Das Ist Keine Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte/Not A Black Forest Cake

As a kid, I always saved up money so I could buy a slice of “Black Forest Cake” from our school canteen. Sure, the “cherry” was red glace icing, and there weren’t any cherries between the cake layers, but still. Chocolate! One of the things I said to myself when I started baking was, I needed to learn how to make this!

Six years in Germany, and I still haven’t eaten “real” Black Forest Cake. Don’t you know it is a regionally protected brand? The Kirchwasser doesn’t come from Swaben, the cake wasn’t made in Baden-Wüttemburg, so technically, this Black Forest Cake…isn’t. So call this an imitation Black Forest Cake.

I would like to thank Sofi from Chefkoch.de for sharing her wonderful recipe. It is quite easy to make, but the execution is tricky. I have made this cake in the most rudimentary of conditions in the Philippines, using my homemade cherry jam as a filling (thank you balikbayan boxes!) in a turbo broiler! My tip: refrigerate the eggs, since the whites turn to stiff peaks much quicker than ones in room temperature.

For the cake itself, you would need:

140 g baking chocolate (55% cocoa solids), 75 g (a little less than 1/3 c) butter, 6 eggs, refrigerated, 180 g sugar, 100 g all-purpose flour, 50 g cornstarch, 2 tsp. baking powder.

For the layers and icing:

2 650 g jars of preserved sour cherries, (makes 700-800 g cherries when drained), 500 ml  cherry juice from the preserves, 4 level Tbsp. cornstarch, 800 ml whipping cream, 3 Tbsp. (or 3 packets, if you prefer it sweeter) of vanilla sugar. This can be replaced by sugar mixed with vanilla extract or vanillin in Manila. 100 ml Kirchwasser, (optional if making cake for children) 17 cocktail or candied cherries, and 100 grams of chocolate shavings. While it can be bought ready-made in Germany and the US, this is not the case in the Philippines. It is easy enough to make using either a potato peeler or melting, then scraping the chocolate off a flat pan. Please use European chocolate with at least 50 % chocolate solids, like Lindt or Ritter Sport. I was most disappointed by the quality of baking chocolate in the Philippines. If making this with cherry jam, about 600 ml cherry jam will do.

How to : the cake

bf2In a double boiler (bain-Marie), melt the chocolate and the butter together over very warm (not boiling!) water. When melted, set aside to cool a little. Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with the sugar with an electric mixer until lemony-yellow and foamy, then mix in the choco-butter mixture. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Sift the flour, baking powder, and cornstarch over the egg whites, then fold gently. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg whites and continue folding until the mixture is well incorporated.

Line the bottom of an 8-9 inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Cut up a sheet of paper, put over the bottom, put the barrel over it, tighten to seal, then cut the excess paper around the springform). Bake in a 175° C preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. When this is done, allow to fully cool before removing the ring. The cake is dry, as it needs to be.

Meanwhile, you can make the cherry filling. If you are using cherry jam, lucky you, no need to do these next steps.

Drain the preserved cherries, setting aside 500 ml (2 cups) of the juice. Take about half a cup of this juice, and mix with the cornstarch and sugar. Boil the rest of the juice in a saucepan, then add the juice slurry in it. Mix in the cherries, and add half (50 ml) of the Kirchwasser.

Ok here it comes. How to thinly slice across a cake . if you don’t have a cake leveler, you would need a) a bread knife, and b) sewing thread long enough to go around the cake (around 30 inches/ 70 cm)

bf3With a serrated bread knife, cut a groove around the cake about a centimeter and a half (half an inch) from the top.

bf4 Place the sewing thread into the groove you cut. Make an x with both ends of the string. with a see-sawing motion, pull the threads to and fro until the threads cut into the cake. do this until the top separates from the rest of your cake. Set this cake top aside, and repeat this

bf5process with the second half of the cake, cutting it in half, ending up with three different pieces of cake. Never mind the crumbs and pieces falling off: this can be repaired later with icing. If using Kirchwasser, sprinkle it over the cakes.

Whip 500 ml whipping cream, adding 2 Tbsp. Vanilla sugar in the middle of the whipping process. You know that it is whipped if you can turn the bowl upside-down and the cream doesn’t slip out. Do not overbeat unless you want to accidentally churn butter.

The next step is better done on cardboard cake lining. Place this lining on a cake butler tray if this cake is meant to be transported.

