When we still had our bakery, at least once a week somebody would come into the store, asking something like, “Hey, you guys got Kuchen?” At first, my response was usually something like asking him/her what kind of Kuchen they wanted. This typically produced a puzzled look on the person’s face, and they would respond with a counter question of, “Well, K-U-C-K-E-N. You KNOW? You guys are a German bakery, right?!” It did not help to explain to them that “Kuchen” was simply the German word for “cake” and that it came in a million different variations, as now not only did they feel stupid, but I had also nibbled at one of their fondest memories of Germany – the one relating to food. I therefore started to point out the kinds of Kuchen we did have, and in the course of the conversation would weave in the definition of the word. MUCH better sales move; now they could go home with something Kuchen they liked, and that would have never been like what they ate in Germany anyway (nobody could EVER remember what kind it was).
Among the many kinds of Kuchen is Rührkuchen, simply translated “stirred cake”. The ingredients are mixed just like for a pound cake, only that there is not as much butter in the pastry. One thing to remember about Rührkuchen is that if you overmix it, it will turn dry and crumbly when baked. You can avoid that in several different ways: by adding certain ingredients, mixing it a certain way or both.
If buttermilk or sour cream is added to the recipe, the cake will stay moist. You can also separate the eggs and fold in the stiff egg whites at the end. Alternatively, mix the cake like you would mix muffin batter: combine the “wet”, combine the “dry” and then just mix enough to hydrate the flour. If you employ a combination of all of these, the result is a cake that is light, moist and will stay fresh for days. This is what I do with the following recipe for German Marmorkuchen or marble cake. The base cake is just vanilla flavored, so it lends itself to all sorts of flavor variations besides this one. I am not sure where the recipe came from originally, possibly my German foodie heaven, Chefkoch.de.
German Marble Cake (Marmorkuchen)
300 g all purpose flour, sifted
300 g sugar
150 g butter, soft
150 g sour cream
2 g baking powder
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
26 g vanilla flavor
30 g cocoa powder, sifted
Optional: 100 g dark chocolate chunks or chips.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Combine all of the dry ingredients but the cocoa, mix. Combine the butter, sugar, sour cream, egg yolks and vanilla until they are completely smooth. Fold in the dry ingredients until just about combined, then fold in the still egg whites. Separate the batter into two equal halves, sift the cocoa onto one and fold in as well. If you would like more of a chocolate feel to the dark part of the batter, add in chocolate chips or chocolate chunks.
In order to produce a marbled effect, do this: fill the light batter into a greased loaf pan first, top with the dark and then stir through it from bottom to top with a fork, folding the light onto the dark batter. For a more intricate marble effect, layer the two batters onto each other from the middle with a spoon or ladle, alternating between them and finishing with dark.
Bake for about 1 ½ hours or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
TIP/WARNING: This cake takes a long time to get done due to the high moisture content. If it appears to be browning too much on top or at the sides, cover it with a piece of aluminum foil and lower the temperature to 300 F.