On a typical day, the family-owned Lutz Cafe and Pastry Shop in Chicago's North Center neighborhood might get 200 visitors to its website--people looking for all manner of confections based on authentic German recipes.
But when the Food Network featured Lutz on its show "Kid in a Candy Store" Monday, the lines started overheating, which seems fitting given that host Adam Gertler spotlighted a unique Lutz creation: the baumkuchen, a three-foot tall confection roasted on a spit like a turkey.
"We're going 100,000 miles an hour after that episode," Lutz owner Howard Gould, 54, said Tuesday morning. "We got several hundred orders for baumkuchen overnight.
Though it might resemble a Homer Simpson-sized stack of doughnuts to the untrained eye, the baumkuchen is actually a Christmas-season cake that Gould started making and selling year-round recently. It's extremely involved to make, and employs a rotisserie-style machine, only a few of which exist in the United States.
Gould learned the art of the baumkuchen from the Lutz family, who opened the bakery in 1948. While Gould can't reveal the exact recipe, it involves dipping the spit into a sponge cake batter composed of almond paste, marzipan and rum. It bakes for 90 seconds, before the Lutz bakers dip the spit and bake again and again--a total of 22 times, to be precise. "So you end up with a big log," Gould said. The result hearkens to the translated name for baumkuchen, "tree cake."
"Kid in a Candy Store," a spinoff of Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," videotaped the episode at Lutz back in April. Gould said he had no idea the airing would lead to so many baumkuchen orders, though he doesn't mind running his rotisserie day and night. "In the last day, we got 15,000 hits on our website," Gould said--which displays various types of baumkuchen here.
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