German Food Guide
"à la carte"
German Cakes (Kuchen & Torten)
Germans love cakes and German cakes are excellent! There are actually two German words for cakes: Kuchen and Torten. Kuchen are basic one-layer cakes (with only one layer of dough). They may include toppings, fillings, and glazes, and may come in a variety of shapes. Torten are "fancier" cakes with multiple layers of cake (dough). Between each cake layer is usually a filling made of cream and/or fruits. Torten are often decorated with whipped cream or other cream (such as Buttercream), and may be topped with other decorative items such as fruits, nuts, marzipan, and chocolate pieces.
In German cuisine, the number of cake varieties is endless. Cakes are made from a variety of dough types, fillings, toppings, glazes, and shapes. We identify some of the most common ones below.
Yeast Dough (Hefeteig)
A yeast dough is a dough in which yeast has been added as a leavening agent. Yeast feeds on the sugars in the dough (added sugar and the sugar produced from the wheat starch in the flour). The yeast converts the sugars to carbon dioxide and alcohol. As the dough bakes, the carbon dioxide is trapped within the dough, causing the dough to rise.
Short Dough (Mürbeteig)
The "short" in short dough refers to its crumbly quality produced by shortening (butter or margarine). This dough has a high content of shortening. The dough is firm and can be easily rolled out.
The main ingredients of a sponge are eggs, flour, and sugar. In this type of cake, very little or no leavening agents(baking powder or baking soda) are used because its volume and light texture come from air whipped into the eggs.
A batter is made mainly from shortening, sugar, eggs, flour, and sometimes milk. Mixing (Rühren) is important to this type of cake because it incorporates air into the cake and makes it lighter. Mixing the eggs and sugar first, then adding the shortening, results in a cake that is light and rises high. Mixing the butter and sugar first, then add the eggs, results in a cake that is airy and soft. The flour is then added at the end of mixing and mixing should only continue until the flour has been incorporated into the batter.
Puff Pastry (Blätterteig)
Puff pastry is made from hundreds of layers of butter and dough. This creates a very flakey product.
Strudel Dough (Strudelteig)
Strudel dough is a very elastic dough, made of flour, water, and oil. It is formed by stretching it out (similar to stretching out a pizza dough) until it is paper thin. The dough is so thin that is is almost transparent. It is spread out on moist towel (to prevent it from drying out), topped with the filling, then rolled up.
Common fillings used in German cakes include nuts, fruits, Quark, poppy seeds, chocolate, whipped cream, and other creams.
Common toppings used in German cakes include crumbs, fruits, nuts, sugar, chocolate, marzipan, whipped cream, and other creams. Fruit toppings are most commonly apples, Zwetschgen, strawberries, red currants, berries, cherries, or rhubarb.
Glazes are used both for decoration and to keep the cake from drying out. Glazes include chocolate, honey, glazes made from powdered sugar, marmelade, and gelatin-based glazes.
The most common shapes of German cakes are round (using a Springform) and regtangular (as with the Blechkuchen).
Photo: © Andrea Sachs - Fotolia.com