Daring Bakers: Schichttorte or “Tree Cake”


Another month, another challenge courtesy of the Daring Bakers!

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).

Chocolate-Almond Schichttorte

Chocolate-Almond Schichttorte

The cake itself is a sponge cake and the technique in play is the multiple, thin layers baked one on top of the other, creating striations in the finished cake as each layer is allowed to brown. The sample recipe we were given used crumbled marzipan, but since we don’t really do a lot of nuts in our home, I substituted light brown sugar with a bit of almond extract for that line, and (of course) used my usual Low-FODMAP baking blend for the little bit of flour called for in the recipe (again, being a sponge-cake, most of the structure is coming from the whipped egg whites, not the gluten in wheat flour).

Before folding in the egg yolk mixture, it helps to temper them with a small amount of the whipped whites. This way you only have to "sacrifice" some of the loft, not all of it.

Before folding in the egg yolk mixture, it helps to temper them with a small amount of the whipped whites. This way you only have to “sacrifice” some of the loft, not all of it.

The procedure called for spreading 1/10th to 1/12th of the batter per layer so I tried to figure out what exactly that would be, measurement-wise. Since I had right around 8 cups of egg whites after beating to stiff peaks, and the butter and yolk mixture came to approximately 2 cups, I figured with the inevitable loss of air folding them together would bring, I’d still end up around the 8-cup mark, so 2/3 cup per layer should get me to the 10-12 layer mark, right?

Neatening up the edges makes for a better presentation overall (not to mention easy snacking of the trimmings; for quality control, of course!)

Neatening up the edges makes for a better presentation overall (not to mention easy snacking of the trimmings; for quality control, of course!)

Not so much. I ended up with 6 layers (and I could stand to practice keeping them even) and instead of the 4 minutes each layer was expected to take to bake at 450 degrees F, they took 8 minutes each. At first I thought maybe they’d start cooking quicker once the first few layers were in place–after all, that insulated surface should speed things  up, right? By the end of the third layer, though, I realized we were just going to stick out the 8-minute shifts so adjusted my timer accordingly.

I was happy to find a use for my unset Champagne Jelly--it worked very well with the combination of almond and chocolate.

I was happy to find a use for my unset Champagne Jelly–it worked very well with the combination of almond and chocolate.

Once a bit cool, it was time to glaze the cake. The sample recipe called for apricot preserves, heated, sieved, and mixed with a bit of orange liqueur, but I had a better idea. In part because apricots are High-FODMAP and in part because I had 12 mini-jars of Champagne jelly sitting around that never fully set (making them Champagne sauce, instead), I popped open on of those jars and skipped the heating, sieving, and mixing and just brushed it straight on. (But just to be safe I dunked one of the trimmed sides into the sauce to make sure the two components would mesh well–they definitely did!)

Once the glaze was on, so was the waiting--good thing I'd planned for overnight for the coating to set!

Once the glaze was on, so was the waiting–good thing I’d planned for overnight for the coating to set!

The final step was to mix up a chocolate coating from melted bittersweet chocolate chips and a bit of coconut oil and pour/spread it on. And then it got to sit for a night, as the recipe assured us that it was better if given a day to rest.

The moment of truth: would the layers look right and how would it all taste?!

The moment of truth: would the layers look right and how would it all taste?

Before our gaming group arrived, I divided the small cake into 12 thin bars and set them out prettily. When it’s cut, it looks a lot like the 12-layer cakes you see at bake sales (at least here in the south) but without frosting between each this layer. The strata give it the appearance of wood grain, which is where the idea of “tree cake” comes from–the original Baumkuchen were cooked in successive layers on a spit, creating concentric rings. I don’t have one to try it on, but I wonder if a counter-top rotisserie grill would do the trick in that instance?!

The process was a little tedious by the end–being tied to the oven for over an hour got a little old after the first few layers, but I did read through a couple magazines that had been piling up, so it wasn’t a total loss of time. Some of the participants made their schichttortes using the broiler to quick-cook mini-layers in cupcake pans–I think I’d have to employ a piping bag to make that slightly more manageable, as well as adding a filling layer somewhere in the middle. Still, it was fun to try (which is the whole point) and certainly didn’t go to waste on our guests.