Place the ring of the springform pan on the cake board, then put the top part of the cake, baked side up, at the bottom. The ring acts as a mold for the cake.Spread half of the cherry mixture or jam over the cake. Then spread half of the whipped cream over it. Repeat the process with the middle portion of the cut cake. Then place the whole thing in the fridge overnight for the cherry mixture to set. If using cherry jam, you can skip this process.

bf6The next morning, place the bottom part of the cake, cut side down and the smooth side up, on the cake. Remove the ring. Whip the rest of the cream, half-filling a pastry bag capped with the largest star-shaped tip you have for the garnish, and use the rest to cover the entire cake with it with a spatula.

Now, covering the cake  sides with chocolate shavings takes some practice. Using a small cup or a small, stiff plastic bag, splay the sides of the cake with the chocolate shavings with a flick of the wrist. Remember how a priest douses churchgoers with holy water? Like that. Then sprinkle the top. This gets messy, so a pastry brush is very helpful to clean up the mess.

Pipe the rest of the cream on top of the cake, one very large dot at a time. then place the cherries on top.

I make this cake once or twice a year. It really is worth the effort!

Cupcakeria Erfurt

The storefront has always intrigued me, ever since they opened about a year ago. In a country where people don’t even know the difference between a muffin and a cupcake, I thought it quite brave of the owners to open a cupcake shop. I’ve tasted their creations a few times already (cupcakes and cake pops), but I’d never been to their shop. I finally got the chance to go in last Friday.

cupcakeEntering the store is like entering a six year old girl’s bedroom. All pink and frilly and…pink. The decor is very saccharine, and the cupcakes were soooo cute! Check out this chocolate sheep cupcake. They may look sweet, but they don’t taste too sweet, something that I like. The frosting tastes substantial, and not airy.

 

floorThe concept was obviously American-inspired, which was also shown by the cute linoleum floors,  a map of New York. The cupcakes were reasonably-prized, a little less than two euros per cupcake. The artistry of the work is totally worth it.

I can totally recommend their cupcakes as a gift for a potluck or children’s party.

Cupcakeria 

Magdeburger Allee 5 Erfurt

Opening times Monday-Friday 10 am-530 pm, except Wednesdays, 12:30-5:30 pm, 

Saturday 10 am-2 pm

Eat Your Heart Out in Berlin!

Unlike my last few visits to Berlin, which could be described as pit stops rather than visits, I finally had more time to explore Berlin and visit places that I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. and That Queer Expatriate’s Adam was a very gracious host and toured me around the best eats in his ‘hood or Kiez.

One of the first things I did upon landing in Berlin was make a beeline for Pan, the only Filipino restaurant in Berlin. I ordered Sinigang, a traditional Philippine sour soup/stew that is eaten with rice. It can be filled with pork, fish, and shrimps. Although souring agents for sinigang nowadays comes from a packet, it is traditionally soured with unripe tomatoes, kamias, sampaloc (tamarind), or other sour fruits.

Ok, it was not exactly his turf, but Berlin was freezing, and I needed comfort food. Does it hit the spot? I dont’ know what to make of it. It smelled Pinoy, it looked Pinoy, but there was   something different about the texture of the veggies. It wasn’t cooked to death!

Saturday was jam-packed with activities. Adam and I woke up early to get to the Schöneberg Winterfeld Market. It was freezing cold in Berlin, I thought I was gonna freeze my toes off, despite my winter shoes. It didn’t stop us from eating this wonderful, luxuriously covered Tiramisu from an Italian street vendor.

I would’ve lingered over this tiramisu if it weren’t so damned cold out. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet, and the mild cherry amaretto wasn’t alcoholy-tasting at all! It really tasted like cherry.

I was looking for earrings, so Adam bought me food-themed ones (thanks Adam!) and then he went over to a stall to buy freshly-made spaghetti and other produce straight from Italy.

I would’ve bought a load of food from the stall if I hadn’t just come from Italy. Oh well, maybe next summer.

After a quick brunch at a Cafe, where Adam played around with his fancy new camera toy, I left to attend a conference. I already had planned to eat Ethiopian that evening, but the weather and Adam’s ketchup-stained shirt had other plans for us.

A trip to Berlin for me would never be complete without a stop at my favorite Asian supermarket in Berlin, which we did Saturday evening. Because Adam’s pants were too thin for the cold weather, we decided to eat at Chay Village, a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in his Kiez.

