I've been doing lots of historical spitcake reading, and one particular find has got me in a tizzy. There is a Yahoo! group, still active no less, transcribing and translating all sorts of old cookbooks for this digital age! The main focus of the group is Marx Rumpolt's Ein new Kochbuch from 1581, which Wikipedia calls "the first textbook for professional chefs in training." This book is too early in spitcake development, so it doesn't feature the phrase baumkuchen, but it does give a recipe for Spieß kuchen (spit cake) and recommends serving it to nobility as the third (final) course of the first meal of the day.
The group leader, Ranvaig, gives the following translation:
Take warm milk and beat eggs with it / mix a dough with fair white flour / take little beer yeast and butter to it / let it stand a while behind the oven / that it rises / make it again into a ball / and salt it a little / then roll it out cleanly / throw black raisins over it. Take a Walger (roller) / that is warm / and rubbed with butter / and lay it on the dough / wrap the dough over / and tie it together with a twine / so it does not fall off / lay to the fire and turn slowly / like this will it roast cleanly. And when it becomes brown then take a brush / and put it into hot butter / and coat the cake with it / like this it will be a beautiful brown. And when it is roasted / so take it off the roller spit / and put into both holes with a clean cloth / that the heat remains / let it remain like this / until it is cool so give cold on a table / so it becomes tender and good. And one calls it Spiesskuchen.
As you can see, it's a chimney cake, not a tree cake. Supposedly, the first real tree cake is mentioned only one year later, in Nuremberg, by Susanna Harsdörfer. But that recipe, like I mentioned in the last post, is hand-written and I'm still working out the translation. However, now that I've discovered this DELIGHTFUL Yahoo! group, I think it'll go a little easier!
Transliteration and translation by Sharon Palmer aka Ranvaig Weaver, © 2013.