My sophomore year of college, I spent spring quarter abroad in Leipzig, Germany. My German language skills were poor-to-mediocre, but I managed to conquer food, numbers and courtesy words. With that grasp of the vocabulary, I could take advantage of one of the best parts of Germany: the bakeries and pastry shops.
Oh, the joys of German pastry. I miss those little wedges of cake , topped with custard or fruit or almonds. Or a little berliner donut. Or a piece of something chocolatey. Sigh.
I have never found an east German-style pastry shop since my return stateside. Sure, you can find black forest cake and strudels, but I consider those more Bavarian style treats. I have taken comfort in chocolate bars (Milka, Kinder, Rittersport…), but I still long for those little rectangles of baked goods from the Leipzig konditorei (sweets shop).
I am always open to trying my hand at baking experiments that give me a taste of nostalgia. Last week, I discovered this beautiful recipe for pflaumenkuchen but I felt like I didn’t have enough plums to do it full scale. And it called for thyme. And I was feeling experimental. So I threw some stuff together (some eggs, some butter, some flour, some sugar), then topped it with some other stuff (yogurt, an egg, some milk, vanilla) and then finally put half-pieces of plums on top.
The result did not meet the memory of the pflaumenkuchen, not anywhere close. The cake was too dense and needed to be lighter and sweeter; there wasn’t enough plum flavor; the custard was OK but not quite right. But there’s something to be said for chasing nostalgia, even if you fail. You still remember the flavor, even if it’s all in your mind.