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Christmas Advent Calendar - December 20

Today's Spotlight Recipe:  Spice Cake (Gewürzkuchen)

The Spice Cake (Gewürzkuchen) is a traditional cake for the Advent period and for Christmas. It is made from a basic cake batter, to which the traditional Christmas spices are added.  After baking, the Spice Cake is often topped with powdered sugar, melted chocolate, a red-wine glaze, or a simple powdered sugar glaze.

     Spice Cake / Gewürzkuchen
Photo: © emmi -
Spice Cake (Gewürzkuchen)
1 sticks + 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups Sugar
2 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 cup unsalted Nuts (walnuts or almonds), finely ground
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 teapoons Cinnamon
Pinch of Ground Cloves
Pinch of Cardamom
Pinch of Anise
1/2 cup whole Milk
4 Eggs (yolks and whites separated)
4 oz Chocolate, grated

For the Glaze (optional):
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1-2 tablespoons Lemon Juice or Rum

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).  Prepare a 10-inch cake pan or a Gugelhupf pan (similar to a Bundt cake pan) by greasing it and dusting it with flour.

In a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until there are no more lumps and it looks creamy. Add the sugar. Continue mixing until the butter has absorbed the sugar and it starts to lighten in color slightly. Mix in one egg yolk at a time, letting the butter completely absorb the egg yolk before adding another one.

Combine flour, almonds, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. Turn you mixer off and add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl. On the slowest speed, begin mixing again, drizzling the milk in.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold in the chocolate. Then fold this gently into the batter.

Bake cake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool.

To prepare the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and either lemon juice or rum.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake.

If you prefer chocolate, melt some chocolate and drizzle this over the cake instead of the glaze.  Or if you want just something simple, you can dust some powdered sugar over the cake instead of a glaze.

Traditional Christmas Spices
Allspice (Piment)
Allspice comes from the pea-sized, unripe, dried berry from the pimiento tree. It tastes like a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Ground allspice is primarily used in baking.

Anise (Anis)
Anise is available both in seed and ground form, but ground anise is primarily used in Christmas baking. The taste resembles fennel or licorice. Because of its strong flavor, usually only a small amount is used in baking.

Cardamom (Kardamom)
Cardamom belongs to the ginger family.  It is one of the most expensive spices, but due to its strong unique taste, recipes usually just call for a little amount. For the strongest taste, purchase cardamom pods, and ground them as needed. Once they are ground, cardamom quickly loses its flavor.

Cinnamon (Zimt)
Cinnamon is the most popular Christmas spice in Germany. It is used in the form of cinnamon sticks (which are added to several different hot beverages) as well as in the form of ground cinnamon (which is used primarily in baking).  A Christmas without cinnamon just wouldn't be right!

Cloves (Gewürznelke)
Cloves are the dried flower buds from the clove tree. It's aroma is warm, peppery and aromatic; it's flavor is sweetly spicy and lightly bitter. Because of its powerful flavor, recipes usually just call for a little amount. Cloves are used both in ground and whole forms.

Coriander (Koriander)
Coriander is the seed from the Coriandrum sativum plant, also known as the cilantro plant. The seeds are small, round, and yellowish-brown in color. The seeds are primarily used in baking in ground form. The aroma of coriander is lemony and musky - the taste resembles orange peel, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Ginger (Ingwer)
Ginger is added to baked goods either in the form of dried, powdered ginger, or candied ginger. Ginger is the root of the Zingiber officinale plant. The root has tan skin, ivory to yellow flesh, and a peppery, lemony, slightly sweet flavor.


Mace (Muscatblüte)
Mace is a spice made from the dried, lace-shaped red covering that surrounds nutmeg seeds. The flavor is similar to that of nutmeg, but more delicate. It has a warm, spicy-sweet taste. It's aroma is strong and resembles a combination of pepper and cinnamon. It is most often added to baking and beverage recipes in ground form.

Nutmeg (Muscat)
Nutmeg is the hard brown seed from the nutmeg tree. It's aroma is sweet, aromatic and nutty; it's flavor is nutty, warm and slightly sweet. Nutmeg is used in either ground or grated form, and is best when freshly grated.

Star Anise     
Star Anise (Sternanis)
Star anise is the star-shaped fruit of the evergreen tree, Illicium verum. Although its flavor is similar to anise, it is not related. Star anise is slightly more pungent, bitter, and intense than anise. In baking, star anise is used in ground form. To hot beverages, star anise are added whole for both flavor and appearance.

Vanilla Bean     

Vanilla (Vanille)
Vanilla is the queen of all spices. It comes from the seed pod of the vanilla plant, which belongs to the orchid family. Vanilla is available whole, as a vanilla bean, the insides of which are scraped out and added to recipes - this delivers the most intense vanilla flavor. Vanilla powder is made from the ground, dried vanilla beans. Vanilla extract is prepared from vanilla beans macerated in alcohol and is often used as a flavor enhancer. Vanilla sugar is made from granulated sugar, in which vanilla beans have been soaking or in which vanilla extract has been mixed in.

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