The German New Years cake is a traditional round cake with three layers of different fillings: poppy seeds, nuts & apple. Going back to pre-Christian days, ring-shaped breads and cakes were always considered fortunate because they signified continuity by ‘coming full circle’ or ‘the circle of life’.
The start of the new year has a tenancy to turn even non-believers a bit superstitious. All around the world, New Years Day is filled with traditions and symbolic ritual with many of the traditions revolving around food. Certain foods symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. In some cultures, cakes or bread have symbolic items baked inside.
Poppy Seed is believed to bring a year of abundance. Nuts are a symbol of new life and potential. Apples, along with healing properties should bring a ‘sweet new year’!
Keeping all that in mind, it seems like a good reason to invest some time into making this special layered GERMAN NEW YEARS CAKE.
In a large bowl, combine dough ingredients & knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Poppy Seed Filling
In a small saucepan, combine all poppy seed ingredients. Place over LOW heat for 1-2 minutes; remove from heat & cool.
In a small bowl, combine all nut filling ingredients; set aside.
In a small saucepan, saute peeled & chopped apples over low heat with butter & sugar. Do not add any water as they need to be semi-soft, NOT MUSHY.
Assembly of Cake
Divide chilled dough in HALF, then divide one of the halves into THIRDS. Roll out the largest piece into a circle big enough to cover the bottom & sides of a 12-inch spring form pan. Make sure to have a bit hanging over the top of the ring.
Add the poppy filling. Roll out one of the small pieces of dough to fit neatly on top of filling. Gently cover with nut filling. Roll second small piece of dough; fit over nut filling. Add apple filling layer. Fold extra dough edges onto apples & top with third piece of dough. Your dough base & dividers should all be rolled quite THIN.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg & add a tiny bit of water. Brush it over top surface. Bake for about 1 hour & 20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool. This cake is best if left in a cool place for a day or two before serving so the flavors will marry. Dust with a layer of powdered sugar before serving.
Germany’s love of poppy seed is no secret, you can find it in everything from sweet to savory foods. For many German and central eastern Europeans, poppy seeds are a symbol of wealth, the tiny seeds representing coins. They figure prominently at Christmas and New Year’s, expressing hoped-for prosperity in the coming year.
Poppy seed cultivation dates back to 1400 BC. Early Egyptians pressed the seed into cooking oil whereas the the ancient Romans mixed them with wine and honey for Olympic athletes or home use. It should be made clear though, that this spice is not narcotic because opium is found in the pod and not in the seed itself. The dried pod loses any of it’s opiate properties long before the seeds are harvested.
‘Mohn Kaffee Rolle’ is considered a nostalgic German Christmas pastry much like Stollen is. One thing for certain, in keeping with true European tradition, poppy seed is added in such large quantities that the dough sometimes looks black.
When I recall my mother’s poppy seed roll, it was never dry. It seemed like a vanilla custard with ‘wall to wall’ poppy seeds in it. There were numerous recipes in her file — cake, roll, twists, cookies, strudel, pudding — everything and anything poppy seed! This recipe seems unique in that it uses a ‘Zwillingsteig’ (zwilling=twin, teig=dough) dough, a rich, moist dough used in the past when making cakes with fresh fruit. The dough is a combination of yeasted and shortcrust dough kneaded together. It seems a little involved but is well worth it in the end. One more special ‘taste of a memory’ before the holiday season is to far behind us.
In a bowl, place all shortcrust ingredients & quickly knead together until well combined. Shape into a disk & set aside. Dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped in plastic wrap & refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before combining with yeast dough.
In a small dish, sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water, add 1 tsp sugar stirring until dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes. Sift flour with 3 Tbsp sugar & salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender. Add lukewarm milk, egg & vanilla to yeast mixture, then gradually add to flour mixture & blend.
Press dough out to about 1 inch thickness & lay disk of shortcrust on top. Knead together by hand until fully combined, about 2 minutes. Shape into a ball & place in a greased bowl. Cover with a tea towel, let raise in a warm, draft free spot for about an hour or until doubled in size.
Poppy Seed Filling
Grind poppy seeds. In a small saucepan, combine poppy seeds, sugar, semolina & salt. Add butter & milk. Place over medium high heat; stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Remove from heat immediately & set aside to cool. When mixture is lukewarm, stir in egg, vanilla, rum & walnuts. Set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has risen, punch down & roll out on a lightly floured surface about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness.
