Baumkuchen or “tree cake” is reputedly the king of cakes. This is an alternative recipe for low-technology kitchens. The cake is many thin layers baked in quick succession using a spit, almost the way candles are made (except that the batter is brushed on in front of a wood fire rather than dipped, but I’ll bet the commerical ones are dipped while turning in a trough of batter). In fact, the cake takes its name from the many thin rings that are built up such that a cross section of the round cake looks like the cross section of a tree trunk. Each new layer is baked to a golden brown before brushing on the next. Reputation has it, again, that skilled chefs create cakes several feet long of 25 layers weighing a hundred pounds.


  2 sticks unsalted butter
  ¾ cup granulated sugar
  8 eggs, separated
  2 tbsp rum
  lemon zest
  1 pinch salt
  ½ cup minced almonds (optional)
  1⅛ cup flour
  1⅛ cup cornstarch
  ½ cup jam, melted (optional)
  chocolate covering (optional)


1. Mix together the flour and cornstarch.

2. Whip butter and sugar well until creamy. Add egg yolks and the remaining ingredients mixture until light and foamy.

3. Beat egg whites stiff and fold gently into the batter.

4. Pour about ¼ cup batter into a springform pan greased with butter; cover bottom thinly.

5. On the upper rack, bake at 450° for 2 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all the batter is gone; this should result in over a dozen layers.

7. Cool, then remove from the springform pan. Glazed with jam and almonds, a simple sugar glaze or with chocolate, etc.