Vienna is the undisputed world capital of cake. There are layer cakes, mousse cakes, historical cakes (the Sachertorte of the Hotel Sacher has been a closely guarded secret recipe for over 200 years), and even plain cakes. I recently asked my friend Erika Lieben for her favorite. She wrote back a four-word response: Gehruerter Gugelhupf mit Rosinen (“beaten” coffee cake with raisins). “Beaten” refers to the fact that this is mixed like a cake batter and is not the yeast-risen coffee cake closely associated with Vienna and made in all German-speaking countries. Though you may use any type of a tube pan for this cake, a real Gugelhupf mold has a specific shape (as seen in the cake on the bottom in the photo): The top is a series of diagonal ridges and the sides may be covered with ridges in the opposite direction from the first ones, or with two bands of diagonal ridges, separated by a straight beltlike band around the circumference of the pan. They are usually smaller than typical Bundt or tube pans. Either a Bundt or tube pan will substitute perfectly well, but the resulting cake will not be quite as tall as a cake made in a Gugelhupf mold.
Makes one 8- to 10-inch tube cake, depending on the size of the mold used, about 16 servings
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
2 teaspoons baking powder
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup (about 5 1/2 ounces) dark or golden raisins, tossed with 1 tablespoon of flour
One 10- or 12-cup Gugelhupf or 16-cup Bundt pan, buttered, sprinkled with fine, dry breadcrumbs, and sprayed with vegetable cooking spray
- Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.
- Stir the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
- Combine the butter and 3/4 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat the mixture with the paddle on medium speed until it is soft and light, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla, followed by 2 of the egg yolks.
- Beat in a third of the flour mixture. Stop and scrape down the bowl and beater.
- Beat in 2 more of the egg yolks, followed by another half of the remaining flour. Stop and scrape. Repeat using the remaining egg yolks and flour mixture.
- Pour the egg whites into a clean, dry mixer bowl. Place on the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the egg whites until they are very white, opaque, and beginning to hold a very soft peak. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a slow stream, continuing to whip the egg whites until they hold a soft, glossy peak.
- Fold a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the floured raisins. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
- Bake the cake until it is well risen and deep golden and a toothpick or the point of a paring knife inserted midway between the side of the pan and the central tube emerges dry, 45 to 50 minutes. If the cake is baked in a Bundt pan it will be ready 5 to 10 minutes sooner.
- Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake to the rack to cool completely.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
This cake, the one on the cake stand in the photo, is as easy to prepare as it is good to eat. Basically a pound cake batter enriched with sour cream, it’s layered with a mixture of cinnamon sugar and nuts—a mixture to which you can add cocoa, currants, raisins, or even a little melted butter. It’s really essential to have the butter, eggs, and sour cream at room temperature for easy mixing, or the final texture of the cake will be heavy and grainy rather than light and delicate.
Makes one 10-inch tube cake, about 24 slices
CINNAMON SUGAR NUT FILLING
1/3 cup granulated or light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (about 4 ounces) pecan or walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
SOUR CREAM CAKE BATTER
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1 8-ounce container sour cream
One 10-inch tube or Bundt pan, buttered
- Set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325˚F.
- For the filling, mix the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts in a small bowl and set aside.
- For the batter, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir well by hand to mix and add the butter. Beat the mixture on low speed with the paddle until the mixture is a smooth, heavy paste, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Whisk the eggs, yolks, and sour cream together. On medium speed, beat a third of the egg mixture into the flour and butter mixture. Beat for 1 minute.
- Stop and scrape the bowl and beater, beat in half of the remaining egg mixture, and beat for 2 minutes. Repeat with the last of the egg mixture.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula give the batter a final mixing.
- Scrape half the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Scatter half the sugar and nut filling on the batter.
- Scrape the remaining batter over the sugar and nut mixture and smooth the top. Scatter on the remaining sugar and nut mixture.
- Bake the cake until it is well risen and firm and a toothpick or a small thin knife inserted midway between the side of the pan and the central tube emerges dry, about 1 hour.
- Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes then invert a rack over it. Invert and lift off the pan, then cover the cake with another rack or a cake cardboard and turn it right side up again. Cool the cake completely.