Germany has abundant respect for Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). Any café worth its beans will offer at least 2 or 3 examples of cakecraft to accompany your caffeine hit. And through this ritual, I’ve discovered a few favorites like Opéra cake or Prinzregenten-Torte. Delicious treats that I will gladly consume, but which have also broadened my horizons regarding what’s possible as a home cook.
The sweets I usually prepare are fairly straightforward, but the results make them seem more complex. With cakes, I tend to cheat and use baking soda, baking powder and vanilla extract from the US. In my experience, the soda and powder tend to yield a better end product. The vanilla is just due to laziness: I can get a twin-pack of big bottles from Costco and not have to worry about having enough. Vanilla here is fine, I just resent the small quantities.
9 oz/250 g good dark chocolate chopped
6 T/80 g unsalted butter
6 eggs, separated
4 T sugar
2 t vanilla (I try to use homemade for this)
3 T Grand Marnier
1 c/225 mL + 1/2 c/112 mL whipping cream
zest of 1 orange
Double boiler/Bain Marie*
Small bowl for egg yolks
Large deep bowls for egg whites, mousse and cream
Hand mixer with whisk attachment
Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Whisk the butter into the melted chocolate one tablespoon at a time, then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla and booze. Set the chocolate mixture aside.
Beat the egg whites; as they reach soft peaks, pour in the sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks.
Whisk a third of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest. Beat 1 cup of the cream and orange zest to stiff peaks, fold it into the chocolate in two batches.
Pour the mousse into your serving dish of choice – I like double old-fashioned glasses for individual servings. Whip the rest of the cream and top the mousse. Chill for at least two hours, if you can. Eat within 36.
*If you don’t have a double boiler, use a small pot with about 2 c/500 mL of water in the bottom and a metal bowl that perches on the pot without touching the water. Just simmer the water and voilà! Instant double boiler! When melting chocolate in the microwave, be prepared to baby it and stir often. It’s SO easy to burn it!
25-30 Leibniz wholegrain (vollkorn) cookies, crushed
6 T/80 g butter, melted
17 oz/500 g cream cheese
14 oz/400 g quark cheese
3/4 c/160 g sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract (or scrape a whole bean)
Stand mixer or hand mixer
Medium bowl for cookie crust
Springform pan, 24-26 cm.
Backpapier/parchment for bottom of springform (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F/170°C.
Mix the crushed cookies and melted butter together in a bowl, until all the crumbs are evenly moistened and are starting to clump. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 24-26 cm. springform pan until they make an even layer.
In a large mixer bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and beat until smooth and light. Pour into the springform and bake for 40 minutes or until the center is somewhat jiggly, but no longer liquidy. I prefer to bake mine a little longer, until the top is no longer shiny – but this will probably cause your cake to crack. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. I like to top mine with cherries, but whatever fruit is around will work as a topping.
I put the filling into the crust with a slotted spoon and drizzle some of the juice that gooshes out over the top. That way I can control the liquid and keep the bottom from getting soggy. If you struggle with crusts, experiment with butter vs. shortening vs. a combo.
Swiss Buttercream Frosting
I’m ludicrously excited about this frosting. It’s much fussier than basic American Buttercream, but it tastes so. much. BETTER. If you’re making something where the frosting needs to do some of the heavy lifting (basic yellow cake, a filled cupcake), this recipe is your new best friend.
This lovely, simple cake is wonderful if you want to do something special with seasonal fruits and don’t feel like taking on A Project. I especially like that I can do it with just a bowl, a whisk and a spatula.
Peanut Butter Honey Ice Cream
Peanut butter isn’t terribly popular in Germany, but it’s gaining. There’s finally one widely available in grocery stores that tastes almost right (Lucky Joe brand). And if you enjoy the flavor of honey, a dark one, like a chestnut, will be as prominent as the peanut butter. If you want the PB to shine through more, go with a lighter colored, milder honey.
The above link is a video rather than a written recipe, but it’s very short and once you watch it, you can write down what you actually end up doing. I like to start with less sugar and add more if the rhubarb is particularly tart. A few drops of vanilla or a pinch of cinnamon won’t go amiss, either. The compote is great on ice cream or in a crêpe with crème fraîche and freezes like a champ.
Let me know what works and what doesn’t. And if you discover anything cool, share it!