My stomach has been working overtime trying to make room for everything I want to try in Berlin. While Americans don’t generally think of Germany as a bastion of pastries like they do France, there is a surprising variety of unique breads and cakes that deserve recognition. Moreover, many of these baked goods incorporate quark or yogurt in ways you just don’t find very often in the States, so I am doubly curious to try things.
I’ve already written several times at how much the fresh cheese quark is incorporated into Germany’s culinary fabric. It is used as is like yogurt, but also in doughs (like in doughnut-y quarkballchen) and as part of cake fillings (as in cheese cakes/käsekuchen). It can be used to accompany savory dishes. Quark and roasted potatoes is a legitimate traditional dish here. Yogurt also seems to be quite widespread, and it is used much like quark, although to a lesser degree.
The other day, thanks to the guidance of a local friend, I discovered the magical place that is Frau Behrens Torten. If you have the chance to go to Berlin, this should be on your “must visit” list! Come hungry because their cake case is marvelous beyond belief. Row upon row of light, airy, picture-perfect cakes and tortes will make the snack time decision making VERY difficult! My head was spinning as I browsed through my options: the Belle-Hélène torte with chocolate mousse and topped with slices of poached pear; many varieties of cheesecakes; apple cakes; macadamia-sacher torte with praline; blueberry-mascarpone torte; chocolate-ginger cake; there must have been about 20 options that day. I felt so deeply conflicted, after what felt like 15 minutes, I resorted to a coin toss to help me decide on a raspberry-yogurt torte. My friend chose the chocolate-ginger cake with a light raspberry glaze topping.
What heavenly choices! The chocolate-ginger cake was flecked with tiny pieces of candied ginger, bringing a bit of body to the otherwise airy confection. The fine layer of raspberry glaze provided just enough contrast to make an otherwise simple cake extraordinary. It was exquisite. My delicate raspberry-yogurt tort, bordered by a thin layer of genois on the bottom and finely sliced almonds along the outer ridge, was essentially flawless. The yogurt-berry mixture had just a hint of sweetness and so much air! It was like eating a cloud. The genois, which can so often be too dry or too soggy, was just perfect—fluffy, light, and moist. The almonds along the outer edge were sliced so thin, they barely made any crunch, but it was just enough. It was a life-changing cake experience. I have to be careful not to compare all future cakes to this because they will rarely measure up, even counting French cakes and pastries!