The habit of “Kaffee and Kuchen” or coffee and cake can maybe be compared to British ‘tea time’.
When I was a small girl, I remember having ‘coffee and cake’ each day between 3 pm and 4 pm. During the week we would have some simple cake, but on Sundays my mother would bake a real fancy one. The white linen table-cloth would appear and the table would be set with the “good” coffee cups and plates. Often some aunts and uncles would join us and then there would be at least three different cakes to choose from. One would be with cream, a Torte, as it is called in German, another one would be with fruit and the third one would be a simple loaf. On very special occasions my grandmother would bake a “Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte”. At that time nobody had heard of cholesterol, calories and the need to exercise and therefore everyone ate at least one slice of each cake. My mother and grandmother would be praised for their efforts, recipes would be exchanged and then everyone would go on a Sunday walk.
When I was six, my parents got their first car, and instead of coffee and cake at home we started going on Sunday drives into the countryside. Our destination would always be some café, where everybody would have exactly one slice of fancy cake, followed by a stroll around the country side.
When I was around 10 my mother took up work and we seldom had coffee and cake together during the week. On Sundays however the tradition continued.
After leaving home I didn’t keep up the habit of having cake. Times had changed and I was too busy to stop in the middle of the day to sit down and have something sweet. After settling in Hamburg my husband and I took up having coffee and cake again. The reason was the bakery across the street from us, which maybe has the most irresistible cake in the whole of Hamburg. On Sundays we would read the paper while having our dose of sugar and fat.
I myself bake only for birthdays and other very special occasions. Nevertheless I still like having a piece of cake on Sundays and there are enough bakeries to choose from. While all other shops are closed on a Sunday the bakeries (and florists) are open in the morning and the coffeehouses, which also sell bread and cakes are open til 5 pm. And whether you are in Hamburg, in Lüneburg or in Hohenlockstedt, on Sundays you will see people sitting in the café having terrible nice looking “Torte” or people standing in line to buy the goodies for their Sunday afternoon coffee and cake.
For those of you, who like baking, here is my grandmother’s recipe for“Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte”:
Warning: the cake contains quite a bit of alcohol, and is not suitable for children. People with a sensitive stomach lining should be careful if consuming it with coffee, too much of it can easily lead to heartburn.
For the dough you need
100 g of butter, 100 g sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar or some vanilla extract, 4 eggs, 75 g of ground almonds, 100 g of finely grated dark chocolate, 50 g of potato starch, 2 teaspoons of baking powder
For the filling and decorating you need
500 ml whipped cream or double cream, cherry schnapps or cherry brandy (Kirschwasser), sour cherries from a glass or fresh, or, alternatively a glass of very good cherry jam, chocolate and cherries for decoration.
Important: if you use cherrys from the glass bring them to the boil with their juice and thicken the sauce with a bit of starch, so you can use them as a filling for the cake. If you use fresh cherrys boil them with a little bit of water or cherry juice and thicken with starch as well.
Whip the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar together until they are white and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one and continue whipping until the sugar has dissolved. Then stir in the almonds, chocolate, starch and baking powder,
Put the dough into a round form and bake for 40 – 50 minutes at 180° C.
After the cake has cooled down cut it in three layers. Sprinkle the first layer with cherry schnaps and spread on the cherries or the cherry jam. Cover with a layer of whipped cream and put the second layer of cake on top. Sprinkle that one with cherry schnapps as well and cover it with whipped cream. Put on the third layer of the cake, sprinkle with cherry schnapps and then cover the cake with whipped cream. Decorate with chocolate and cherries.