Now, I’m skeptical of vegetarian Vietnamese dishes. Vietnamese food has a lot of vegetarian dishes, but I was in the mood for soup in a very cold winter day. I couldn’t imagine eating Pho without beef broth. I was pleasantly surprised by this restaurant. I was first baffled by the sauce they served us with the dimsum. I thought it looked like apple cider vinegar, but it wasn’t sour enough to be that. I thought it could be fish sauce, but it wasn’t salty enough to be that, either. It turned out to be home-made soy sauce!

And the Pho had fried Tofu, mushrooms, and scrambled egg strips in it. It tasted just like normal Pho. Yum!

After that we just stayed home and watched Magic Mike. Thoroughly enjoyable film.

I gorged myself full on Dunkin’ Donuts while waiting for the bus that would take me home.

I would like to thank Adam for so graciously hosting me!

Cookies For A Cause

Cookies

I was invited to participate in a bakefest for a good cause. My friend Tanya is a chef and organizes “cooking experiences” in Thüringia, in English and in German. These are basically cooking classes that tries to explore a different part of the world by cooking the food there instead of booking a plane ticket. Quite clever!

The theme was “International Baking Expedition,” And we baked cookies from different parts of the world. The cookes were to be sold and the proceeds went to the Kinder- und Jugendtreffs Marienstift. I was assigned to the Persian table, where I was given a giant bowl of Naan Berenji batter. The cookie is made from rice flour, so it was a more glutinous consistency than normal batter.

I think they turned out great! We sampled German Vanille Kipferl, Chocolate Chili Logs from Canada, Butter Shortbread from England, among others.

Thank you Tanya for the experience!

Cookies for a cause

 

 

 

Vanilla Sugar or Vanilla Extract?

So, we’ve been beset by Christmas cookie baking season. I’m also late in the game, and I plan to change that this weekend.

I grew up in the Philippines using Vanillin, which is artificial vanilla extract. It is quite ironic, since we could grow vanilla in the Philippines. I used it to bake cookies, to flavor drinks.

In Germany, I was able to get my hands on the real thing, at Xenos, of all places. Xenos is a Dutch-owned chain that sells cheap, classy looking Chinese crap (excuse my French, but products aren’t really great), and some exotic food items.

However, Germany is not vanilla extract land. Over here, they use vanilla sugar. in fact, vanilla extract is hard to find in stores in Germany. Over here, vanilla sugar reigns!

Ever since I found a super recipe for making my own vanilla extract, I’ve never looked back. Reformhaus in Germany doesn’t tempt me anymore with its overpriced vanilla extract. A vial of good vanilla beans with 2 pieces in it can set you back 5 euros, way cheaper than 7 euros for 100 ml of vanilla extract. This is literally the never ending vanilla extract. It will last you for years. So when I bake American, I use vanilla extract.

But since I developed full-blown baking fever in Germany, I also have a lot of German recipes that use vanilla sugar. I think this is a great option for people who can’t eat/drink anything with alcohol in it.  I don’t understand why so many people buy vanilla sugar in those 50 g packets, when making your own is so much more cheaper! Many people make their own vanilla sugar by throwing in two vanilla beans in an airtight container full of sugar, but I prefer Jaime Oliver’s recipe.

In Jaime’s book The Naked Chef, he recommends blitzing 4 vanilla beans in a food processor, scraping the black gunk from the sides, and adding 1 kg of white sugar. Blitz it again and sieve. Blitz what remains in the sieve again in the food processor until you get a brown-grayish mass.

Since I have the option of using both, I normally use vanilla extract AND vanilla sugar in my  recipes. wasteful, yes but worth it. 🙂

Cake Fail

This was quite an easy cake to make, but I made several mistakes that by the time we got this to the recipient, it had started sagging on one side. It was so embarrassing.

It was laziness that basically undid this cake. I had store-bought Zuckerguss (Fondant) that needed using, so it went on this cake. Never again! It was a lemony-tasing mess, that runny fondant.

I was dead-tired the Friday before the party, so I said, I’ll bake the cake Saturday morning. I had no space in my freezer for the cake pan. This is the reason you need to freeze or wait a few days for your cake to dry out. It couldn’t carry the weight of the icing if it is still very spongy.

