Birthdays are funny things. The hype around celebrating them seems to come in two phases. The first one starts with birth and lasts probably until 25. At 25, after having (hopefully) graduated and joined the real working world, every reminder of age is given the evil eye and subconsciously creates internal stress: career-wise, relationships, friendships, financially, where to go in life, aaaahhhh….! Recently I saw a 15 page CV….. how am I ever going to fill so many pages in the next few years? Too much to do and so little time. Also, if you’re female, mid twenties-thirties and single, I’m sure you can relate to this dialogue from When Harry Met Sally:
Sally: AND, I’m gonna be forty.
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men.
The second phase of celebratory hypes starts round about retirement age, 60 years, and lasts for the rest of your life (YAY some celebrations at the end of the 40 year working tunnel). Last week we celebrated a very special birthday within the family. Planning for the 3 day weekend (apparently the older one gets, the longer one wants to celebrate, one day isn’t enough) had begun months before. The closer we came, the only thing on the birthday boy’s mind was the party. The excitement was comparable to that of a 4 year old eating chocolate cake for the first time. Being 23, I didn’t quite understand how one could be sooooo excited about getting older, but I guess the older one gets the more appreciative one becomes of age and life (oooooo words of wisdom…. :-P). Let me get back to you about that when I turn 60.
With a guest list close to 50 and a Sunday morning plan of coffee, tea and cakes, no more needed to be said. I successfully took on my first cake marathon and baked 5. Luckily some cakes, like the one below, are best baked 2 days in advance. This made life a little easier, however with the additional skiing, small-talking and remaining birthday madness, sleep deprivation was to be expected.
Finally, about this first cake: my mother grew up with a nanny/maid called “Martha”. She joined the family when my mother was born and stayed for 50 years. Martha was like a grandmother to me. She could also bake like a goddess; her cakes were divine. The Linzer Torte (swiss style, not Austrian and overly spiced) is one of her recipes. Deciphering her jumbled handwriting and trying to follow her thoughts wasn’t the easiest, but definitely worth it. Sadly she passed away a few years ago, but she is always remembered when one of us decides to whip up a cake for a special occasion. The Linzer has become somewhat of a family tradition. With its special almond paste filling and generous layer of jam, it’s always a winner.
Martha’s Linzer Torte
250g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Kirsch
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of ground cloves
200g ground whole almonds
a large jar of raspberry jam
130g ground peeled almonds
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp water
- Remember: Linzer should be made 1 or 2 days in advance. This is essential for the flavours to fully develop.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a 26cm round cake tin with baking paper and grease with butter.
- In a small pan, bring the water and 2 tbsp of sugar to a boil. Stir in the ground peeled almonds and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- For the cake base, mix all ingredients up until and including the flour together. Mix well until you have a smooth dough.
- Fill about 4/5 of your dough into the prepared cake tin. Using a spatula, make sure the dough is higher around all edges.
- Spread your almond paste on top of the cake base evenly.
- Now spread all of your raspberry jam on top of the almond paste. Try and get it as even as possible.
- Using the last 1/5 of your base dough you can now create a design to top the jam with. Traditionally one creates a grid, but you can make whatever you like (eg. a number like in the picture or a christmas tree). Beware that the design spreads while baking.
- Bake for about 40 minutes in the middle of the oven. You can check if it’s done by inserting a skewer into the edge of the cake. It should come out clean.
- Once baked, leave the cake to cook completely on a cooling rack before removing the bottom of the cake tin. It is very breakable fresh out of the oven.
- Wrap your cooled cake in aluminium foil and store it in a cool place for a day or two before indulging:-).
One two three four – SCORE
[Numerical ratings are out of four, where four is best/healthiest/hardest.]
Taste: 3.95, the family favourite for a Swiss Linzer.
Difficulty: 2, the only difficult part is making a design which keeps its shape throughout the baking.
Healthiness: 2, who are we kidding.
Cost: If you don’t have the Kirsch is could get a bit pricey, apart from that: cheap