At first sight, thinness corner appears to be a uniform piece of dark chocolate. A few quick taps of a fork are enough to break through the outer coating, revealing dozens of fine golden layers. German Baumkuchen, or “tree cake,” gets its name from these inner rings, which look a lot like the cross section of a tree. As Lithuanian sakotis, Romanian kürtőskalacsand French spit cakes, it belongs to the family of spit roasted cakes.
To do this, bakers brush a thin layer of dough with butter on a rotating spit over a live fire. As soon as the layer caramelizes, the baker must immediately brush the next one to prevent it from burning. Each layer adds an extra depth of flavor, thanks to the Maillard reaction.
Since the process, which can be repeated up to 30 times, requires considerable skill, time and special equipment, it is understandable that Baumkuchen is reserved for special occasions – it is rarely seen in Germany except around Christmas. Yet at Konditorei Buchwald, Berlin’s oldest operating confectionery, this labor-intensive treat is on the menu year-round, available in glazed rounds to go or whole chocolate-covered slices.
Coffee and Kuchen, or an afternoon break for coffee and cake, is still a borderline sacred ritual for many Germans. Since 1852, the sunny canal-side patio of Kondotorei Buchwald has been one of the best places in town for this. And while their Baumkuchen is certainly a scene stealer, it’s far from the only draw. From a Florentine apple cake covered in sliced sugared almonds to a voluminous and moist honey cake topped with a marzipan bumblebee, there are plenty of other tempting offerings in the pastry case.