27 June 2012

Summer fruit cake - 'Obstkuchen'

This cake evokes a lot of childhood memories of coffee and cake afternoons with friends and relatives. Fresh fruit cakes or tarts are hugely popular in Germany, especially in the summer. Almost any soft fruit of your choice can be used to top the cake (fresh is best, of course, but tinned apricots, peaches or pineapples are also a common sight). I love using fresh local berries at the moment. I even got to harvest 5 (five) strawberries and an entire 21 blackcurrants in my own garden earlier today: all the hard work is starting to pay off... For the cake in the picture I added some very non-regional (and probably not very seasonal) organic kiwi for a bit of a colour contrast.

This specific recipe is not exactly traditional. The most common base for a fresh fruit cake is the plain ‘Bisquit’ I used for my strawberry cake a few weeks ago. This is also the more low-calorie option, if you are so inclined. The cake in the picture consists of a nutty chocolate base and the fruit is stuck onto the cake with melted milk chocolate. I recommend it – the combination of chocolate and nuts with fresh fruit is divine. I don’t really know where the recipe has come from, but my mother used to (and still does) bake this very often.  I get the feeling that this comes from my auntie Klara, who also is the source of my nutty triangles recipe.

I baked the cake in a 24 cm round tin, but a larger tin (up to about 28 cm) can also be used if you prefer a thinner base. The base freezes well and the final product is actually assembled fairly quickly.

For the chocolate base:

100 g butter
3 eggs
100 g sugar
100 g almonds – partially ground and partially chopped
100 g dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
8 pieces of crisp bread or crispy bakes (in Germany this is called ‘Zwieback’ – bread twice baked. The nearest equivalent in the UK would be melba toast or rusks. I bought ‘crispy bakes’ in Sainsbury’s, which come in a round paper packet. These were perfect. But biscuits or anything fairly neutral tasting and crunchy can also be used).
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the topping:
100 g milk chocolate
Fresh or tinned fruit of your choice

For the glaze:
1 tablespoon corn flour or potato starch
2 tablespoons sugar
250 ml water or fruit juice

For the cake batter, whisk the butter with the eggs and the sugar until fairly fluffy.  Crush up the crisp bread/crispy bakes. I crush half of them to fine ‘dust’ and keep the other half as small chunks. Stir these and the rest of the ingredients into the butter, mixing well. Bake in a greased tin for about 20 – 25 minutes at 200 degrees. Leave to cool.

To assemble the cake: carefully melt the milk chocolate. Spread this evenly and thinly on top of the cooled cake. Now arrange the fruit on top of the melted chocolate. For the glaze, combine the starch flour and sugar and mix well with some of the liquid. Bring the rest of the liquid to the boil and gradually add the flour mix. Boil for a few seconds until it starts to thicken. Immediately spread this on top of the cake with the help of a spoon, starting from the middle. I place the cake in the fridge for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to harden and the glaze to set. 

24 June 2012

Rhubarb cake with meringue - 'Rhabarberkuchen'

Yesterday I made an incredibly sour rhubarb crumble. I didn’t add enough sugar and there wasn’t any sweet custard, either, so it was barely edible. Today I gave rhubarb another go and I didn’t skimp on the sugar this time. This recipe is for a very traditional German summer cake. The rhubarb is baked in a sweet vanilla sponge and then topped with meringue for a bit of crunch and some extra sweetness. With some whipped cream it tastes particularly good. The recipe makes a 24cm round cake – it can easily be doubled for a larger square tin.

For the sponge:
125 g butter
125 g sugar
Seeds from one vanilla pod or some vanilla essence
1 egg and two egg yolks
125 g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
300 – 400 g rhubarb, peeled and cut into chunks

For the meringue:
2 egg whites
125 g sugar

For the sponge cake, mix the butter (at room temperature), sugar, eggs and vanilla until fairly fluffy. Combine the flour and the baking powder and fold into the batter. Spoon the batter into a greased cake tin and smooth the surface. Then add the rhubarb chunks. Bake this at about 200 degrees for 30 minutes.

