I have been neglecting my blogging duties and services to baking. We have already been back from “us holidays” for a week and I completely failed to make a single blog post whilst travelling through Germany. I also somewhat failed to indulge in the delights of Kuchen. What went wrong? Well I put it down to heavy German cooking leaving me “satt” (sated) with little room for afternoon cake. Well to be honest both that and heavy art gallery and museum touring duty which left our feet weary and our bodies desirous of an afternoon nap rather than sipping coffee and eating cake. However my investigations into German baking were not a complete bust.
Germany really does baked goods in a big way. The selection of bread in the most basic supermarket is enough to make a British bread affciaonado weep with despair when facing the serried ranks of plastic wrapped sliced pap that passes for bread in England. The cake choice in most cafes is absolutely bewildering. There is definitely a split between 2 styles – layered sweet creamy confections, or tray bake slices with a heavy dependence on creme pat or that uniquely German thing – streusel – a form of crumble topping adapted for cake.
Our trip after Prague took us from Dresden to Berlin and then onto a small Baltic resort called Binz where we seemed to be the only non german speakers in the town. Dresden was an interesting conundrum. The city was almost utterly destroyed by bombing in February 1945, and then badly neglected by the communists until the “Wende” (the “Turn” – what the Germans call the collapse of communism in 1989). It was only after 1989 that the historic centre was largely rebuilt and restored. The iconic Frauenkirche was rebuilt to its original design only in 2005. The Residenzschloss (Royal Palace) was only rebuilt in 2013. There are still whole city blocks in prime locations being rebuilt 27 years after the Wende. All that leaves the city looking beautiful but with a slightly strange sparkly (sterile?) feel to it that you get in parts of cities that have not yet acquired the patina of age.
I would still recommend a visit as it is a beautiful historic city, but for a night out I would avoid the restored and very touristy Altstadt (Old Town) and head to the Lousienstrasse in the Neustadt (New Town – meaning the 18th century “New” Town) where the city really lives and parties.
Dresden’s most famous export is of course Meissen Porcelain. The discovery of the right sort of clay in the state of Saxony transformed the fortunes of the Wittenberg dynasty who used it to buy influence in the courts of Europe. If you are a porcelain fan head to the Royal Museum where the re-display of the royal collection (a mere 12,000 pieces) is beautiful.
After a long museum trip we headed to the again beautifully restored (in 2000) Coselpalais for a little Kaffee und Kuchen.
Their cake selection is a joy to behold – Mousse Cake Two Ways, Redcurrant and Poppyseed Cream Cake, Strawberry and Lime Cheesecake, Harlequin Cake, Madarin Yoghurt Cake, Blackforest Slice, Dresden Eierschecke (a local layered cake similar to baked cheesecake of sponge, quark and creme pat). Take a look for yourself.
What caught my eye was the Porcelain Cake – especially as this is the home of Meissen porcelain. This is a layered cake with a sponge and almond meringue base, layers of concentric circles marzipan buttercream, pistachio butter cream and jam, separated by slices of poached pear – all covered in pure white fondant with an impressed pattern to mimic a piece of porcelain.
Now I thought I had got to the bottom of the vast variety of Buttercreams that exist in German baking but Marzipan Buttercream?? It is now obvious to me that when it comes to German Buttercream the sky is the limit. In this instance you beat marzipan in to the mixture with a schnapps of your choice. I am sure there are many other variations
Tasty? Well very sweet and very creamy. Challenging to make? Without a doubt. I may write to the Great British Bake Off to recommend it as an obscure technical challenge. Will I make it? Hmmmm – sweet creamy cakes are not really my thing as I discovered as we travelled across Germany but when the winter draws in I may try to replicate it, maybe covering it in pure white marzipan rather than fondant to take the sweetness level down.
All in all we spent 3 days in Dresden and ate 2 cakes (the other one being the Eierschecke), and only had one cake regret – that Harlequin Cake looked tempting. It is a city well worth seeing for a quick visit. The surrounding countryside is gorgeous and we regret not finding a beautiful castle to relax in for a few days before heading to Berlin of which I will write a little more soon.