Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Adding regularly to the Vintage Christmas Recipes archive but avoiding too much duplication is becoming a challenge after several years – but I refuse to give up. Here is something a little different – a Christmas cake that is not a Fruit Cake. And from a celebrity to boot. It is from a Massachusetts newspaper of 1926, in an article entitled “Christmas Recipes from famous actresses”.  It serves my secondary purpose of trying to find some dishes from outside the English and American corpus – which is a tricky challenge, given my limited language skills!

Ilsa Marvenga’s Wickelkuchen.
This popular German Christmas cake is made of 4 cupfuls of flour, 1 cupful of butter, 1 ½ small cupful of warm milk, 1 ½ tablespoonful of rose-water, and ½ yeast cake which is dissolved in the warm milk.
Rub the butter and flour together and stir In the milk, yeast, and rose-water, making a soft dough even if you have to use more milk. Roll this out on a board to one-half inch thickness and put on it ½ cupful of butter in small pieces. Strew over this ¼ pound of finely cut citron and ¾ cupful of sugar mixed with a teaspoonful of cinnamon. Roll up and make a slash down the middle lengthwise about one inch deep Brush over with the yolk of 1 egg and let rise in a warm place until very light.
Bake one-half hour in a moderate oven. It takes from one to three hours to rise.
[Fitchburg Sentinel, Massachusetts, Dec 22, 1926]

This is ‘cake’ in its original sense (before leavening powders) of a sweet bread . I love the idea of rosewater in fruit bread, don’t you? It sounds like a great breakfast bread.

With the help of those invaluable research and translation aids from Google, I find that Wickelkuchen translates as Wrap Cake – which makes sense, when you read the recipe. I would love some feedback on this cake from German readers or those with a German heritage. Is it specifically a Christmas bread?

As for Ilsa Marvenga, the same research tools let me down somewhat, but it appears that she was a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies in the 1920’s, as well as other shows around the country.

Quotation for the Day …

Christmas is for children. But it is for grownups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.
Lenora Mattingly Weber.


~~louise~~ said...

I am now also intrigued by this recipe and lore. I may even have this recipe in a German cookbook which, of course, I can't read due to language barriers. I look forward to additional responses...Thanks for sharing...

Anonymous said...

I found recipes for Wickelkuchen
on several German websites. (All kind of variations on the wrapping/ rolling theme.) None
of them mentions Christmas however!
Being Dutch, I can't be sure,
but I think Wickelkuchen is a
year-round treat.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Louise and Martha
I suspect this is a year-round cake too. Where are all the German readers?? We need this clarified!!

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Janet,
By my side I have two German cookbooks which I have tried to decipher with the help of google but to no avail one is by Theo Schwalb and the other by Frank Gerhard. Neither has the recipe.

I did find a new post over at another blog called The Goat's Lunch Pail I left a comment there. Perhaps, help is on the way...Sorry Janet but now, I NEED to know:)

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Louise. I hereby name you Research Assistant Number 1!

Leah J. Utas said...

Hello, it's Leah from The Goat's Lunch Pail.
My husband made this from a recipe in "The German Cookbook: A Complete Guide to Mastering Authentic German Cooking," Random House, copyright 1965 and 1993 by Mimi Sheraton.
The translation given in the book is Rolled Coffee Cake (p 447). He used a raisin-nut filling which makes it takes like a great, wonderful cinnamon roll. It suggests either sprinkling it with confectioner's sugar or putting on a thin layer of melted apricot preserves or jam. By the pic on my blog you can see he went for the apricot.
Another suggestion is for a poppy seed filling. Mix a half-pound of ground poppyseeds with a cup of milk, three tbsp butter and 2/3 cup sugar or 1/2 cup honey and grated rind of one lemon, cook until thick. Fold in a half-cup of raisin and or nuts if wanted.
It starts with a basic yeast dough (p 444). I couldn't find anything in the book or online that suggested it was a holiday treat.
My husband isn't home right now but I'll ask when I get a chance and do my best to get back to you on it as quickly as I can. Could be a day or two. And you can always stop by my blog and remind me.
Thanks for finding me, asking me, and linking.

~~louise~~ said...

Wow! wasn't that nice of Leah to offer this wealth of information. It's certainly looking like Wickelkuchen is a delight for any celebration!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Leah! Thanks for all this information. I think I'll have to look for a copy of that cookbook - yet another to add to my list!
Louise - this is what I love about the Internet; so many cyberfriends willing to help solve food mysteries.

Anonymous said...

Four years later....YES...wickelkuchen is a year-round treat. I am reading my great grandmother's diary and she mentions it many times as being part of a Kaffee/Kuchen hour.