Another mistake I made was that I didn’t do a “crumb layer” under the fondant. That is the tricky thing about this stuff. It shows every single crumb or uneveness under it. I still had icing left over from the Thomas cake which I froze, and read could sucessfully re-constitute using milk. I read wrong! After defrosting it was clear that I had a clumpy, buttery gunk, that I couldn’t use. Because I was lazy with starting the cake, I had no time make icing to do a crumb layer.

Lesson learned! Never, ever rush a cake.

This Year’s Cake: Lightning Mc Queen

I was a bit hard-up for ideas regarding my son’s birthday party this year. The decision to throw a “Cars”-themed party came to me after finding a Lightning McQueen cake pan at TK Maxx.

I thought that using a cake pan would be easier than making a 3-D cake like last year’s Thomas the Train. In fact, it presented other challenges. The cake pan had a lot of grooves. Even if the moist choco buttermilk cake recipe requires a lot of oil, the cake still stuck to the pan despite oiling and flouring. It was frustrating to pry the thing out.

Icing the cake using regular white icing also meant that one had a smaller margin of error. Fondant is like clay: If you goof up, just re-roll and try again. Not with regular icing. This year’s frosting is kid-friendlier. That means no raw eggs, unlike caramel buttercream icing, which had raw egg white. Basic white icing is a block of butter (1 cup=250 g) left overnight on the counter (in the Philippines, 2-3 hours), beaten with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add a cup or more of powdered sugar (aka Confectioner’s sugar) until it turns white. Add one to two tablespoons of milk to improve spreadability.

We needed white icing since McQueen’s eyes and teeth were white. It took less time to make than the Thomas the Train, as I started baking the first of the cake’s two layers only last Thursday evening. The eyelids couldn’t be completely red since we ran out of red food dye. However, everybody loved it and I’m glad that my son appreciated it. He was so excited that he wanted to eat cake before going to bed!

The One Time I Went Crazy: Thomas the Train Cake

So, you know, I usually make things based on a whim. Things basically that challenge me. I tell myself things like, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to make a recipe from a medieval cookbook?” Crazy things like that.

So last year, a week before my son’s 2nd birthday, I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to make a Thomas the Train cake?” That is my son’s obsession. Trains and automobiles. So instead of doing what any normal mom would do (pay someone to do this cake), I decided to roll up my sleeves, bullied my son’s dad, and do it ourselves. Thankfully, I found a step-by-step guide on the internet to talk me through it. I hope it can help you too.

Let’s start with the face. You need to make the face in advance because the fondant mixture needs to dry out. Otherwise, it will be too heavy and it could cause your cake to collapse.

The face is made of marshmallow fondant. Marshmallow fondant is basically a 500 gram bag of barbeque marshmallows, blitzed for 60 seconds on “high” in the microwave in a heavily greased pyrex or ceramic bowl (I cannot stress this enough), with 2 tablespoons of water. When this is melted, pour the mixture into another greased bowl filled with half a bag of confectioners sugar or cornstarch. This improves the elasticity of the fondant. I tried to use my kitchen mixer, but it gunked up my machine. So I waited a few minutes and kneaded it using an oiled spoon, then by hand. Make sure that it is cool enough not to scald you! Get the mixture out of the bowl and wrap in cling film for an hour.

After this, you can knead, roll, and mix in the food colors. Always work with the fondant with oiled hands and on a surface dusted with cornstarch.

The website I referred gives a very detailed description on how to make the face. If you don’t have the kitchen tools she has, I think that the wooden end of a paintbrush or a knitting needle will come in just as handy. Make sure to insert the barbeque stick into the face before you work on it, since the stick will alter the dimensions of the face. Use the rest of the fondant to fashion the wheels, the funnel, and the other things that protrude from Thomas. We have enough books and toys to use as reference, but it really is best to base the cake only on one or two versions of Thomas. The diameter of the face is about 4 inches, since I have a 4 and a half inch springform pan in which I made the cake for the face.

I always use the same recipe for buttermilk chocolate cake. Recipes on the net are dime a dozen, so take your pick. Make two batches of that. Pour the batter onto a 13×9 inch pan and onto an 11 inch pan. I am lucky enough that I have a 4 1/2 inch springform pan, since you will need this too to make the face. I’ve read on the net that an enterprising mom used a coffee can to make this, which is a good idea. Make sure to grease it heavily so it will come out. Let this sit for a day out in the open, or freeze it for at least three hours, to make the cake harder, denser, and less spongy. You need a firmer cake to make the abuses you will inflict on it stick. Otherwise, your cake will sag under all the icing.

