One of the blogs I read regularly is Rice and Wheat and just over a month ago, Angi had written an entry about a Baumkuchen or a tree cake. Her photos were so beautiful and the whole method of making was so different from what I've come across so far, it went straight to my list of things to cook in 2009.
Her lovely version can be found here.
And the Easter week-end was this opportunity. Angi also kindly allowed me to publish her recipe, albeit in metric.
2.5 dl flour, sifted
2.5 dl cornstarch, sifted
1 ml salt
0.75 dl ground almonds
227 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened at room temperature
1.77 dl sugar
8 eggs, separated
2 tbsp dark rum
zest of 1 lemon
1.18 dl apricot jam
114 g unsalted butter
170 g dark chocolate
3 tbsp light maple syrup
3 tbsp dark rum
I don't have a broiler in my oven, but I've guessed that this corresponds to the English grill - so I pre-heated it on medium-high. I only have an 8" cake tin and a 12" one, so I opted for the smaller one and I greased it with butter. I think this is one cake where a springform really makes sense, by the way.
I also have not been able to find corn flour and from what I remember from my readings it's quite popular in making confectionery since it prevents other sugars from crystallising. I made the choice of swapping this for maple syrup, without any scientific basis.
I followed Angi's instructions on the batter, but I think I should have sifted the flours first and then measured them, as my batter was a lot thicker than I expected. That's a problem when you measure by volume - sifting incorporates air into it and the same volume will weigh a lot less and thus result in a thinner, runnier batter. The whole mixing took me just under an hour and a half, so in hindsight, I should have started pre-heating the grill in the last 20 minutes or so.
Even after folding in the egg whites, it was fairly stiff, so when I tried to brush the first layer of the cake, most of it stayed on the brush.
So from layer two onwards, I used a ladle and a dough scraper. Half-way through the layers, I began to worry that dropping half an inch in cake tin size relative to Angi's recipe would result in leftover cake mix. But somehow it all went in, just about. Here is the last layer, nr 12.
I did get hold of some wonderful apricot jam. I only bought it because it seemed to be the smoothest one on the shelf, the other brands seemed to go for chunky style. And I was surprised that there were quite few options on apricot jam, I've always thought it's a staple alongside of strawberry and raspberry jams. What also seemed good about this one that it claimed to be made with no added sugar, but with some sort of concentrated fruit juice. I don't know, but it was very tasty. It's called St Dalfour Fruit Spread Thick Apricot.
It melted nicely, at which point I worried that it wouldn't stay on the cake, but I let it cool a bit and it just about stayed on.
Obviously the layers should have been a lot thinner, but these 12 layers took also an hour and a half in total.
And now comes the difficult part - the icing. I've never had any success with mixing chocolate and butter - it keeps separating. Admittedly this time wasn't as disastrous as the icing for the eclair challenge from The Daring Bakers. I spread it over the cake despite everything. The sides were particularly difficult. And I put the candied violet flowers on top. They started soaking up some of the fat, so I put the whole cake in the fridge overnight. The next day, the whole looked well set and dull with small areas of yellowy fat. I tried scraping them off, which didn't really work. But luckily, with the given amount of icing, I'd only used half the amount and was able to remove most of the fat from the leftover icing, stirred it round a bit and put a second layer on the cake, after removing the violets. This worked better, so my new chocolate - butter theory is that if there's too much butter, it'll separate out, i e there's so much fat chocolate will take. To be on the safe side, I don't intend to try experimenting further, chocolate is too precious for that.
I served the cake as dessert and it was impressive.
Though Lundulph's first reaction was to comment that it needs cream. And he's right - the cake was very dry indeed, so some sort of moisturising exercise is definitely in order. And as I said before - sift before measure for a runnier cake mix and thinner layers. Angi said she finds the brushing on of the layers relaxing and I suspect it is, once you've got the hang of it.
Many thanks Angi for this interesting recipe.