When I was a kid, my mom always made Erdbeerkuchen, i.e. German-style strawberry shortcake for my birthday because it falls at the beginning of strawberry season.
Erdbeerkuchen was pretty much the only German cake recipe my American mother adopted from her German mother-in-law. In fact, she loved it so much that on a six-week trip to the U.S. when I was fifteen, she brought along the tart pan and packets of the glaze mix and baked it for every family we stayed with. While everyone loved the cake, it is an elaborate, albeit not difficult, undertaking to make it. So it wasn’t exactly the whip-it-up dish you could easily share. Nevertheless, Mom was undeterred.
I have rarely made it myself because the glaze mix is not readily available in the U.S., and the one sold in Germany is not kosher. However, recently I discovered that one can make the glaze oneself!
So, for my birthday in quarantine, I asked my baking-savvy daughter to make it. This was her first attempt, and it turned out great (see above picture)! So again, it’s not difficult, and if you’re undeterred, here goes, step by step:
Erdbeerkuchen (German-style Strawberry Shortcake)
For the dough:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1 pinch of salt
For the topping:
about 2 pounds of strawberries (It is better to have more so you can select the pretty ones for this cake.)
2-3 tbsp. strawberry jam
For the glaze:
1 tbsp. potato starch (you can use corn starch but the glaze will be a bit cloudy)
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/8 cups water
At least a pint of whipping cream for serving (this is essential in my opinion!)
For equipment you’ll need a 12-inch tart pan (see above) and a wire whisk (essential for making the glaze).
To make the dough:
Beat the egg and the soft butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt, and mix, using dough hooks (see above) or a fork if you’re working by hand. This should yield a crumbly dough, similar to pie dough, except it tastes way better! (Resist the urge to eat it all…)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180C).
Press (don’t knead) dough into a ball.
Butter the tart form. Flatten dough and press into the form, spreading out gently to fill it. You’ll have to press more dough down the sides. This forms the rim of the cake as it is baked upside down.
The surface should be even like this before it goes into the oven.
Bake at 350F until the edges are slightly brown and a fork stuck in the middle comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then invert pan onto a wire rack, remove the pan, and let the cake cool completely.
In the meantime, prepare the strawberries:
Select big and beautiful ones. The larger ones will go in the middle, the smaller ones around the rim. You will need about 30. Wash and dry the berries, then carefully remove the greens without injuring the berries. Don’t cut into the berries because cut fruit will quickly make for a soggy cake.
Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam onto the cooled cake.
Next, arrange the strawberries on the cake. After what my daughter called “a game of strawberry tetris,” your cake should look something like this.
Making the glaze is the only tricky part of this whole project because you have to act quickly.
In a small bowl, combine starch, sugar and 2 tbsp. of the water. Stir until dissolved. Bring the rest of the water to boil in a small pot and have the starch mixture and a wire whisk at the ready. When the water boils, pour in the starch mixture while whisking the water. Keep the heat on and whisk until you feel the mixture thickening. As soon as it thickens, remove from the heat and swiftly spoon it over the strawberries, before it gets clumpy. If it does clump up, discard and try it one more time. You’ll get the hang of it. My daughter also had to do it twice.
Put the finished cake into the fridge for at least 30 minutes so the glaze can solidify.
To serve, whip a batch of whipping cream and enjoy!
You can also make this cake with other fruit such as raspberries or slices of peaches, but strawberries are the classic.
The Erdbeerkuchen will taste good, sometimes even better the next day when the bottom has softened a bit from the moisture of the fruit. By day three, however, it tends not to be at its best anymore.
*The photos are all courtesy of my daughter.