Spread with cooled poppy seed filling leaving a 1 inch border on each of the shorter ends. Brush shorter ends with egg wash. Starting from shorter end, roll dough, jelly-roll style, into a tight log. Cut into 2 loaf pan lengths.
With a sharp knife, cut each log of dough in half lengthwise. Carefully twist the two pieces of dough together & place into prepared pans. Brush dough with egg wash, cover with greased plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 F. When dough has risen, brush again with egg wash & bake about 40 minutes or until golden brown. When loaves have fully cooled, whisk together powdered sugar, water & lemon zest until smooth. Brush glaze over loaves & allow to set before slicing.
Unless you can find freshly ground poppy seeds, it is best to buy the whole seeds, store them in the freezer and grind them right before using. Because of their high oil content, the seeds easily turn rancid.
Good poppy seeds smell slightly 'musty' and have a nutty flavor - not bitter or harsh.
Today, July 25th,we celebrate my sister Loretta’s birthday.
‘To have a sister like you is like finding a treasure in ones life’. ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LORETTA’, you deserve all the best!’
In the fall of 2001, Brion & I, joined by Loretta, made our first trip to Europe. Before that our holidays had pretty much been in the USA. This was a whole new learning curve that has forever changed the meaning of travel for us. Our destination was France, starting out in Paris, then renting a car and driving to the west coast then on down through southern France.
The hotel we were staying at in Paris looked out over a ‘pedestrian only’ street. When we arrived it was evening and the street was dark and pretty much deserted. The next morning we heard a lot of hustle-bustle in the street below. When we looked out, the sight was just incredible! The street was lined with shops which were now open for business. It was the most beautiful sight to look down on with all its colors and activity. During the next few days we enjoyed everything Paris to the fullest.
Down from our hotel we came upon a little street vendor selling crepes of all things. The taste was amazing! Fifteen years later, they have joined our ‘taste of a memory’ food list, knowing that so much of it was time & place.
Crepes are such a great meal. Simple to make with so many options whether it is a savory or sweet version. One of our favorite savory choices is a Seafood Crepe, which I feature in my ebook, ‘LIVING LARGE ON A LEAN FOOD BUDGET’. For a sweet treat, you might enjoy to try these Strawberry-Citrus Crepes.
Place all ingredients in blender; whirl for 1 minute at high speed. Scrape down sides, whirl for another 15 seconds. Pour into a bowl & cover; refrigerate 1 hour. Heat a non-stick griddle to 350 F. Measure about 3 Tbsp of batter per crepe onto griddle. With back of spoon form batter into an 8-inch circle. Cook until golden on each side then lay on a wire rack to cool.
Gouda Crepe Sauce
In a small saucepan, melt margarine; sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Mix well; add milk & broth, stirring until sauce becomes thickened. Add cheese & blend.
In a large skillet, saute zucchini, onion & garlic in oil for several minutes. Add mushrooms, green pepper & water chestnuts; cook 1 more minute. Combine ginger, soy sauce & water in a cup; add to vegetable mixture along with seafood. Gently stir fry ONLY until seafood is cooked. Reserve 1/2 cup Gouda sauce & add the rest to mixture.
Divide filling between crepes; roll crepes & place on serving plates. Spoon remaining sauce over each of the filled crepes. Place each meal in microwave (covered) for 15 - 20 seconds on high. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds if desired. Serve immediately.
In a small saucepan, combine water, cornstarch, lemon juice, orange juice & sugar; blend well. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly until mixture thickens & becomes clear. Remove from heat & set aside to cool. Slice strawberries either by hand or using an egg slicer. In a small dish, combine yogurt & honey.
In a large bowl, gently fold about 1 1/2 cups citrus glaze together with sliced strawberries (I used about 3 large strawberries per crepe). Lay 12 crepes on work surface & place equal amounts of strawberry/glaze mixture on one half of each crepe. Fold over opposite side then fold in half again. Place 3 crepes on each of four serving plates. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Serve Honey/Yogurt on the side as well as any extra citrus sauce you have left from filling.
I have been making crepes for a long time but have never bothered to buy a 'crepe' pan to cook them in. A non-stick griddle has always worked great for me. Using a 1/4 measuring cup, first to pour a circle of batter on the griddle then with the bottom of it, keep enlarging the crepe to the size you want.
Being able to make all your crepe ingredients the day before then putting it all together on the day served is such a bonus.