a very baumkuchen holiday

we arrived in berlin on a gloomy grey afternoon.  soon after checking into our hotel, hubs and i walked over to gendarmenmarkt to see its famous christmas fair.  we wandered around the many nostalgic stalls selling everything from pizza to christmas ornaments to cookie cutters, when lo and behold, after rounding a corner, we came upon a rustic wooden sign with the words “BAUMKUCHEN” painted onto it.  OMG OMG OMG! i felt my heart race as i leaped around the corner to get my hands on some authentic german baumkuchen, the root etymology, the grand-daddy of all the japanese baumkuchen versions i’ve been obsessing about for years.

the baumkuchen stall we came across at the fair bore the signage: baumkuchen backstüberl.  i’m not sure if it was a famous brand of baumkuchen in germany or not?  i have a rather limited knowledge base when it comes to germany baumkuchens, unfortunately.  when i entered the word into google, it took me to the website of some traditional pastry shop in wien, austria.

unlike the slick japanese baumkuchen enterprises i visited that were manned by an army of white clad pastry chefs and salesgirls, baumkuchen backstüberl is a one woman show.  the proprietor made a single baumkuchen cake log at a time (the japanese machines will make several logs at once) on her rickety gas powered machine.

she sells her baumkuchen by weight.  there are two varieties:  fresh baumkuchen and baumkuchen coated in dark chocolate.  you can buy a segment of the log intact.  or she can slice it up for you into little cubes, which she then places in a paper cone.  it reminded me of eating popcorn out of cone.  now imagine if movie theaters in the US started to sell buckets of baumkuchen when you went to the movies instead!

in terms of taste, the german baumkuchen i tried is a bit different.   it is less dense, a bit more spongy in flavor, a tad sweeter, more vanilla-ey, and less nutty.  if i had to guess, it probably contains a lot less almond paste in its batter than the japanese baumkuchens.  i’m not complaining though.  i popped that baumkuchen cone in mouth in about 30 seconds flat.  happy christmas to me!

and just, when i thought i was done with new baumkuchen finds for the season, when i got back stateside, my friend G, who had spent his vacation in tokyo, presented me with a matcha flavored baumkuchen from kyoto based sweet shop sho-ayana (匠、彩菜).

Oo la la! what a way to end 2010 and kick off 2011! thank you G!

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