I swear by Martha Stewart’s Caramel Buttercream icing for the flavor and ease to work with. The only pain is making the caramel, since you’ll have to watch it closely, otherwise it’ll burn. The icing will come out a bit beige, not white. If that is not a problem then by all means use this recipe. It yields enough icing for the entire cake.

As you see, we’ve trimmed and cut the cake from the bigger pan in half, and cut the cake  from the smaller cake pan to fit. I found it best to already work on the surface where the cake will be served and clean up the sides afterwards, since it will be difficult to move Thomas once you’ve got all that icing on it. We used a glass serving plate. Three layers of cake. Ice the layers in between generously to make it stick on each other. Ice the front and stick the trimmed round cake from the springform pan onto it. 

We used a steak knife to sculpt the dome on the third cake layer, to make it fit the cake from the springform. The scraps from the smaller cake were stuck to the top and the back part of the train. Then comes something called the “crumb layer,” a layer of icing that is spread all over the cake to prevent the crumbs from showing through the colored cake icing. Toothpicks were inserted into the funnels and dome to make it stick on the cake, and Thomas’s face was inserted into the cake with a barbeque stick.

Here comes the fun part: Icing the cake. I couldn’t believe the amount of food color we used to come up with the blue, black and reds for this. Since black was not readily available in Germany, we used Zuckercouleur, a coloring agent used for browning sauces, which is readily available in supermarkets, mixed with every single food coloring agent we had, to make it truly black. Experiment with adding yellow to make the blue lighter, or brown to make it darker. Here in Germany, green, yellow, red, magenta, blue, and violet are readily available. If you don’t have a cake spatula, the back part of a butter or bread knife will do.

Et voila! Thomas the train. We needed at least four days to make it. This year I’m taking the easy way out and have bought a Lightning Mc Queen cake pan.

Apfelstreuselkuchen/ Apple Streusel Pie

I found this recipe on Chefkoch.de, one of the best recipe sites out there in my opinion, in 2010, and I’ve been using it ever since. It is simply hands down one of the best apple pies I’ve had, and I always bake this at least three times a year during apple season (September-October). I’ve contacted Stefan, who posted the recipe, and he generously  allowed me to translate it in English. Please remember that when baking, it is better use the roundish, sour apples than the sweeter ones (though that works fine too!).

Shortcrust:

300 g/ 1 cup All-purpose flour, 100 g Butter, 100 g Sugar, 1 tsp. Baking powder, 1 packet/1 Tbsp. Vanilla sugar, 2 eggs

Filling:

1.5 kg (3 pounds) apples, 50 g butter, 50 g Raisins, 50 g Sugar (10 g less if you don’t want it too sweet), and a packet of Vanilla pudding (Jell-O makes them in the US, Dr. Oetker in Europe, or you can make your own), and at least 3 Tbsp. of Cinnamon powder (for Cinnamon fans.)

Streusel:

150 g All-purpose flour,100 g Butter, 100 g Sugar.

Prepare the shortcrust by combining all the ingredients and knead it by hand or with a kneader in a bowl. When it is well combined, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the filling: peel, slice, and quarter the apples, removing the seeds and the core. In a heavy-bottomed medium-sized pot, cook the apples over medium head, adding the butter, raisins, and sugar. Stir once in a while over the heat until the apples turn into a gelatinous mass/mush with some apple pieces. This takes about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the pudding according to packet instructions. Normally, that means 400 g pudding mix, 40 g sugar, and 2 cups/ 500 ml of heated milk. Stir in the pudding powder and sugar in some cold milk,  add it into the heated milk and mix with a wire whisk until smooth. Take off the heat and set aside. You can now pre-heat the oven.

Take the shortcrust out of the fridge, and roll flat in batches. In a greased springform pan, lay the shortcrust and create a wall of around 3 cm or one and a half inches on all sides. Press and stretch to make the seams join and to cover up holes. The sides don’t have to be perfectly straight! Pour in the cooled pudding, then the apple mixture.

In the same bowl, you can put all of the ingredients for the Streusel, knead until the mixture is well-incorporated. Take a handful of the mixture, and pinch off bits of the dough with your thumb and index finger over the pie and repeat this until the dough is used up and the pie is completely covered. Place into the pre-heated oven and bake at 160° C for one hour.  To make the streusel brown, turn up the heat to 200° C in the last 10 minutes. Enjoy!