A present from the Three Kings: Gugelhupf

Gugelhupf – probably the most hilarious name for a cake.

Gugelhupf is a cake with a very long tradition. There is a legend that this cake was first brought to Alsace (a region in France close to the German border )by the three kings (no, not these! I’m talking about Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar) after they returned from Bethlehem. Because people treated them so hospitably, the kings baked a cake to thank them. The cake had the shape of a turban, which is similar to today’s Gugelhupf pans.  Catholics celebrate Epiphany on January the 6th, where children traditionally dressed as the three magi, go from house to house to collect donations. We call them Sternsinger (star singer or star boys in English). I grew up catholic but I was never a star singer because I totally suck at singing. So today I am not coming to your house to sing and write the initials of the three kings on your wall but I’m bringing you cake instead.

Gugelhupf pan

A gugelhupf a yeasted cake often made with raisins which is baked in a special pan. It is also called Elsässer Gugelhupf (gugelhupf from Alsace) The American bundt pan is very similar to the gugelhupf pan and in fact another name for gugelhupf is bundkuchen (bund means bundle, belt, or cord). The word gugelhupf may have been derived from the Middle High German word gugel (pronunciation just like “google”) which means hood. The shape of the cake looks like a hood worn for example by the Friars Minor Capuchin. “Hupf” may have been derived from the verb lupfen meaning “to uncover or to lift something”. Therefore a gugelhupf can be translated as “lifted hood”, if you like. The word gugelhupf is used in Southern Germany and Austria from where it came  to Alsace.

The spelling was there was changed to kuglof or kouglof. You might recognize the word kugel here (which in today’s German means ball (referring to the shape) but the word kugel for the dish is probably as well derived from gugel meaning hood). In fact the Jewish kugel is semantically related to the gugelhupf. In Northern Germany we often call the gugelhupf napfkuchen (Napf = bowl, pan; Kuchen = cake). Usually a gugelhupf is a yeasted cake but today the name refers only to the shape of the pan. Baking powder based cakes are common now. Most of you might be familiar with the marbled bundt cake, which is the same as a German Marmorgugelhupf. Gugelhupf recipes are legion and the cake has many relatives in different countries like Poland where it is called babka.

The gugelhupf is a simple and versatile weekday cake. So the recipe usually calls for staple ingredients. The only exception is probably the kirschwasser (aka Kirsch) which is usually used to soak the raisins. Raisins do provide most of the sweetness here as the cake is very low in sugar. The gugelhupf has an interesting and special texture, it is fluffy and light but also a little bit spongy and unlike other cakes the crumb has some spring similar to freshly baked bread. This cake is not a great and not too filling dessert, you can serve it all day long and you should definitely try it with some jam for breakfast.

Elsässer Gugelhupf
[Make sure that all ingredients have room temperature]

100 g raisins
60 ml (1/4 cup) apple juice (use Kirsch or rum for a more traditional version)

200 ml (1/2 cup + 1/3 cup) soy milk
25 g fresh yeast or 8 g (2 1/2 t) instant dry yeast
50 g (1/4 cup) + 1 t sugar, divided
500 g ( 4 cups + 2 1/2 T) all purpose flour, divided
200 g (3/4 cup + 2 T) vegan margarine, softened
1/4 t salt
3/4 t baking powder

80 g (1/4 cup) silken tofu
60 g (1/4 cup) soy yoghurt
2 T chickpea flour (or soy flour)
2 T water
1/8 t black salt (optional, provides a hint of egg flavour)

For the pan: margarine, 16 almonds

Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the apple juice over the fruits. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine soy milk, yeast, 1 t sugar, and 30 g (1/4 cup) flour. Whisk until no lumps remain, cover the bowl and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a food processor combine tofu, yoghurt, chickpea flour, water, and black salt. Process until smooth.

Place the remaining flour in another large bowl and mix with remaining sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the margarine in small pieces and knead until you have incorporated most of the margarine.

Pour the tofu-mixture into the flour mixture. Add the soy milk mixture, which should have a creamy and bubbly consistency by now.  Knead until all ingredients are well incorporated. The dough will have a moist and sticky consistency, like a stiff cake batter not like bread dough. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled, around 90 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare your pan by greasing it with a generous amount of margarine. (You can use a bundt pan instead. Maybe you will have to adjust the baking time.) Place the almonds on the bottom of the pan:

Place almonds in the pan

Drain the raisins and add them to the batter. Knead shortly until incorporated and transfer the dough to the pan. Distribute evenly. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and let the batter rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F) in time. Bake for 60 minutes until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. If the top of the cake gets too dark while baking, cover with aluminium foil.
Remove from oven, let cool for 2-3 minutes, remove from pan and let cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving and cut into 16 pieces.

Look how nicely the cake matches the weather:

A little bit of snow on the cake.

Snow in the street:

Lots of snow in the street. The weather forecast people shocked us a bit when predicting 50 cm (20 inches) of snow. Well, we are not there yet.

This entry was submitted to Susan’s YeastSpotting.

34 thoughts on “A present from the Three Kings: Gugelhupf

  1. This was very good. Even my partner who’s not usually a brioche-y bread fan liked it. I accidentally over-proved it the 2nd time – I set the timer, but was 20 minutes late putting it in the oven (MY FAULT, NOT the recipe), so the texture was a bit off, but the taste was still great, so I’ll definitely be making it again and make sure I don’t have something distracting me during the 2nd proof. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. How wonderful! Like many others mentioned, your stories and lessons are wonderful editions :) The pictures are wonderful – a snowy street and snowy cake!

  3. What a coincidence. My daughter asked me only 10 min. ago to make some day a cake with raisins inside. Well, I found my recipe already. Thank you!!!

  4. Wonderful Gugelhupf! I’ll have to try this, my Oma is always telling me there’s no way to make a Gugelhupf without eggs. Ha!

    Beautiful snowy streets by you! My Onkel in Wasserburg sent me pics a few days ago of the record cold winter you are having. I’m so envious!

  5. i always learn something new from your posts, Mihl! your gugelhupf looks heavenly – and i love the snowy picture! i saw, if it’s going to be really cold – it might as well snow. yay! stay warm!

  6. Ohhhhh..so that’s what the tradition is all about! I was in Germany a few years ago and some kids came around and marked my inlaws door..somehow I missed the whole explanation (and certainly didn’t get any cake..bah!!). Wow..you do have some snow..good baking weather ;)

    1. All that singing and marking must have been pretty confusing for you. They should for sure have given you some cake to compensate you. ;)

  7. I adore your history lessons and German-language lessons almost as much as I adore the food! This cake looks absolutely wonderful…I think it will be my mission for this week.

  8. I saw this cake a few times and I think I tried it. Is this the one that they sneak ham into sometimes? I went to this french east coast party and did not have a bite to eat and I tried a cake with this description. As usual informative post. I use to love snow now just looking at it scares me..lol
    Have a good week

  9. What a pretty snowy street picture! :) I have to say that I love how much I learn about various foods and their history through your blog. Thank you for making me more culturally aware.

  10. Beautiful cake! I’ve never tasted gugelhupf but have wondered about it when I’ve seen it in bakeries–it’s so high and the inside does look a bit like bread! Thanks for the great history and explanation.

  11. I don’t think I have ever had a yeasted cake. Time for me to do something about it! Your gugelhupf sounds like a delicious starting point!

  12. Oh, yum, Gugelhupf! I always loved the Marmorgugelhupf my grandma used to make, a mix of the normal batter and chocolate batter! I think I should ask her for the recipe :-)

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