Rehrϋcken is a classic Viennese chocolate cake, recipes for which are easily found in most traditional Viennese cookbooks. For example, check out Viennese Cooking by Olga Hess (a well-worn version was always displayed prominently on my mom’s kitchen counter). Rehrϋcken was my mother’s signature dessert. She made it for every occasion –birthdays, Jewish holidays, secular holidays and “just because.” Some family members liked it with frosting; others did not. My brother just plain loved it. Every so often, mom would make it and serve it with home made whipped cream, which is called “schlag” in Viennese slang. I loved the word schlag and remember making fun of the pronunciation when I was a little girl. Speaking of pronunciations, saying the word “rehrϋcken” was a favorite pastime of mom’s grandchildren. We all decided that my brother’s daughter, Kelly (four years old at the time of the “contest”) had the best rendition - in the most guttural German you could imagine.
The German word “rehrϋcken” literally means the saddle of the venison or as my mother used to tell us when we were little, the spine of the deer. If you use your imagination, the finished cake with the almonds sticking up, looks like a deer’s spine. At least, this is what my mother had me believe.
I have since learned that the almonds actually represent the strips of bacon or salt pork inserted into the saddles of venison to lard them. I imagine this information was a bit too graphic for a young girl and mom’s story worked just fine for our family.
I never tried to make the cake while mom was alive. I didn’t need to because she always did. I am not even sure which recipe she used to develop her version as my paternal grandmother’s recipe is different from my mother’s finished product.
This picture is taken from my Nani Elsa’s collection. The recipe below is my mom’s English translation of what I suspect is a conglomeration of recipes. Here is exactly where the frustration comes in. I wish my mother was here so I could ask her about these details but she just isn’t. And that is why I am so adamant that you talk to your family members NOW in order to preserve their recipes and precious memories.
A couple of years after mom died, I finally summoned up the courage to make a rehrϋcken. Somehow it was the ultimate testament to my mother’s legacy. My brother and his family came over for dinner and after putting his dessert plate in front him, I anxiously waited for his reaction. After the first bite, he said that it tasted just like mom’s cake. I didn’t think so, but thanks Len for making us feel that mom was still around the table.
SYLVIA LEIGHTON’S REHRÜCKEN
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
5 large eggs separated
4 oz. sweet butter
5 oz. sugar
¼ cup coffee
6 oz. all purpose flour (for Passover, use 4 oz. cake meal)
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 oz. water
2 oz. coffee
2 oz. milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Peheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt chocolate over hot, but not boiling water in a double boiler. Beat egg yolks, butter and sugar until thick and lemon colored. Add chocolate and coffee and mix well.
Beat egg whites until stiff; fold flour and egg whites alternately into chocolate mixture.
Butter rehrϋcken pan or if not available, 11” x 4” mold tube pan. Put mixture in pan and bake 50 minutes. Cool slightly and then turn out on to wire rack.
Procedure for frosting:
In top of double boiler, melt chocolate with water, coffee and milk.
Remove from heat. With a rubber spatula, stir in unsalted butter, two pieces at a time.
Continue to stir until perfectly smooth. Let cool. Spread frosting on top of cake. Place almond slices in two parallel rows down the top of the cake.
Rehrϋcken can be served with or without the frosting but is most impressive when served with the frosting and home made whipped cream.
Molds made in the shape of a stylized saddle of venison have been manufactured for making this cake. They are fluted and have deep indentations down the middle. I have finally found one of these molds/pans and they can be ordered online: http://www.fantes.com/loaf_pans.htm#moravian.
This stroll down memory lane is being submitted to the "nostalgia tastes bitter sweet event"