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).
When I first read Francijn’s challenge, I thought I had no idea what I was getting in to. I’d never heard of Baumkuchen – a traditional German cake baked in layers on a rotating spit in front of a grill, whose final spiraling layers resemble the cross-sectional growth rings of a tree [see how it's done] – but when I got to the Shichttorte – a layer cake made by baking very thin layers of batter one by one on top each other – I realized that I had in fact bookmarked a similar recipe in a cookbook for probably close to fifteen years ago! I thought the recipe was just an extremely complicated way to bake a cake, which is why I had never attempted to make it before – I had no idea it was a legitimate traditional method, and I was excited to finally give it a try.
I decided to make a mash-up of the Schichttorte recipe provided by Francijn and of the chocolate-cinnamon recipe I had bookmarked. Francijn’s recipe included marzipan, and I knew the almonds would add both flavour and moisture to the cake, while the alternating layers of chocolate and cinnamon batter would provide flavour and visual contrast. Start to finish, this cake was a big time commitment, mostly because of the unusual baking method, which is very hands-on (whatever you do, don’t forget to set the timer for each layer, and don’t walk away from the oven!). After I finished broiling the last layer, I was not entirely confident that all the layers were properly baked, so I left the cake in the oven with the residual heat for about twenty minutes. I had a small “oh sh*t!” moment when I took it out of the oven afterwards and discovered that an errant bubble in one of the layers had expanded and caused the cake to puff up unevenly in one spot (a nightmare after taking all that care to create even layers), but I took a deep breath and deflated the bubble with a toothpick, and thank goodness it flattened out again. I have to say though, all the work (and anxiety, ha!) was totally worth it and I was extremely happy with how my cake turned out. It tasted fantastic: not too sweet with dark chocolate and warm spicy cinnamon, and not overly almond-y but still moist. Covered with a shiny dark chocolate-Grand Marnier glaze, it was pretty exciting to cut into it and see the thin, even layers.
My friend Katheryn recently had a significant birthday, and this weekend she came over from Vancouver to visit and we had a gathering of the lady friends with cake, sparklers, and champagne (okay, Martini Asti) to celebrate. The cake was a hit, and I will definitely be keeping this one in my back pocket to pull out when I need to “wow” someone!
Francijn, thank you for a wonderful challenge! I absolutely loved your Gevulde Speculaas challenge last year so I had high hopes for this one… and it delivered! Check out the Daring Kitchen for all the other Schichttorte and Baumkuchen made this month.
Chocolate Cinnamon Schichttorte
Adapted from Lieblingskuchen by Christa Schmedes and the Baker’s Best Chocolate Cookbook. Serves 8 – 10.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and butter the paper. Set aside.
In the microwave or in a small pot over low heat, melt together until smooth:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Set aside until cool but still liquid.
Separate 6 eggs. Set the yolks aside, and place the whites in the bowl of an electric mixer.
With the whisk attachment on medium speed, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated white sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form, then transfer the egg whites to another bowl.
In the mixer bowl with the paddle attachment, cream together:
150 grams marzipan (I made a half-batch of this recipe – scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page)
1/2 cup + 6 tbsp soft unsalted butter
When smooth and creamy, beat in:
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
One at a time, beat in the 6 egg yolks.
Finally, stir in 2/3 cup all purpose flour, sifted.
Scoop half the batter into a second bowl. To one bowl, add the cooled chocolate mixture. To the other, add 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon. Mix well, then add half the egg whites to each bowl. Fold in gently, trying not to lose too much air, until evenly combined.
Preheat the top broiler element of the oven and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Spread about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the chocolate batter evenly over the bottom of the prepared springform pan, trying not to get the batter on the sides of the pan. Bake the batter under the broiler for about 2 minutes (maybe more, maybe less, depending on your oven), until the layer is baked – it should be firm and springy. Remove from the oven and repeat with the cinnamon batter (it should be a very thin layer). Continue alternating the batters until both are used up.
I found that the chocolate layers took exactly 2 minutes, whereas the cinnamon layers took a little longer and were more prone to over-browning, so I had to keep a close eye on them and cover loosely with a piece of foil if they got too brown before being fully baked. You might also need to experiment with the position of the rack in the oven – either closer or further from the broiler element, depending on how things are going.
Once all the layers are baked, cover the cake loosely with foil, turn off the broiler element, and leave the cake in the cooling-but-still-hot oven for about 20 minutes, just to make sure it’s baked through.
Place the cake on a rack to cool completely. Once cool, run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake, then remove the sides of the springform pan. If necessary, trim the edges to make the top of the cake level. Remove the bottom of the springform pan and peel off the parchment paper. Place the cake on a rack over some waxed paper.
To glaze the cake, warm up 1/3 cup apricot jam (in the microwave or on the stove) and then press it through a sieve. Spread it evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together until just melted:
6 oz dark chocolate
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp Grand Marnier or other liqueur (or water, if desired)
When smooth, pour over the cake. Use a spatula to gently coax the chocolate glaze over the edges of the cake to coat the sides. Let the glaze set for a few hours before continuing.
With a spatula, lift the cake off the cooling rack and place on a serving platter. Decorate as desired – I used tiny balls of marzipan to make the flower centers and 5 bits of sliced almond for petals.