Perhaps the most surprising thing was the richness of the cooked cake–sponge cakes can be very dry and this one definitely doesn’t fit the bill. It was very moist, my almond extract & brown sugar substitution seemed to do the trick, and the bottom layer cooked into a sturdy crust but didn’t burn (thankfully). And even though the cake was small to start with, a twelfth was more than enough for a serving.

Going Back to E Street


Last weekend we were in Jacksonville for Ancient City Convention and one of the many things we were looking forward to was another visit (or 2) to European Street Cafe.

But out first night, after driving the 2.5 hours to get to town, checking in out our hotel and unpacking, and then heading to the convention hotel to set up, E Street was closed by the time we headed that way again. In fact, at 10pm on a Thursday night, most places were already closed and we drove around for a while before finding the Hurricane Grill, whose sign announced a recent change to staying open until midnight on Thursdays!  Hallelujah!

Of course, by this point I was rapidly approaching a level of hungry best described as “stupid hungry” so I located the least-complicated option on the menu (wings, etc. had sauce options and there were a ridiculous number of sauces to choose from) and ordered a burger with mushrooms and bacon.

Bacon and Mushroom Burger from Hurricane Grill

Man, but that was a good burger.

Sure, it could have been the hunger talking, any port in a storm-style, but I still say it was a good burger. And, hey, it turns out we’ve got one here in Tallahassee, so we could always go back and see if it really was as good as it seemed.

Friday night, though, was another story. We stopped by our hotel long enough to unload the car and for me to change out of my heels, and it was off the E Street for some wonderful German sausage. (We just don’t have any good German restaurants in Tallahassee, that I’m aware of; it’s a shame, really.)

We started with a celebratory Lambic each (Peach for me, Raspberry for Todd) as it had been a very good day at the convention and we were feeling mighty deserving.

Lambics in frosty Guinness glasses at European Street Cafe

Then, instead of the Beer Cheese Soup in a Bread bowl ($5.75) that we got during last year’s visit, I noticed they had a Pretzel Bread appetizer ($2.50) and my mouth watered. Their pretzel bread is like heaven, and there was even an option to order it with Boursin cheese spread ($6.50). Yes, please!

Pretzel Bread and Boursin from European Street Cafe

For entrees we went straight for the sausage. Todd ordered the German Sausage Sampler (with Knockwurst and Bavarian Bratwurst, hot German potato salad, sauerkraut, and–swoon!–a pretzel bread stick; $8).

German Sausage Sampler from European Street Cafe

While I went with the German Bavarian Bratwurst sandwich (with sauerkraut and chips; $5.50).

German Bavarian Bratwurst Sandwich from European Street Cafe

After all of that (and, oh, was it delicious) we were too full to have dessert there, but did take a slice of cake, each, from their bakery case, back to the hotel.

Unfortunately, the night didn’t end on that high note. I, being caught up in the excitement of the day (first by finding my wedding dress that morning at a charity sale in the convention hotel, then by the great sales day at the convention itself), failed to eat very much over the course of the day so I paid dearly for my indulgence at dinner. I spent most of the night with an upset stomach and was still feeling a little green the next morning. Lesson learned, I assure you.

Seeing as I was still not 100% after the 8am-7pm convention day on Saturday, we opted for my comfort food of choice that night and got some take-out from a local Chinese place. Pretty much the same menu as any other Chinese take-out place, China Joy wasn’t anything worth writing home about, but Egg Drop soup always seems to soothe.

Sunday night, after making sure I ate more throughout the day, we went back to E Street for our last meal of the trip. I was in the mood for a simple (but good!) club sandwich and who happens to have an entire selection (11 in total) of clubs? Yup, E Street! I ordered the Club European ($8)..

Club European sandwich from European Street Cafe

While Todd went with the Pastrami and Roast Beef Club($8). Both coming with a pickle spear and chips, and we both opted for sourdough as our bread option.

Pastrami and Roast Beef Club from European Street Cafe

My one tiny little quibble with my sandwich is that they only put mayo on the bottom slice of bread. Which meant both the middle and top slices had an un-smeared (and, therefore, dry) side. I have a thing about dry bread on sandwiches (similar to my dislike of dry salad greens in a salad): I don’t like ’em. Good thing it’s an easy fix–they brought me more mayo and I was happy.

We’ve yet to have a bad meal at European Street Cafe and have another trip to Jacksonville planned for November. We’ll only be in town one night but, somehow, I don’t think they’ll be a question of where to eat.

Do you ever look forward to a trip because of where you get to eat?