“der koenig der kuchen” baumkuchen-the king of cakes! this german delicacy was introduced to japan in 1917, by karl juchheim. he was a german pastry chef working in chintao, china, who was brought as a prisoner to hiroshima by the japanese. after the war, he moved to yokohama to work for meiji-ya as the head pastry chef at their “european cafe”. when his contract expired, he invested all his money to open his first bakery store, “e-juchheim”, where he could sell baumkuchen. he taught his japanese apprentices how to measure ingredients scientifically. but he made all his store’s baumkuchen on his own — he wouldn’t let anyone else do it.
his business flourished until 1923, when his store was destroyed by the great kanto earthquake. juchheim, his wife, elise, and their daughter were left with only a single 5 yen bill.
but they didn’t give up even then. they moved to kobe and borrowed a tremendous amount of money to re-open their store in sannomiya (kobe’s shopping district), this time as “juchheim’s”. designed by a british architect, their store was the first european style building in kobe. juchheim’s became very popular as an authentic german delicacy store, again featuring baumkuchen made by juchheim himself.
the new store was very successful and they were able to build a clean new factory. soon after, juchheim’s baumkuchen was chosen to be one of the admirable gifts to celebrate the new showa emperor. this great honour ensured baumkuchen’s popularity in japan.
karl juchheim died on august 14th, 1945, one day before the end of the world war 2. his wife was forced to move back home to germany, but his apprentices soon re-opened “juchheim’s” across from kobe’s ikuta shrine. in 1953, they were able to welcome elise juchheim back to kobe after a 6 year absence.
when i was a girl, my grandparents lived in higashi-nada ward, kobe. when we visited them, my mom sometimes picked a box of baumkuchen for them from juchheim’s. the baumkuchen came as a small ring, with many many layers. the texture was soft, but not too sweet (like canadian donuts). i always wondered how they made it.
i found a recipe for baumkuchen at sunny’s laboratory. i changed it a bit, though, to make it easier. i didn’t use cocoa powder on alternating layers, and i also left off most of the icing. i don’t like icing — it’s just sweet, no extra flavour. i added vanilla essence to the cake mix.
of course, my baumkuchen was not as delicious as juchheim’s. but at least i didn’t have to fly to kobe to eat it.
i translated the recipe into english:
- butter 40g
- sugar 30g
- egg 1
- flour 30g
- corn starch 15g
- baking powder tsp1/4
- vanilla essence a dash
- mix butter(at room temp.) and sugar well. add egg.
- heat a thick frying pan and coat with oil lightly.
- pour a spoonful of the batter onto the pan. cook at medium heat.
- when it becomes golden brown, flip it and pour a spoonful of the batter onto the baked dough.
- repeat the process until you run out of batter.
- cool it on the rack and when it’s cool, slice it into cubes or any shape you like.
(by the way, all the recipes at sunny’s laboratory are great, since they’re all designed to make small portions — just big enough for two people to share. that way, there’s not a lot of dessert left over. small dessert, small pleasure.)