry, sieved flour, beat the reserved egg whites, and add them to the mixture. Bake as follows: Take a wooden mold the same size and shape as a large cone of loaf sugar. Wrap it with paper, wind with rows of thin cord, [and secure the cord.] A small lengthwise slit must be made in the middle of this mold, through which an iron rod or skewer can be passed for attaching the mold to its stand. Generously pour hot, clarified butter over the paper and string so that both are soaked through. Set the stand and mold near the fire and, when the butter grows warm, begin to pour the batter over the mold, placing a pan beneath to catch any drips of batter. Rotate the mold rather quickly, trying to make as many lumps as possible.*

*This decorative and distinctive cake has been made in Germany and Austria since the end of the seventeenth century when recipes for sponge doughs began to appear in cookery books. Initially adopted by the upper classes in Europe, it later became a favorite feast dish among the common people. It is still used at Christmas in Germany and at weddings and birthdays in Austria. To make the cake, the dough was poured over a rotating stake and “turned on the spit like a meat-joint in front of the fire.” As the batter hardened it formed a series of thin layers so that a slice of cake resembled the concentric rings of a tree stump. (See Gamerith, “Farinaceous Foods in Austria, ” 95, 115.) It was the custom in Germany at the turn of the century to imprison a small bird such as a sparrow inside the cake, closing the opening at the top with a bouquet of fresh flowers. At the moment of serving, the bouquet was removed and the startled creature was allowed to make its escape. (Barthélemy, “Le gateau de broche, ” 365.) The lumps mentioned by Molokhovets gave the finished cone of dough a more treelike appearance. Modern German directions for this cake require that successive layers of batter be poured onto an overturned cake pan; each layer is baked before being coated with fresh batter. This yields a solid heap or mound of dough, which is less crisp and makes a less dramatic presentation than the traditional method described by Molokhovets.