The best things in life are simple. Like this sponge cake known as Butter- or Zuckerkuchen („butter“ or „sugar cake“), probably the most simple, basic and popular cake in German baking. Sadly, it seems to have become forgotten a bit in recent years while hip coffee shops, new-wave confectioneries and even down-to-earth bakeries have become flooded with brownies, muffins, cupcakes and American-style cookies. Do not get me wrong – nothing against these „imported“ bakes! They are certainly delicious and I am not the person you will find shrinking from sampling and indulging. But I would certainly be extremely sad if this beautiful rührkuchen („stirred cake“, i.e. the German version of sponge cake), with which I grew up, became forgotten in an overzealous pursuit of trendiness and „food fashion“, which is why I am posting the recipe here.
And there is another reason: This is actually the first cake I ever baked. Or – since I, quite honestly, do not have such precise memory – it is a fairly likely bet that it is. This cake was present at every family gathering, many a Sunday during summer and fall during the fruit harvest seasons in our garden and on pretty much every other occasion that involved cake. I almost literally smell the grass in the backyard on a sunny afternoon and memories of my family pop up in front of my inner eye when I taste this cake. Probably this is what makes it quite simply the best cake in the world to me.
In its most simple version, this cake is given a topping of sugar mixed with cinnamon sprinkled over the top half-way through the baking time. The recipe below provides for an almond, butter and sugar topping which is also often seen and popular in its own right. Alternatively, the cake also does wonderfully as a base for a fruit pie, i.e. when topped with a layer of thick cuts of apple, plums or other types of saisonal fruit, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
Ingredients (serves 6 to 8):
For the cake:
- 3 medium eggs
- 125 grams of sugar
- 2 heaped teaspoons of vanilla sugar (for a recipe see Ginger Orange Biscuits)
- 150 grams of cream
- 210 grams of cake flour (German type 405)
- 10 grams of baking powder
For the topping:
- 95 grams of butter
- 125 grams of sugar
- 150 grams of almond, blanched & sliced
- 3 tablespoons of milk
- Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla sugar until creamy.
- Mix in the cream.
- Pass the flour and the baking powder through a fine mesh and gradually add to the mix. Keep beating with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Butter a small baking tray or a flat rectangular baking pan (approximately 20 x 25 cm).
- Spread the dough evenly on the tray.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan oven). Bake for approximately 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, let the butter melt in a small pot. Add the sugar, the almond slices and the milk. Simmer for a few minutes on low heat while occasionally stirring gently.
- After 15 minutes of baking time, take the cake out of the oven and spread the butter, sugar and almond mix on top until evenly covered.
- Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Test if ready by sticking a knitting needle or a skewer into it – no bits of dough should attach to the needle/skewer.
- Let cool down and enjoy!!