Zwischenmahlzeit & Gluten-Free German Kaffee Kuchen
The dessert and tradition of Zwischenmahlzeit both made popular in Germany, immigrated to America along with the people from there who settled in the United States and has been kept alive in many communities here by those descendants ever since.
Traditions are the customary patterns of life that bring us together and keeps us together, and when it comes to German baked goods, it’s a tradition that is constantly challenging my waistline. Especially the older I get.
The sweet spot of the German traditions of Zwischenmahlzeit translated the “meal between meals” on Sunday afternoons, and Kaffee Kuchen embodies two of the things that I adore most: the occasion to indulge in desserts (before supper of all things) and equally the chance to spend time with family and friends. Old-fashioned as it may be, these traditions pay tribute to the need for people to cut a slice out of their busy lives. Make time to carve out an afternoon to talk and visit, and of course to do it while stuffing their faces with magically sweet confections served up with rich, bold and satisfying cups of coffee full of decadent flavor and taste.
Like other dying traditions that have been swept aside because of the full schedules of modern times and other forms of entertainment, the custom of Zwischenmahlzeit on Sunday afternoons and even Kaffee Kuchen has nearly vanished from Sunday routines too. Those traditions honored by my grandparents and other people of German heritage back in the day; provided a way to enjoy a treat and a hot cup of coffee while pausing daily work to gather with family and occasional guests – spending the time to catch up on loved one’s lives and devoting a leisurely afternoon moment together.
My memories of sitting around my grandparent’s table drinking coffee made kid-style by adding half milk and eating delicious cake, donuts and pastries warm me just thinking about those treats and the close times our family spent together.
On many Sunday’s, we’d also have my grandma’s homemade cake donuts to go along with the Kuchen. Dunking cakey donuts in the milk-coffee was a favorite way to eat them as I sat alongside my grandpa who did the same. I had to learn to dunk and bite quickly so that the liquid-soaked cake treats would not get too soggy, break off and sink to the bottom of my cup. Grandpa taught me to be a champion dunker like he was, much to the dismay of my mom and grandma.
There were several varieties of Kaffee Kuchen, also called “coffee cake” by my mom. Some were simple cakes with a crumb topping. Others incorporated fruit mixed into the batter or combined with the crumb on top. Sometimes they included a creamy custard topping or center.
Whatever version was made they were always served warm with real butter or whipped cream and were to-die-for delicious!
I remember one of many phone calls to my grandma for her recipes; this time for Kaffee Kuchen “coffee cake,” that I wanted to bake for my new-to-be husband and in-laws for an upcoming Sunday get-together. In true hand-me-down recipe fashion, the basic recipe was happily shared by reciting the ingredient list by telephone to me. It took me at least three calls to grandma to get all my questions answered while mixing and beating ingredients that day.
Through the years I’ve made this recipe probably hundreds of times since then; for family, friends, bible studies, and for nourishment during Faithful Quilters sessions at church. It’s always been a popular treat.
After being diagnosed with Celiac disease, I’ve had to adapt Grandma’s recipe to eliminate the gluten found in the wheat-based flour. My first trials of just switching out cup-for-cup gluten-free flour replacements ended up with a compost bin full of unacceptable baked batches. The textures ranging from gooey messes to being grainy with an almost sand like feel left in my mouth. They were nothing I cared to eat myself or for that matter, to share with anyone.
Since then, I have been introduced to a couple of varieties of gluten-free flours that are very acceptable ones to use in most recipes. My favorites are GF-Jules All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour, and King Arthur All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour, both are wonderful gluten-free flours to use. I’ve had good results with them both, and both flours make baked goods and pastries that taste great. I love, them both equally, and I use them in many of the recipes I make.
But still, there are times when a recipe, in my opinion, is made best by using a low-protein gluten-free flour that’s been blended specifically for making cakes. This Gluten-Free Cake Flour blend is the best blend for doing it.
I searched forever for a manufactured gluten-free cake flour substitute to the traditional wheat-based cake flour that grandma used. Along the way, I learned that cake flour is a fine-milled, delicate flour with low protein content. The low protein content of the flour results in cakes that have a fine crumb, a good rise, and a super-tender texture. The texture is achieved because of the way that it is milled, that makes it finer, lighter, and softer so that baked goods made with it, when baked, become light and airy.
For a gluten-free cake flour substitute, I knew there had to be a way to find the right balance between gluten-free flours and gluten-free starches that would produce a lower protein blend that would mimic a traditional cake flour. So, I experimented. A lot.
To come up with this gluten-free cake flour blend, I looked at the properties of traditional wheat-based cake flours how they are milled and made. Wheat-based cake flour is milled from soft wheat, and it contains the lowest amount of protein (5 to 8-percent) when compared to other all-purpose wheat-based flour blends (10 to 13-percent). There are two major soft wheat varieties: soft red winter has a low protein content and is used as a blend in multipurpose flours, and for cakes, cookies, donuts, fine pastries, crackers, and flatbreads. Soft white is low-protein wheat that offers high yields. Soft white produces a lighter flour for cakes, cookies, crackers, and pastries. It is also used in many Middle-Eastern style flatbreads.
After several trials and fussing around with many gluten-free flours and starches to construct the recipe, I decided to blend sweet white rice flour and brown rice flour. Combining these in equal amounts with low protein gluten-free tapioca and potato starches for their (the starches) gelling properties which significantly contributes to how air bubbles are entrapped in the starch during the baking process. Those starches also are known to work well with gum stabilizers to improve the batter consistency during mixing, enhance the softness of the crumb and control the way the starch gels during the baking process.
Additionally, I found that sifting the gluten-free cake flour blend three times before adding it to the wet ingredients helps to assure that the cake bakes light and fluffy.
The higher starch content in this blend helps to prevent gluten-free baked cakes and quick bread from having that grainy texture found in some recipes that you may come across. While the low protein flour and the high starch combination of this blend make gluten-free cakes, coffee cakes, muffins, quick bread and cookies perfectly airy, fluffy and light with a fine crumb and soft, tender texture.
Be sure to check out this exceptional gluten-free cake flour blend to use in this recipe. It works flawlessly to make my grandma’s recipe for Kaffee Kuchen very similar in taste and texture to the basic recipe that I remember from my childhood.
You’ll find the Gluten-Free Cake Flour Recipe HERE.
Zwischenmahlzeit & Gluten-Free German Kaffee Kuchen
- 9x9 Baking pan
- Flour sifter
- mixing bowls
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Electric Mixer
For the Batter
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350ºF
- Cream together the butter and sugar, beat in egg yolks.
- Sift together the gluten-free cake flour blend, xanthan gum, salt, and baking powder. Once sifted, sift two more times again.
- Add sifted dry ingredients alternating with milk to the butter and sugar mixture, beating after each addition.
- Fold in egg whites.
- Pour into a 9x9-inch pan. Sprinkle with the crumb topper.
- Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
For the Crumb Topper
- Mix gluten-free all-purpose flour and brown sugar and cut in butter with a fork until pea-sized crumbs form. Spread evenly over the top of the cake batter.
(Nutritional values are an approximation. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.)
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