In which I use a basting brush to make a cake

The first Daring Bakers Challenge of 2014 was a cake I’d never heard of before, a European confection called a baumkuchen. It has lots and lots and lots of layers, and it’s usually prepared on a spit. Like a rotisserie chicken, but with cake batter instead of fowl. I had a very hard time picturing exactly how that worked until I found a slideshow that shows how baumkuchen is made.

And then last week, Rockford snapped this picture at a department store in Yokohama, Japan:

Rotisserie Cake

It’s called baumukūhen in Japan, and according to Wikipedia it’s one of the country’s most popular pastries:

It was first introduced to Japan by the German Karl Joseph Wilhelm Juchheim. Juchheim was in the Chinese city of Tsingtao during World War I when Britain and Japan laid siege to Tsingtao. He and his wife were then interned at Okinawa. Juchheim started making and selling the traditional confection at a German exhibition in Hiroshima in 1919. After the war, he chose to remain in Japan. Continued success allowed him to move to Yokohama and open a bakery, but its destruction in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake caused him to move his operations to Kobe, where he stayed until the end of World War II. Some years later, his wife returned to help a Japanese company open a chain of bakeries under the Juchheim name that further helped spread baumkuchen’s popularity in Japan.

Daring Bakers KitchenThe DBK recipe didn’t require a rotisserie for the cake’s prep, which is good because I don’t have one handy. The at-home version calls for painting the batter onto the bottom of the cake pan, broiling it, painting on another layer, ad infinitum.

I followed the baumtorte recipe at GlobalTableAdventure.com pretty closely, but I was missing a few things and had to improvise. I didn’t have quite enough almond paste, so I mixed a quarter cup of Trader Joe’s crunchy cookie butter into the almond paste before I added the butter. I also discovered that I didn’t have enough cornstarch, but I was too far into things to run out for more so I used what I had and compensated with extra flour.

Making the baumkuchen/baumtorte is a laborious process. I thought my arm might fall off while I was folding in the beaten egg whites, and painting on the layers of batter seemed to take forever. I cheated and made the first several layers thicker than they’re supposed to be, which was a bad idea. The cheatery was evident when we sliced into the cake, and the thicker layers were less tender than the others.

All in all, is was a tasty and pretty impressive-looking cake, and I would show you my attempt at it if we hadn’t eaten it all before I remembered that I needed to take a picture. Which speaks to the tastiness, I suppose. I don’t know that I’d make another one, but I’d definitely try a slice if I were ever somewhere where they made the authentic version.

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).

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