Last week, a coworker returned from maternity leave. I had missed her – the office is just not as fun without her around. Now she’s coming back and doing TWO jobs – in addition to her work in our office, she and her husband are now raising a beautiful little girl. I got excited when when she returned – often, we have going away parties for people who leave the office, but we rarely get the chance to welcome them back. This was a cause for celebration. A chance to eat cake. And I knew exactly what cake I wanted to make to welcome her back.
When I was little, my Oma would make the most amazing cake. It was a three-layer white cake, with a creamy frosting and candied hazelnuts on top. It was baked in a Ringform to shape it like a wreath. It was beautiful and delicious, and although my immediate family’s traditional birthday cake was carrot with cream cheese frosting, I always tried to get my parents to bake this cake for me.
A Frankfurter Kranz.
“Tried to get my parents to bake this cake” is the operative phrase. My parents were always hesitant. “It’s a lot of work,” my dad would say. Nevertheless, I remember at least one birthday at which I had a Frankfurter Kranz.
Oma has passed away, and I can’t remember the last time I ate a slice of Frankfurter Kranz. I’ve certainly never made it myself. But I knew I had to make it for my coworker. I was pleasantly surprised that making this cake brought me back to Oma and Opa’s house and the birthdays I celebrated there, waking up and crawling in with Oma in her big bed in the mornings, and breakfast with hot cocoa every day. Frankfurter Kranz is a cake for special celebrations. It is a cake for family. It was perfect for our office party. I had copied the recipe when I’d visited my parents’ house this summer, so I pulled it out and prepared to bake it.
And would you believe it? The cake itself was not too complicated. I was surprised to see that it called for a large portion of starch in addition to flour (which apparently is a way to substitute for cake flour). It is the cake’s toppings that take time, but luckily I already had candied the hazelnuts for a different dessert I made (or rather, 150 hazelnuts truffles I’d made for my dear friend’s wedding in August). The other surprising ingredient was in the cake frosting, which called for a packet of vanilla pudding. Yes, vanilla pudding! I had never known.
This, my friends, is where it is necessary to bring up my love of pudding. I could write odes on pudding (and I probably will at some point). For now, I have to say that the use of pudding in this cake is probably one of the many explanations for why I love this cake so much.
That and the candied hazelnuts. Oh my goodness, those hazelnuts are just amazing. If you absolutely have to, you can make this cake without the hazelnuts. But you’d be missing out on one of the best parts of this cake. Make the hazelnuts. You will not regret it.
I made the Frankfurter Kranz the night before, placed it in my cake caddy and in the fridge overnight, and carried it on the T in to work (I got a lot of jealous looks). It’s best if it gets a night to “steep” in the fridge before eating it. Everyone was eyeing the cake at work so much that we dug into it at 10:30am. There were only two tiny slivers that I could save for my coworker’s husband and David. I guess I’ll have to make this cake again!
Note: I made this in a 9” cake pan, though if you have a Ringform I recommend making it in that, so you have the optimal ratio between cake and frosting. A bundt pan is an acceptable substitute. Also, while I used Jell-O cooked pudding, if you have the time I would recommend making your own pudding from scratch. It just tastes so much better. If you have access to Dr. Oetker cooked pudding, that is also an excellent compromise. I used corn starch, though you could also try potato starch (or a mixture of corn and potato), which will likely make the cake more moist. Lastly, this recipe is originally in measurement by metric weight. If you do not have a (metric) scale, I have supplied US volume measurements, as calculated from Clotilde Dusoulier’s excellent site with common kitchen conversions. Caveat: I have not baked this with the conversions, and it is always best to bake with weights.
100g (1 stick) Butter
150g (3/4 cup) Sugar
1tsp Lemon Zest
1tsp Vanilla Exract
150g (1 ¼ cup) All-Purpose Flour
50g (¼ cup – guessed) Corn Starch (see note)
2tsp Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
1 box Vanilla Pudding Mix (not instant)
2 cups Milk (or as pudding mix requires)
200g (2 sticks) Butter, room temperature
50g (¼ cup) Sugar
100g (just under 1 cup) roasted Hazelnuts or Almonds, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the cake pan/Ringform (see note) and set aside.
To make the cake:
In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter. Add eggs one-by-one and finish with lemon zest. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, starch, baking powder, and salt. In small amounts, add dry ingredients to wet and mix just until combined. Pour batter into cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned and a knife comes out clean. Remove from pan when it is cool enough to handle and cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the frosting:
Make the pudding as directed and cool to room temperature. Stir pudding regularly as it cools, so it does not form a skin. In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually spoon in the cooled pudding and mix until emulsified. Important: my grandmother’s recipe says that both ingredients must be at room temperature, otherwise it will separate/look curdled.
To make the candied nuts:
Melt the butter and sugar until the sugar is light to medium brown. Stir in the chopped nuts and quickly and carefully spread out onto parchment paper or a silpat. Do not burn yourself! Let cool completely, then break into small pieces (I actually whirred mine in a food processor, which made it taste like hazelnut cotton candy – it was delicious!)
To assemble cake:
Slice the cake (if you are using a Ringform, slice it into thirds. If you are using a cake pan, you will only have enough thickness to slice it in half). You have plenty of frosting. Generously spread frosting between each layer and cover the outside of the cake with the rest. Carefully press the candied nuts onto the frosting. Let the cake steep overnight in the refrigerator (carefully covered either in a caddy or with toothpicks and plastic wrap to minimize transfer of odors). Serve at room temperature.