This is my fourth visit to Germany, Regensburg specifically and the first two times, I found myself frustrated by the lack of good bakeries or pastry shops. At the end of my third visit here, I realized that I was mistaken. It wasn’t a lack of good shops but the fact that I was searching for pastry that was as good as I’d experienced in Italy. That was a lost cause and always will be. Nowhere is there pastry like Italian pastry. In the US, our best baked goods are cookies…although this is obviously somewhat regional. In Germany, however, their best baked goods are cakes. On this visit, I’d adjusted my thinking and set out to sample as many cakes as I could.
Cake is the perfect vacation food. It implies leisure. You have to sit down to indulge in it, which is absolutely one of the reasons why I seldom order cake in the US, at least not in the middle of the afternoon. Who has the time? You cannot eat a cake in 2-3 bites. Ice cream is wonderful on the go, as you circle round a new city examining old churches and considering dinner plans. When you’re eating cake, though, you really must sit there and eat it.
Cake is lost on small children then. Elisabeth has no time or desire. She wants an ice cream or a cookie and to be on her way. I learned that cake is best enjoyed without an impatient child by your side. So, when I could, I tried to indulge without her. But the first few days of my eight days of cake were with her. Early on, I tried Chocolate Cherry (her choosing) at Anna, my hands-down favorite place for cake. Anna Liebt Brod und Kaffee, a wonderful restaurant cafe near the old city where we’re staying. Elisabeth can’t pass up anything chocolate; she has no good boundaries in this way. I’ve never been a chocolate cake fan but this cake was quite good. It was just moist enough to not get stuck in your throat but didn’t have the “damp” texture which can occasionally lend a soggy texture to some chocolate cakes.
Cake is an afternoon event and as my husband told me, it used to be the Sunday afternoon event. Today, it’s any afternoon excuse for anyone. I like to take my cake between 3:00-4:00 which is the time of day that many of us are looking for a small, in-between sweet to last us until dinner. Cake fits the bill; the slices are never big. They are always just enough of a generous taste to leave you satiated. With my cake adventures here, when the last bite has been consumed, I’m done too. I never want more, which is interesting in and of itself. At home, I’m always ready for another bite of doughnut or additional cookie.
The next day, Fabian was in Munich again so Elisabeth was still with me but this time I asked if she wanted a kinder kugel (80 cents of child-sized ice cream- a bargain!) which freed me up to enjoy my cake un-rushed. Well, for the most part. I opted for lemon knowing it was mine alone. It had a fine, sugar drizzle on top. The lemon was light and delicious. On my third day here, I’d indulged in way too many coffees so instead of opting for a coffee to go with my cake as is intended here (hence the usually dry cake), I ordered a housemade soda with lemon-basil syrup. A lot of lemon even for me but it worked. Elisabeth’s chocolate ice cream gave me just enough time to finish my slice and almost all of my lemonade.
The next day I was on my own in the afternoon and headed back to Anna to do some work and for my daily dose of cake. While I’ve been here, I’d made a lovely habit of heading to Anna to sit outside and writing for a few hours. Sometimes I had postcards with me but I’ve wrote letters and blogged as well. Writing, like cake eating, takes time. They are a perfect pair for that reason.
We are nearing the end of asparagus season here (it’s short-lived but absolutely wonderful…always, always order the spargelsuppe when it’s on any menu) and so raspberries are close behind. Germans more than Americans tend to use what’s in season so raspberries are coming up next. I saw a lovely himbeerentorte at Anna so I ordered that. It had a creamy center which wasn’t whipped cream exactly but something similar and helped hold the raspberries in place, although they were also suspended in their own juices and a bit of gelatin perhaps? But it didn’t taste gelatinous or have a strange mouthfeel. This was my favorite so far. The sweetness of the cream wasn’t cloying but a perfect foil to the rich raspberries. And this was just visually so beautiful. The picture above doesn’t do it justice. Use your imagination a bit on this one.
Like at home, on vacation we tend to spend our money on food. We’ve bought children’s books in German but scrapped the trip to the Playmobil parkin part due to Elisabeth being just three. So food it is! There’s a Turkish market near our apartment where we get doughnut peaches, Gala apples, gorgeous peppers, feta and olive salad, and mini cukes on a daily basis. Cake, thankfully, is normally just 3 Euros for a slice. Some places are less expensive. Cake is a cheap indulgence.
On Wednesday afternoon we headed to the train station to take the 3 minute train to see my in-laws. I’d timed our trip to stop at the Anna in the mall, next to the station. Fabian and I both ordered cake and Elisabeth had a cookie. I remember the apple cream from last year (I may have no idea what street our apartment is on but I recall
the important things!) and ordered it. Fabian took the rhubarb crumb. Crumbs on top of a cake are always a good idea and so it was for this one too. We both agreed that it needed a side of cream (not a very German embellishment, however) but it was still excellent. Fabian is a sucker for rhubarb so he wanted more in the cake. I was content.
Yesterday was an off-day. Cake didn’t happen. It was missed. The afternoon was a hot one and without air conditioning or the promise of it, none of us felt much like leaving the apartment. Already today at not quite noon, it’s almost 85. It feels like Durham so much that I have a pang for home. But we leave soon and that will be the end of my cake days. Cake, though, has come to represent ore than indulgence; it’s a reason to step back and slow down. And that I will be taking with me.