Zwischenmahlzeit & Gluten-Free German Kaffee Kuchen
As in many traditions, the dessert and custom of Zwischenmahlzeit, made famous in Germany, immigrated to America. But the descendants of those who brought it have kept it alive ever since.
It is said that traditions are the customary patterns of life that unite and keep us together. And when it comes to German baked goods, it’s a tradition constantly challenging my waistline. Especially the older I get.
The sweet spot of the German traditions of Zwischenmahlzeit translated as 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. Making 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 with rich, bold, and satisfying cups of coffee full of decadent flavor and taste.
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Pushed by the wayside...
As other dying traditions now swept aside because of the packed schedules of modern times and other forms of entertainment, the custom of Zwischenmahlzeit on Sunday afternoons (and Kaffee Kuchen), unfortunately, has nearly vanished from Sunday routines.
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. That downtime was spent catching up on loved ones’ lives and devoting leisurely afternoon moments 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 Sundays, we’d also have my grandma’s homemade cake donuts to accompany the Kuchen.
Dunking cakey donuts in 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 the liquid-soaked cake treats would not get too soggy, breaking off and sinking to the bottom of my cup. Grandpa taught me to be a champion dunker like he was, much to my mom’s and grandma’s dismay.
Back to Kuchen...
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 fruit combined with the crumb on top. Sometimes, they included a creamy custard topping or center.
Whatever version was made, the coffee cakes were always served warm alongside real butter or whipped cream and were (to die for) delicious!
Recipes from Grandma
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.
She happily shared the basic recipe by reciting the ingredient list over the telephone in her true hand-me-down recipe fashion. It took at least three calls to Grandma to answer all my questions while mixing and beating ingredients that day.
It’s a recipe that sticks with you.
Through the years, I’ve made this recipe probably hundreds of times since then for family, friends, bible studies, and nourishment during Faithful Quilter’s sessions at church. It’s always been a popular treat.
Post Celiac Diagnosis
After being diagnosed with Celiac disease, I’ve had to adapt Grandma’s recipe to eliminate gluten in the wheat-based flour. My first trials of switching out cup-for-cup gluten-free flour replacements ended with a compost bin full of unacceptable baked batches. The textures ranged from gooey messes to 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.
Adapting the Recipe
Since then, I have been introduced to a couple of varieties of gluten-free flours that are very acceptable in most recipes. My favorites are GF-Jules All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour and King Arthur All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour. Both are excellent gluten-free flours to use. I’ve had good results with them; both flours make baked goods and pastries that taste great. I love them both equally and use them in many of my recipes.
But Sometimes You Need A Gluten-Free Cake Flour
Still, there are times when a recipe, in my opinion, is made best by using 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 to find a manufactured gluten-free cake flour substitute for 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 flour’s low protein content results in cakes with a fine crumb, a good rise, and a super-tender texture. You achieve a perfect texture because of how it is milled, which 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 balance the gluten-free type of flour used and gluten-free starches that would produce a lower protein blend mimicking traditional cake flour. So, I experimented—a lot.
My Gluten-Free Cake Flour Blend
To come up with this gluten-free cake flour blend, I looked at the properties of traditional wheat-based cake flour and how it is milled and made.
Wheat-based cake flour is milled from soft wheat and contains the lowest amount of protein (5 to 8 percent) 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 flour for cakes, cookies, donuts, delicate pastries, crackers, and flatbreads. Soft white is low-protein wheat with high yields and produces 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 blended sweet white rice flour and brown rice flour. Combining these in equal amounts with low protein gluten-free tapioca and potato starches for their (starchy) gelling properties significantly contributes to how air bubbles are entrapped in the starch during baking.
I found that tapioca and potato starches also work well with gum stabilizers to improve the batter’s consistency during mixing, enhancing the crumbs’ soft crumb and controlling how the starch gels during the baking process.
I’ve found that sifting the gluten-free cake flour blend three times before adding it to the wet ingredients helps to ensure that the cake bakes light and fluffy.
This blend’s higher starch content helps prevent gluten-free baked cakes and quick bread from having that grainy texture found in some recipes that you may come across. At the same time, 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.
Zwischenmahlzeit & Gluten-Free German Kaffee Kuchen
- 9x9 Baking pan
- Flour sifter
- 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.
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(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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