Hazelnut baumkuchen with whipped nama chocolate

Whenever Christmas rolls around, I feel like the typical cakes you would see are the yule logs or roll cakes with the meringue mushrooms on top. Or some kind of cake with lots of powdered sugar on it, and some sort of Santa-themed decoration. Not trying to rag on those kinds of cakes, as I am guilty of doing them myself, but seeing these kinds of cakes constantly made me want to do something new, or at least different, this year. And that’s when I remembered baumkuchen. Baumkuchen is a German cake that is baked with thin layers of batter. Usually, this is done with a large spit and a large fire oven, but those are obviously not things everyone has at home. So for this recipe, we are going to take those layers of batter and bake them off in the oven at the broiler setting. Because of this method, each layer takes only about 1-2 minutes to actually bake, though it is about 15-20 minutes of active baking/batter layering time. Admittedly, it has been over 4 years since I last made one, but that just gave me more of a reason to do one this year!

For my baumkuchen, we have an almond or hazelnut(depending on which flour you use) genoise, or spongecake, as the base for the batter. Almond or marizpan is typically used in baumkuchen, so I wanted to stick closely to that tradition. We are brushing the cake with a soaking liquid, just since it can go dry, and assembling the cake in a similar fashion to a battenberg cake(square checkerboard cake). This requires a little bit of trimming on the cake, just to guarantee that the shapes of the baumkuchen are symmetrical, but those trimmed pieces are a great little snack while you’re assembling the finished cake anyways! The exterior will be covered in a whipped nama chocolate(a fudgy ganache usually used in Japanese truffles) that is infused with either hazelnut or almond liquor, and coated with crushed almonds or hazelnuts, and finished with gold leaf for that fancy touch. While this is by no means a bouche de noel or yule log, this is still a cake that is festive, reminiscent of a tree, and still fun to cut into, just to see all of the layers that you would have worked so hard to create!

For the baumkuchen:
4 eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter; melted
1/4 cup almond or hazelnut flour

In a bowl, whip eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt to ribbon-stage. Fold into that mixture sifted all-purpose flour. In another bowl, mix together the butter with almond flour. Then take a portion of your egg-flour batter, no more than 1/4th of it, and fold that into the melted butter. Fold everything back together. Line two small loaf pans with butter. Add no more than 3 tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spreading it out as evenly as possible, and bake at broiler or 500 degrees F for 1 minute. Take out of the oven, add in 3 more tablespoons of batter, spread it out evenly again, and bake again for another 50 seconds. Continuously do that, baking off the remaining layers at 50 second intervals, until all of the batter is consumed between the two loaf tins. Remove the cake from the pans and trim into neat rectangles for assembly. Reserve any long slices of the scraps as you can use that to decorate the cake with.

If you want to flavor this cake, you can sub out 2 tbsp all-purpose flour for cocoa powder(sift the cocoa with the flour) to make a chocolate-flavored baumkuchen, sub out 3 tbsp all-purpose flour with black sesame powder(sifted with the flour) for black sesame flavored, or add 2 tsp matcha powder(sifted with the flour) to make it matcha flavored!

For the soaking liquid:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp frangelico*(hazelnut liquor) or amaretto*(almond liquor)

Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Brush the sides of the baked baumkuchen with the cooled down simple syrup, then stick the cake rectangles together so that the layers are each perpendicular to one another.

For the whipped nama chocolate:
2/3 cups dark chocolate chips
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup cream, in two parts
1 tsp frangelico*(hazelnut liquor) or amaretto*(almond liquor)

Heat up your chocolate with salt, butter, canola oil, one part of your cream, and frangelico in a pot until the chocolate is fully melted. Pour onto a sheet tray and cool down. Once completely cold, transfer the ganache into a mixing bowl and whip until light and airy. Spread the ganache around the baumkuchen in an even layer. With the remaining ganache, transfer into a piping bag and pipe dollops of ganache on top. Transfer your cake to the refrigerator so that the ganache can set. Then with a knife that was submerged in warm water then dried off, slice the ends on the short side to create clean sides for the cake, exposing the beautiful layers of the baumkuchen.

For garnish:
Crushed hazelnuts or almonds
Gold leaf

Garnish the sides and the top of the cake with nuts, a thin slice of the baumkuchen, pipings of the nama chocolate, and gold leaf to finish.

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