Tuesday, September 4, 2007

German Kuchen

It’s been a while. I was on a short “hiatus” in Berlin, but only from writing, not from cooking. It was a bit harder than here in Spain, although I didn’t expect the oven knob to have a number system from 1 to 8, or no visible numbers at all. This didn’t get me down, only a little burned (or a lot burned) at one point. But my first attempt at baking with the specially-numbered German ovens turned out as a success. Another problem to overcome was the fact that I didn’t have a scale, so it was fun throwing in what I guessed was the right amount and seeing how it ended up.

First on the list was a plum cake I used to make when I was in middle school. I remember it as being more like a cheesecake made with flour that had plums on the top. The recipe came from a Southern Living, and lately I’d been thinking about that cake, so my mom emailed me the recipe.

In Berlin there were plums everywhere, and even many pflaumen torten, at bakeries, at market stalls, more than I’m used to here in Spain. Getting my ingredients wasn’t so hard, the only thing I had a bit of a problem with was cognac. I got some cheap, tiny, airplane sized bottle of some not-so-good cognac because it was all I could find without buying a whole bottle.

The interesting thing about this cake was it turned out totally different than I had remembered it. Like I said, I remember a dense, cheesecake-like concoction with plums lining the top, and when I pulled this out of the oven and served it, it was a bit like a soufflé with plums that had sunk to the bottom (as you can see below).

And I’m not quite sure which is right…I only now started to wonder. Either way, make sure you use enough sugar, because if you don’t then the cream cheese is a very subdued flavor and you won’t taste much except a bite with plum. So, let me know how yours turns out: heavy, cheesecake topped with plums, or light, airy soufflé with a base of plums…

Plum Cake

½ (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cup sifted cake flour
½ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs, separated
1 pound small plums, cut into thin wedges
¾ cup powdered sugar, divided
2 tablespoons brandy
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

First beat the cream cheese with a whisk until fluffy, then add the sour cream and mix in well. Now beat yolks and ½ cup sugar in a separate bowl at medium speed until thick. Then add the cream cheese mixture and brandy, beating until blended.
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed until foamy (or if you don’t have an electric mixer, find a male and hand him a whisk). Add remaining ¼ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves. Combine flour and baking powder; fold into cream cheese mixture. Fold in egg white mixture. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9-inch springform pan, and arrange plum wedges on top (I always remember them resting on top and staying there, however, this most recent time they sunk to the bottom as I took my time placing them in a nice pattern. Maybe when I was younger I didn’t understand the concept of “beating egg whites” and this could explain my denser cake…). Now bake at 350 F (or oven knob Low, somewhere around the 2 I think it was) for 45 minutes (or until you open the oven and realize it’s cooking extremely fast, browning on top after 10 minutes). Cool in pan on a wire rack 5 minutes. Remove sides of pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar; serve warm or at room temperature.

unfortunately my pictures did not come out at all for this....I think the best one I got was on the floor in someone's room, you might be able to see a hint of oriental rug under the clear plate in a few of these...

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