Let me just say that the Germans know how to do cake. They unapologetically make moist, delicious creations and don’t shy away from using lots of butter and sugar. Once in a while, I am totally okay with that. F had been telling me about his Rhabarbarkuchen (rhubarb cake) for ages; finally, in the height of the season a month or so ago, we bought some rhubarb, stocked up on Quark, and spent an evening making the cake.
Ohmygoodness is this a good cake (see first two sentences, above). A moist and flavorful revelation in my mouth. There’s a cake layer, a pudding-like layer (that’s the Quarkcreme part), lots of rhubarb, and a sweet-buttery-crunchy streusel topping. Just wow. This cake is totally worth the effort it takes to whip up three different layers. Be patient while it bakes and you’ll be rewarded. It’s great as an afternoon snack with coffee or tea and is also totally okay to eat for breakfast or brunch — just add a dollop of yogurt.
Rhabarberkuchen mit Quarkcreme und Streuseln (Rhubarb Cake)(adapted/translated from Chefkoch.de; makes a huge sheet cake, enough to feed a small army)
1.3kg (4-6 stalks) rhubarb, cut into 2cm/1in chunks
500g low-fat quark (try Greek yogurt if you can’t find quark in your supermarket)
300g whipping cream
1.5 packs vanilla instant pudding powder
zest of 1 lemon
75g sugar (granulated or caster)
150g not-super-cold-but-firmer-than-room-temperature butter, cut into small cubes
200g white flour
250g white flour
2 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Wash and cut the rhubarb into 2cm/1in chunks. Set aside.
Make the Quarkcreme: Put all the necessary ingredients (see above) in a large bowl and whisk or beat with an electric mixer to combine.
Make the streusel: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and sugar together. Work in the butter with your hands or a pastry cutter, until everything is well-combined and only a little crumbly.
Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, whisk the baking powder and flour together. Add the sugar and butter and beat with an electric mixer until evenly distributed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. The batter will be thick and almost more like dough.
Assemble cake: Press the batter/dough into the bottom of a large sheet pan. Spread the Quarkcreme evenly on top. Distribute the rhubarb pieces evenly over the top, then sprinkle the streusel over everything.
Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes or until the streusel turns golden and the Quarkcreme seems set (you may have to cover it with foil partway through). Let cool for an hour or two before serving.
Happy New Year! Frohes neues Jahr /Guten Rutsch!З Новим Роком!
2013 was a year full of changes and new experiences for me, like moving to a new country/city, getting an English teaching certificate, and starting an MA program (back to university after three years out). My German improved — and my Ukrainian waned. I also joined an amazing running club in my area of London and was able to spend much of the summer at home in the States with my family and F. Overall, 2013 was a really good year. Here are some more fun statistics summing up the year:
2013 by the numbers:
blog posts published: 155
books read: 19 for fun, plus >30 for my MA (including some short stories/poetry/essays)
visitors hosted in London: ~19
miles run: 931.89 (76.71 miles less than in 2012, but I cycled and swam more in 2013 so overall probably racked up more mileage)
Looking back, I am satisfied to have achieved most of my intentions for 2013: learning my way around London, living frugally, cycle-commuting, “me” time, exercise time, healthy eating, starting an MA program, and staying in touch with people . I didn’t take advantage of as many free/inexpensive opportunities as I could have, but we did visit quite a few of London’s free museums and markets with visitors.
Here is my non-exhaustive list of intentions for 2014, in no particular order:
This Käsekuchen is one of F’s specialties and favorites. It’s a baked, German-style cheesecake that he introduced me to some years ago. When we first made it together back in 2013, we splurged on a food scale and a springform cake pan in order to make it, because the recipe F used has grams rather than cups.
This is no American-style cheesecake. The only cheese in this Käsekuchen is quark, a tangy, very low-fat fresh cheese common in Germany. It tastes a bit like yogurt, but has a thicker, spreadable consistency and is technically cheese. Instant pudding — use custard if you’re in the UK — acts as a thickening agent for the filling. The combination of quark and pudding lends a pleasant tang to the final product, and it’s not too sweet.
Another difference between Käsekuchen and American-style cheesecake is the crust: in the States, cheesecake crust is usually some kind of crushed graham cracker or cookie deal; Käsekuchen requires a proper dough that smells and tastes almost like a sugar cookie. Delicious.
Nutritionally, you could do much worse than Käsekuchen. Yes, there’s sugar and butter and cream, but the quark is virtually fat-free and you can use mostly semi-skimmed milk to keep things leaner. It makes a great breakfast or afternoon snack with a cup of Kaffee!
Käsekuchen (German Cheesecake) (adapted/translated from this recipe)
330g white flour
130g granulated sugar
130g unsalted butter, slightly softened at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1kg quark (if in Germany use, Magerquark, the very low fat version)
300g granulated sugar
2 packages instant vanilla pudding (use instant custard if you’re in the UK – I can’t tell you exactly how much because we ballparked it)
100mL sunflower oil (or other neutral oil)
150mL single cream
350mL semi-skimmed milk (use any combination of milk products adding up to 500-600mL)
4 large eggs
Optional: zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F).
Make the crust: Flour a flat surface. Put all the crust ingredients in a large bowl and blend with an electric hand or stand mixer until the butter forms small balls. Use your hands to finish forming the mixture into dough. Roll the dough out on a floured surface, then press it into the bottom and sides of a springform cake pan.
Make the filling: Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and blend with an electric mixer until smooth.
Pour the filling into the cake pan with the crust.
Carefully slide the cake into the oven and bake for 75-90 minutes or until the top is starting to brown and the middle is mostly set — you may have to cover it with foil about halfway through so the top doesn’t get too dark.
Let cool for at least two hours and preferably in the fridge overnight. You can speed up cooling in the freezer if you can’t wait to try a piece.
Confession: I have a weak spot for R&B, especially sung by a man with a smooth, sexy voice.
John Legend certainly fits that bill. I used to listen to a lot of his music but hadn’t heard his most recent albums.
Until I read this article from Die Zeit; it’s a review of Legend’s newest album, “Love in the Future,” and it gushed enough that I immediately started listening to the album on Spotify.
It’s been hard to turn it off. I fell even more in love when I heard the song “All of Me.” Then I found the video of John Legend singing said song Live on Letterman. Just wow. Watch it yourself and see if you don’t melt:
Yes, Legend has a super sexy voice and isn’t bad looking. But he is also an actual musician — you can’t say that about every artist these days — who plays the piano in addition to singing (Legend’s closest female equivalent would probably be Alicia Keys, who I also admire). Sure, as the Die Zeit review points out, Legend still employs plenty of electronics/computer-generated effects in his tunes, but he has a nice balance of electro-R&B and piano ballads.
On that more electronic side, “Made to Love” is a catchy, futuristic, yet still romantic song (albeit the video is a bit strange):
Conclusion: while R&B can be cheesy and unimaginative, and in recent years has leaned more toward the sounds of pop, John Legend still keeps it real with his genuine musicianship and originality.