Standing prominently tall on our Christmas Tea table this year was a Kugelhopf that Dayton baked the day before the anticipated event. As for the history of this cake there are no two sources that can agree. It does seem clear that it originated in Austria and was a favorite of Emperor Franz Josef I. One story tells us that its Viennese origin was the result of the Hapsburg forces defeating the Turks in the 17th century at the gates of the city. In celebration of this great victory the Viennese bakers supposedly baked a cake in the shape of a sultan’s turban. It’s path from Vienna, however, is unclear. There are those who say that Marie Antoinette, who had a fondness for light, sweet breads introduced and popularized the Kugelhopf in France. Other experts suggest that the first true Kugelhopf baked in Paris was by a pastry chef named Georges who was established in the Rue de Coq in 1840.
The origin of the name is also clouded with uncertainty. The word kugel, in German, means a sphere or ball and hopf translates to hump, the resulting compound word probably referring to the unusual shape of the cake, an exaggerated fluted bundt with a swollen base, approximating that of a turban. Then there is the matter of spelling! The last syllable is seen spelled as hupf or hopf, preceded by kugel, gugel, kougel… and even sugl. Europeans do agree on one thing, however… it should be made one day in advance in order to better soak up coffee!
A Kugelhopf is more akin to a sweetened bread than a cake since it is typically leavened with yeast. Dayton’s spectacular creation was rich in eggs with a generous addition of baking powder to lift this sultan’s turban to great heights! Flavors and textures were introduced by the addition of orange zest, Muscat raisins plumped in rum and slivered blanched almonds.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Into a small glass bowl place:
2 C Muscat raisins (golden raisins are a fine substitute if Muscat raisins are not available)
Rum to cover, for plumping
Heat on high in microwave for 2 minutes. Allow to plump for at least 20 minutes, longer if possible. Drain raisins and set aside. Discard remaining liquid.
While raisins are plumping generously butter and flour the kugelhopf mold to facilitate the cake’s removal from the pan once baked and cooled. In a mixing bowl cream together till light and fluffy, approximately 10 minutes:
9-oz (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted sweet cream butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 C baker’s sugar
4 1/2 C all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
To the creamed butter and sugar add:
6 eggs, room temperature, blended
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix well to combine, then add:
1/3 of the sifted flour mixture
Mix well and gradually add:
the remaining flour mixture
When incorporated add:
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 1/2 C slivered, blanched almonds
the plumped Muscat raisins
Pour the batter into the prepared mold, making certain that the raisins and almonds are evenly distributed. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until cake tests done. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
When cool, invert onto a serving plate or cakestand. Dust generously with confectioner’s sugar prior to service:
A slice of this wonderful cake is a perfect accompaniment with morning coffee or afternoon tea. It is also quite satisfying with a glass of port or an eau de vie such as frambois or kirsch… Bon Appetit!
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