Baumkuchen obsession: Cake Box Pastries in Huntington Beach
Cake Box Pastries in Huntington Beach is the kind of strip mall bakery where you will find sweet, chubby coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate and sugar cookies covered in a thin glaze of icing decorated with smiley faces. Because its proprietor is German, there are tortes (that are bested by the napoleons), marzipan-filled pastries and the occasional oddball amalgamation -- such as what owner Paul Gauweiler calls fruity nutties -- cookies made with the dried fruit and nut mixture that usually goes into stollen. But the bakery's heart of hearts is its baumkuchen, a wacky cake (pictured above) beloved by those who know all of the work it takes to bake one.
There are few who know how to bake them, but Gauweiler happens to be an expert and happens to have one of just three traditional baumkuchen ovens in the U.S. The cake is baked layer by layer on a spit that rotates in front of an open fire. As each layer browns, another is added, until you have a long cylinder of a cake that when sliced reveals concentric circles like the growth rings of a tree. (It's called "tree cake" because of its height and its rings.) It's not an especially moist cake, better to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee. Yet it's hard not to be smitten.
Cake Box Pastries, 6054 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 842-9132, www.cakeboxpastries.com.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times