In the meantime make the meringue. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and then slowly add the sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture is shiny and stiff. 

When the cake is baked remove it from the oven and add the meringue topping. You can just spoon it on top and swirl the surface with a fork, or you can pipe it on in a pattern of your choice. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or so at 200 degrees. The meringue should turn slightly golden, but it should not turn brown.

16 June 2012

Strawberry cake - 'Erdbeerkuchen'

It’s been a quite while since I have posted my last cake on my blog. Two months in fact! It’s not that I haven’t done any baking at all, but the day job got in the way, alas, and I mainly kept to baking quick cakes and my sourdough bread. Things are a bit quieter now and I am excited about all the summery fruit that is now available (in spite of the less than summery weather). Following the long winter months with a fairly restricted selection of fruit (at least for those like me using mainly seasonal and regional ingredients) a whole new world of recipes has now become possible. I love all sorts of berries and summer fruit and I am hoping to bake as many cakes with these fresh ingredients while they last. In Germany the Erdbeerkuchen – strawberry cake – is a great summer favourite. There are lots of variations on the strawberry cake, of course, but this recipe is fairly traditional. The base, in German, is called ‘Bisquit’ and it is made mainly of eggs and flour. Unlike other sponge batters this does not contain butter or any other fat and it is therefore particularly light and fluffy. The Bisquit base is very versatile – it can be used with all kinds of other fruit (in the 1980s cakes with colourful tinned fruit – peaches, pineapples and mandarins – were all the rage) and it is also the recipe used for the famous Black Forest Gateaux. For the latter, 25 g of the corn flour is exchanged with cocoa powder to make it dark and chocolaty.

I baked the Bisquit base in a round springform tin 28 cm in size. When baked the base is about 6-7 cm high so it can be cut in half with a sharp knife. This means that the recipe is enough for two cakes – I usually wrap one in tin foil and freeze it for another cake.

For the base:
6 eggs
200 g sugar
Seeds of one vanilla pod or some vanilla extract
100 g flour
125 g corn flour

For the cream base:
2 heaped tablespoons of corn flour
2 heaped tablespoons of sugar
500 ml milk

For the glaze (this keeps the strawberries on the cake and also keeps the fruit fresh for longer):
1 tablespoon corn flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
250 ml water or fruit juice

About three punnets of strawberries
Some sliced almonds to decorate

For the Bisquit base divide the egg whites from the yolks. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and then slowly add the sugar. Continue whisking until creamy and shiny. Add the vanilla and the egg yolks one by one and combine well. Finally, mix the flour and corn flour and thoroughly fold into the egg mixture. Grease the bottom of a springform tin (do not grease the sides, because this makes the cake rise unevenly) and add the batter. Smooth the surface and bake at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes. Leave to cool. Cut the base in half horizontally with a sharp serrated knife (if the cake is very high and you prefer a thinner base you can also cut it into three rounds).

For the cream base mix the corn flour and sugar. Add some vanilla if you like. Pour about 100 ml of the milk into the flour and mix well – make sure there are no lumps. Bring the rest of the milk to the boil and then add the corn flour mix. Boil for about 2-3 minutes whisking continually. Leave to cool slightly (stirring every once in a while to prevent a skin from forming). 

Evenly smooth the cream onto the Bisquit base. This should not be too thick – you can eat the rest as a dessert, mixed with any leftover strawberries. Now top the cake with the strawberries. You can use small strawberries whole and cut the larger ones in half. 

Finally, prepare the glaze. Mix the corn flour and sugar with 250 ml cold water or juice and bring to the boil. Immediately pour this on the cake (starting in the middle) to cover the strawberries. This sets very quickly. Immediately decorate the edges of the cake with the sliced almonds.

The cream base can be replaced simply with whipped cream or clotted cream. If you do this I would not use the glaze (it would melt the cream) and I would eat the cake on the same day.