The delicious cake called baumkuchen was once a staple of German weddings and Christmas celebrations. It comes in a peculiar shape, likened to a cross-cut slice of a tree trunk. A disc of baumkuchen reveals concentric circles, like the rings that show a tree's age. How do they do that?
Achieving this is a feat of unlikely cake engineering. The original method involves a spit turning over a fire. Thick batter is scooped, in heaping spoonfuls, directly onto the spit and spread across its length. As the batter drips and rotates, it creates craggy ridges, like the bark of a tree. When the batter turns golden brown, another scoop of batter is heaped on top, and the spinning continues. After 15 to 20 repetitions, the accumulating layers have formed rings that are imperfectly round and alternate between pale yellow and a toasty brown. The cake gets a glaze of warm apricot jam to seal in the moisture and prevent it from drying out, and then sometimes a crackly shell of chocolate or vanilla icing.
You can see a picture of that process here. Making baumkuchen over a fire for commercial use doesn't work well, as it is slow and produces inconsistent results. Specially-built ovens were used, but bakeries that make the cake are disappearing, because new ovens cost $100,000 and used ovens are hard to find. Read about the history and future of baumkuchen at Taste. -via Digg
(Image credit: Antonis Achilleos)