I rather like the candidness in this photo.
I've mentioned Herr Taesler before. Last July I actually got to meet him! I think we were both equally excited about the encounter, because it meant a rare opportunity to discuss an odd interest in person.
The tour of baumkuchen Mecca began, of course, in the kitchen. Hr. Taesler doesn't use a Ronco Rotisserie, as I first supposed--it's a similar product, but reaches a higher top temperature. Klaus has special modifications for his tapered baumkuchen forms (below, you can see one artfully bound in string, a traditional tying method that helps the first layers adhere). He described the heat from the near-constantly open oven as physically taxing, especially in the summer; fortunately, most of his orders come near Christmastime. There's a lot of finessing and tweaking to make sure the cakes turn out superbly. He gave me a lot of practical advice: The first layers' adhesion is critical. There's nothing worse than seeing a nearly-done cake fall apart in the oven. As soon as you can, wrap the fully-baked cake in plastic wrap so it stays moist while cooling. Try making multiple batters with different flavorings and alternate which one you use on each layer.
Everything about the experience gave a mystical sense of passing on a dying craft.
We continued talking over tea. The Taeslers shared with us some hearty homemade black bread, and showed off an antique Swiss crossbow so big that it took two soldiers to load it. Naturally, we tried some of his baumkuchen here too. The fresh cream and chocolate ganache filling the center were heavenly, and the flavors that ring out in the cake itself were, to me, strong reminders of the vast differences between artisanal hand-made baumkuchen and automated robot baumkuchen. It was a terrific day.
The cakes themselves get a fuller analysis in the next post!