Kuchen (“cake”) and Obstkuchen (“fruit cake”) can refer to many different desserts and pastries in Austria and Germany. By Austrian fruit cake I am referring to a very simple, very common preparation of a dense but tender cake that is topped with seasonal fruit before going in the oven. It’s made throughout the year with whatever fruit happens to be best that day. I was in Austria in May, June, and July, and saw it made first with rhubarb, then cherries, then apricots. The fruit settles into the cake nicely during the bake, but is still visible from the top. I think soft fruits that get a touch jammy when cooked work best for this (as opposed to, say, apples and pears).
This style of cake is served as a dessert (especially at Heurigen) or as a snack with the obligatory afternoon coffee break. I remember a fantastic version with apricots from Bäckerei Dietmeyer in Semmering.
Last week we made this with some Japanese plums (Prunus salicina var. Ptitsin). The dough itself is almost identical to the pound cake I use for my Christmas fruitcake, just softened with a touch of milk.
Austrian Fruit Cake
- 4 oz unsalted butter
- 8 oz white sugar (first quantity)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 4 oz milk
- 8 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- rum or vanilla
- 1 lb fresh fruit
- 2 tbsp white sugar (second quantity)
- icing sugar to dust finished cake
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Prepare your chosen fruit. For plums, halve and pit and quarter all the plums.
- Cream the butter, sugar, and salt by paddling in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Periodically stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Add the eggs one by one, slowly mixing with the paddle attachment to full incorporate each one before adding the next.
- Combine the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir to combine.
- Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir slowly till almost combined. Then add half the milk and stir slowly till almost combined. Repeat for remaining flour then remaining milk.
- Prepare a spring-form pan with a circle of parchment tin the bottom.
- Transfer batter to pan. Set prepared fruit on top of cake.
- Bake at 400°F until cake is set, about 40 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature before serving.