Amateur Hour Baking: Rüblitorte

Oh my lord. It’s been nearly three months since Easter, and thus nearly three months since I made this cake.

*note to self: start scheduling these better so you don’t forget EVERYTHING*

At any rate. I had mentally bookmarked Rüblitorte, a Swiss carrot-nut torte, for Easter when I started this project. It had tiny carrots piped adorably onto it, how could anyone possibly resist?

I’m a big fan of American-style carrot cake, particularly the buttercream frosting portion (sweet tooth for days), and was intensely curious as to how this would compare. In the description, Weiss mentions that it’s quite a bit lighter, with a more crumbly texture than its American counterpart. It also needs a bit of resting time before serving, so this couldn’t be a “last minute” bake again. Thus, a few days before Easter I got to work.

The first step to this carrot cake was to grate the carrots. Since we have no food processor, the second step was to put one on my “kitchen needs” list.

More grating followed for the lemon peel, and then the first few ingredients were all mixed together. It looked… not super appealing, to be honest.

With a few bowls of different things in progress, I hoped the appearance would improve. I again used pre-ground almonds for this recipe (darn you food processor), and I don’t *think* they were blanched but I could be wrong.

All the bowls were combined and I hoped for the best. But yeah… that didn’t look much better. With all the lemon and cinnamon, it smelled decent, but appearance-wise, nope. I crossed my fingers and popped her into the oven.

About an hour later the house was filled with a great cinnamon aroma and the cake was ready to come out. It looked beautifully even, and was a lovely golden brown. Not that that really matters, since it was getting frosted but oh well. I saw it. Now you can, too!

Since it needed some time to cool, BV and I had a nice shrimp taco interlude. This is a house favorite, if you need more tacos in your life.*

Nom.

Stomachs filled, I settled back in to get started on the decor. I couldn’t find almond paste at the store, but I had found marzipan. They’re both almonds, so they must be the same, right?

Nope, no they’re not. Marzipan has a lot more sugar than almonds, whereas the almond paste is a more even combination. BV loves marzipan, so he was fully on board with this change. However, if you want that nice, soft color, as opposed to bright and slightly shiny, try to find the almond paste. I’ll really have to have a harder look next time, because our Edeka has to have it, right?

I was rather pleased with how they came out, considering I’ve never tried making wee carrots before. Minus the impossible stickiness factor (maybe the almond paste would be better?), it was pretty fun.

And then, it was time to mix up a simple glaze of lemon juice and powdered sugar, and top it all off with our carrots.

A little messy around the edges, but not bad… in my totally unbiased opinion, of course.

The cake went into a dome to hang out for a few days, and then it was off to Easter lunch at BV’s dad’s house.

A massive lunch (Schweinebraten mit Klößen, if I remember correctly) later, it was time to cut into dessert.

How cute is this?

The difference to American carrot cake was really obvious. This was all lightness, with the citrus and the spice really dominating. The carrot was there, of course, but it wasn’t too carrot… for those who are suspicious of such things. The lemon icing complimented the cake perfectly, and we were all very pleased with it. I think people may have had seconds. Can’t do that with American carrot cake… at least I can’t.

I was a little concerned that the rest of the cake might dry out too much over the next few days, but it didn’t really do that at all. It maintained the flavor and texture quite nicely. Now, I only have to figure out where to get almond paste for next time. And also talk someone into giving me a food processor.

 

*We have also tried the beer-battered version. They’re great, but that only comes out when I have a decent amount of time.

Amateur Hour Baking: Russischer Zupfkuchen

What’s that? You’re like me and you’re saying, “what the hell is that?” Or worse, trying to pronounce it like a good little German and instead sounding like you just chugged a bottle of Kirschwasser and are doing a drunken imitation of a German accent? If that’s the case, feel free to just call this one Chocolate Quark Cheesecake, because that’s what it is.

Quark was not something I’d ever heard of prior to living in Germany, but it’s incredibly common here. It’s a fresh, soft cheese, with a slightly sour taste. If you’ve happened to order a slice of cheesecake in Germany and been confused as to why it was a bit sour, that would (most likely) be why. A New York Cheesecake is hard to come by in these parts.

I didn’t choose to make this cake for any other reason besides sheer curiosity. I love chocolate, I love cheesecake, and I had no idea what this one was even supposed to look like. And as an added bonus, BV had purchased some Quark that had been floating around the fridge long enough for one of the packages to expire. All good reasons, am I right?

So, expired Quark in hand, we were off. It wasn’t terribly expired, but I was really hoping those few days over wouldn’t affect the taste too badly.

