Baumkuchen, An Austrian Festival Cake

The first time I saw a baumkuchen was at the Root 44 Market which is held at Audacia Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. The lady selling them had a hand written sign:

Baumkuchen ‘tree cake’

So when Dave asked her what a baumkuchen was and she answered ‘tree cake’ it did very little to explain exactly what is was. Dave tasted some and did not like it and there ended, or so I thought, our experience of baumkuchen. According to Larousse page 73, baumkuchen is a celebrated Austrian festival cake. It is meant to be hollow inside and is usually conical. This is because it is cooked on a spit. The batter is poured layer by layer onto a roller which is in front of open heating elements. The layers remain visible after cooking, giving the cake the appearance of a cut tree trunk, from which it gets its name ‘tree cake’ or baumkuchen. Baum being tree and kuchen, cake. Strangely, my grandmother who was born in Austria, never made this cake for us, nor did she ever mention it. Not having a spit meant baking this cake, layer by layer, in a loaf tin. I would not do this again as it really is time consuming, but the taste and texture were well worth the effort, as well as being able to see the layers of course.

Baumkuchen
Baumkuchen
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Baumkuchen

Adapted from James Martin, The Collection page 330
All Rights Reserved: an original recipe from Lavender and Lime

Ingredients

  • 200 g softened butter
  • 200 g caster sugar - I used fructose
  • Finely chopped zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 200 g self-raising flour sifted

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 180° Celsius
  • Grease and line a loaf tin
  • Place the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy
  • Add the egg a small amount at a time and mix between each addition until completely incorporated
  • Fold in the flour, a third at a time
  • Place a thin layer of the batter on the bottom of the tin and bake for 8 minutes
  • Place another thin layer on top of the baked layer and spread with a small spatula and bake for 8 minutes
  • Repeat until all the batter is used, baking the last layer for 10 minutes
  • Cool completely on a wire rack, before icing

Notes

If the egg mixture splits at any stage bring it back together by placing 5mls of the flour into the mix.
I used 2 serving spoons per layer.

Click on the links for conversions and notes.

Blog-checking lines: 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).

Tree Cake
Tree Cake

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36 thoughts on “Baumkuchen, An Austrian Festival Cake

  1. It’s very pretty. I’ve not tried making it because of the labor-intensive process, but have wondered if it could be accomplished with thin enough layers to quick-broil under an oven broiler element or even a salamander. Barring that, my own solution would be to move sideways to the recipes that make cakes out of stacks of crepes or large pancakes! Good on you for being willing to make the effort!
    xo

  2. Oooh Tandy, that sounds and looks delicious, but lots of work! I’ve made Asian layer cakes in a similar way – as you say, once for the experience is enough! 🙂

    1. I have seen those Asian layer cakes and I am sure that the effort is much the same – well worth it but only enough so to do it once 🙂

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