In Seattle, we have our kouign-amanns, macarons, and danishes, but one legendary

In Seattle, we have our kouign-amanns, macarons, and danishes, but one legendary sweet is missing from our pastry arsenal, and its absence haunts me most during the holiday season. Picture a German Christmas: a quaint snowy village, holiday lights, a tree of white and gold ornaments, and a slice of baumkuchen with warm cider.

If there is such a thing as a renegade cake, the baumkuchen would be it. No precious cupcakes or cake pops here; this cake is traditionally baked near an open fire, where burly bakers spoon sponge-cake batter over a mold on a revolving spit one layer at a time. An average baumkuchen comprises 15 to 20 thin layers and is, on average, three to four feet tall. This extraordinary cake towers over most layered cakes, and the effort required to make it far surpasses that of any fruitcake. Sliced, the fruit of this labor can be seen in the thin layers that resemble a tree trunk’s growth rings, giving the baumkuchen, or “tree cake,” its name.

Baumkuchen are prevalent throughout Europe, and come in a few versions. This advanced confection made its way to Japan in the 1920s, where it was propelled to stardom by a baumkuchen bakery chain. There are now many versions with different glazes like chocolate, marmalade, and untraditional flavors like red bean, coffee, and matcha tea.

Meanwhile, my brief Internet search of Seattle and our friendly Germanic neighbor Leavenworth turned up not much more than gingerbread cookies and danishes. This yuletide dessert even enjoyed time in the limelight on NPR and in The New Yorker, but it’s been crickets here in Seattle. (Should I be wrong, I hope to stand corrected.) I was beginning to think I’m crazy, but baumkuchen bakeries now exist in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Huntington Beach, Calif., and Denver, and one would hope one will eventually make its way to this corner of the Northwest.

The possibilities for a baumkuchen-specific bakery may be slim, as it would require special ovens and a loyal following. But while there may not be an ample supply of cake-roasting spits around town, baumkuchen can be made in round cake pans, and if a local bakery chooses to come through, it will have an eager customer here. It’s time to spread the gospel.

In the meantime, Amazon has a few baumkuchen you can order online.

Since this article was published, we have learned that there are, in fact, various types of baumkuchen available at Uwajimaya. You can bet we’ll be checking them out.