German desserts are diverse and have a long, rich history. Many traditional German desserts, such as the Black Forest cake, are familiar to us because of mass German migration to America. Familiar American desserts like donuts, apple pie and fruit cake can also be traced back to Germany, where they're known as Berliners, apple strudel and Christmas cake, respectively.
Black Forest Cake
Black Forest cake is one of Germany's best and most famous desserts. It's quite a rich dessert, consisting of three to four layers of chocolate cake, with a mixture of cream and cherries that have been soaked in a clear schnapps called Kirschwasser, or "cherry water." The cream topping is decorated with chocolate shavings and cherries. It is not certain how the cake got its name, or where or when the cake originated, but a pastry chef from the Black Forest area of Germany claims to have been the first to make it in 1915.
Apple strudel is perhaps the most stereotypical of German desserts, although it is a speciality of both Bavaria and Austria. It originated in Austria in the 15th century when the Turkish baklava pastry was introduced. Different pastries can be used to make strudel, from the labor-intensive, traditional pastry, made with high-gluten flour, to the ready-made phylo or puff pastry. The pastry is spread and covered with a mixture of chopped apples, cinnamon, raisins, bread crumbs, nuts and even rum. The pastry is then rolled-up like a log and baked. It is usually eaten with vanilla ice cream or thick cream.
Christmas cake, or Christstollen, is originally from Dresden and dates back to the 14th century. The original recipe was quite plain and tasteless, mostly because it was made with oil instead of butter, due to a ban on the use of butter at the time. In 1491, the butter ban was lifted and the Dresden bakers could use butter, but had to pay a fine that went towards building churches. Today, Christsollen is a sweet, yeasty bread filled with nuts, dried fruit, marzipan, and coated with icing sugar, similar to Christmas cakes in America.
Gingerbread houses are well-known around Christmas time in America, but gingerbread itself has a long, proud history in Germany, dating back to 14th century Nuremberg. This city even created a gingerbread baker's guild in the 17th century; the Germanic National Museum houses the oldest gingerbread recipe, which dates back to the 16th century. The recipe calls for a honey-flavored dough with hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds, candied orange and lemon peels, marzipan and a variety of spices, including, of course, ginger.
Popular on weddings and special occasions, tree cake originated in Salzwedel in 1820. It is a sweet almond cake with dark or milk chocolate icing. The secret to the cake is in the baking process. Traditionally it is not baked in an oven, but on a hard, wooden spit. Batter is slowly drizzled on the spit as it rotates in front of a fire, baking the many thin layers. When cut, the inside resembles the rings of a tree.
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