A German Spice Cake Baked Across the Ocean
I’ve spoken before about how the pandemic introduced me to so many amazing friends via the internet. They have helped inform some of my Gent Goes Global posts, and I have even gotten to meet almost all of my US-based friends! The ability to share memories with people from around the globe via the postal service and virtual communication has given these last two years a silver lining that is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes my love for my friends is brought to life in packages or gifts that say “I thought of you.” I was so lucky to receive one from my friend in Cleveland recently; a gift of a cookbook featuring recipes from German American immigrants! Spice cake, roasted root vegetables, pretzels, schnitzel – an all-star cast of German favorites for decades. It is a delight to flip through!
She also sent a copy to my best friend in Germany, and I knew immediately that I had to collaborate with him. I wanted to see how our different skill sets, ingredients, and knowledge would affect our final product of the same recipe. See, my best friend is a baker. Like, as a career. With certifications and everything. And I’m a lil ole home-taught baker with a Bake-Off obsession. BUT, we are using a German-American cookbook, which means a lot of measurements are in imperial units. So I figured this would be interesting.
The last time I wrote about German food, I went the fusion route and discussed how döner kebab have come from Turkey to dominate the German street food scene. This time, it’s just the classics, with pages dedicated to recipes that immigrants from the 1800’s brought to America. We went for a spice cake, or gewürzkuchen, from one Elisabeth Kottenhahn’s “grandmother Marx.” The recipe was fairly simple and straightforward, though I’m not used to the separated egg method of baking cakes. I’m a fan of “all-in-one” where the ingredients go into the same bowl and you get a great cake out of it. Call it lazy or call it pragmatic; I call it a winning strategy. But I was afraid to royally mess everything up, so I whipped the egg whites separately, and you know what? It came out ok. So I’m classifying that as a win. If anyone tries the
lazy all-in-one method with this cake, let me know how it turns out!
My friend made it first and felt that it was a little lacking in the spice department, so I upped the flavor levels of the original recipe when I made mine. I also used a loaf tin as described in the original recipe, whereas he went for a classic round cake. Both versions turned out beautifully, and getting to share a recipe with my best friend across an entire ocean was fulfilling. Though we have yet to meet in person, sharing food through the mail and the internet helps make the distance feel smaller.
Give this spice cake recipe a shot and let me know how it goes! It’s the perfect fall and winter dessert, and uses all of your favorite earthy spices that provide comfort and cheer. I paired mine with both ice cream and whipped cream with lingonberry jam mixed through. Both options were delicious, and if you’re adventurous (or English), you could make a custard to accompany it as well. Keep in mind that beating the egg whites and folding them in gives the cake lift; if you try the all-in-one method, I’m interested to see if it will rise even half as well. Shoot me an email or an Instagram DM letting me know how it goes!
Until next time, here’s to good drinking, great eating, and even better living.
German Spice Cake
- 1/2 cup butter (softened) (1 stick) (125g)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (300g)
- 3 eggs (separated)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (350g)
- 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 6 Tbsp cocoa powder (60g)
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or add an extra dash of all the other spices, since that is what makes up prepackaged pumpkin pie spice)
- 1 cup milk (1/4 liter) (plant-based milks are fine to substitute)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and egg yolks on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until well incorporated. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and spices. Add it to the batter, alternating with the milk, and stir just until fully incorporated.
- In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites on high with a hand mixer until they come to stiff peaks – this took me about 3-5 minutes. Fold these into the batter carefully with a spatula, making sure not to deflate the egg whites.
- Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin and bake for about an hour. Serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or custard.