The chocolate base came together fairly easily, and didn’t involve excessive egg beating, which always makes things speedier.

A mix later, I had a tightly packed lump of chocolate goodness, which went to the fridge to hang out for an hour.

When it came out, it got divided up and half went back into the fridge while the other half was rolled out to form my crust. I have a fairly strong hatred for plastic wrap, and trying to roll it out between two layers of that crap was a lot of peel and stick and roll and peel and stick and rerolling.

The recipe directed me to lay my crust in a 9-inch cake pan, but since our only current cake pan* is 10 inches, I was really trying to roll it out enough to cover that extra distance. But even the best-laid plans (or extra crust area) can’t compensate for a clumsy toss. Which means that my crust initially looked like this.

I retrieved some of the reserved dough from the fridge and got rolling again. That, plus a whole lot of patchwork, resulted in a much more even crust.

Luckily a somewhat imperfect crust is not at all noticeable once filled, right? Speaking of which, it was time to mix up the Quark filling.

Once filled, it was time to sprinkle the remaining crust dough all over the top of the prepared cake. Turns out, I needn’t have worried about making the crust nice and thin, because I had A LOT of dough leftover here. This was after I had covered the top of the cake, and done a few rounds of “one piece of dough for the cake, one piece for Heather.”

Mmmmm, dough. Mmmm, raw eggs.

I tossed a few more bits on top, a few more bits in my mouth, and then went around the edge of the crust one ore time, just to give it some more height for fun. With that, it was into the oven.

The buzzer sounded and I eagerly pulled my extremely fluffy cake out. The recipe had said that it would be puffed up, which it certainly was. It was also a good inch or so higher than the crust was. I wasn’t sure what to think about that, but a few minutes later, it settled back down and looked much more like the proportional pictures I had referenced online. Next time, give it a minute, self!

Why did I cut it before I took a picture of it? I DON’T KNOW. I’M NEW TO THIS, I’M SORRY.

*ahem*

Luisa Weiss advises giving this a day before eating it, but BV and I decided restraint was an overrated trait and dove in after dinner.

This is also a super-heavy cake, and I chickened out trying to get it off the cake pan and onto the plate. I was pretty sure I’d push too hard and end up with a mess, hence the cake pan on plate strategy pictured here.

Over the next few days, we figured out why the recipe said to give it a day. While good on day one, the sour taste of the Quark was more obvious at the beginning, and seemed to mellow as the cake rested. Or perhaps I was just more prepared for it, and thus less surprised. Could go either way, really.

The chocolate crust here is dense and rich, like a really good, soft, chocolate cookie in the States. It provides a nice balance and change in texture to the creamy and rich (again, so rich) Quark filling. This is not a cake to eat when you’re already half-full. This is a cake to eat after a light dinner, because this is FILLING.

Considering I had no idea what this was supposed to look or taste like before I started, this was an excellent surprise. It’s not going on the table for a hot summer day at the BBQ, but this is going to be a house regular for sure.

Have you tried Russischer Zupfkuchen? Or can you teach me how to say it without sounding like an asshole?

*Adds more stuff to “kitchenware to-buy” list

 

Not sure what’s up with this baking stuff? Read about my goal here!

Weird and Wacky Wednesday: Mystery Solved

Spend any time in Germany, and you will surely see that many people here have a borderline obsession with coffee and cake. There are so many fantastic kinds of cakes to be found that when I first arrived I used to write a regular post just about eating them. Pass any cafe or restaurant in the afternoon, and you will see people of all ages happily tucking into a plate of something sweet, with the coffee close at hand.

Oddly, I have lots of pictures of coffee, and lots of pictures of cake, but none of the two together. Rest assured that I have enjoyed them both at the same time.

Since cake is almost always a good idea, it’s not too hard to figure out why it’s so popular, but a conversation in one of my classes today alerted me to the fact that there may be another reason for the obsession.

One of my students, P, was reluctantly admitting that he’ll celebrate his 40th birthday this year, and as is typical, he’ll be hosting a sizable party at his house. They’ve already rented a tent, and have also sorted out a party service to do the catering. He’s not sure exactly what they’ll eat yet, but said that of course, they would be having coffee and cake first. Because when people arrive at his house, they will want coffee and cake right away.

His office mate, W, who is a quick with a joke in any language, immediately jumped in on that one.

“Well, P, you know you will be 40 now. And coffee and cake are sex for old men!”

Whether or not this is a well-known theory I cannot say. But next time you’re walking by a cafe and see an older gent enjoying his cake, make sure you don’t stare, lest he be enjoying it too much…