Friday, December 6, 2013

B'Soffener Kapuziner, an Austrian Family favourite nut-based cake, liberally doused with Gluhwein from the Stracey Family Cookbook

         When I was growing up in Montreal, my family had an endless stream of visitors, most of whom had some connection to my parent’s time in Britain during the Second World War.  They were both volunteers—my father was a Major in the Canadian Army and my mother worked tirelessly at the American Red Cross in London.  One of our visitors was a young man, my godmother’s nephew, who arrived in Montreal to study Engineering at McGill.   He ended moving in with us and became very much a part of our family.  He stayed in Canada after graduation and married a lovely girl from Austria. They had two daughters, and among other things, opened a restaurant called "Le Carafon". After years in Montreal, Simon returned to England and assumed his hereditary title as the baronet Stracey;  He became Sir John and his wife Lady Martha, who is referred to as her ladyship in the following post.  You may remember Lady Martha from last year’s spectacularly successful post on Austrian Cookies.  It has been downloaded over 2000 times.  Here’s the link:  This year, Simon promised me another authentic family recipe and he has made good on his offer. Here’s the story of B’Soffener Kapunziner and if it is as good as everything else her ladyship bakes, you should add it to your Christmas repertoire. By the way, you may not know it, but my family always called me Dick.  My first name is, after all, Richard.  “Chimo”, in case you wonder, is a greeting from the Inukitut language, spoken by the Inuits, as Canada's Eskimos are now called. 

Dear Dick, 
Here is the recipe, as I have prepared it for our Family Cookbook.  I think it will work for you with relatively little editing.

It has always been a family favourite, ever since Her Ladyship learned the tricks of getting it right (recipes handed down over the dinner table don't always give full instructions!).

I well remember a Hungarian babysitter we had in Montréal, who had a very sweet tooth, and was prone to raid our cookie jar and fridge.  As this cake is always made for my birthday, and I resent having to share it with too many hangers-on, I had to place a note on it in the fridge, saying "Only one slice, please!".   She did obey, but of course took her allowance.

The Gluhwein Tip is really useful.   It's a drink that should always be ready in winter (especially if someone is roasting chestnuts), and our method developed at Le Carafon is a real winner.  People could order it, like Kir, sweet or just a touch of syrup.  Try it !


Recipe for B’Soffener Kapuziner from The Stracey Family Cookbook

As with so many favourite dishes, there are as many ways to make them as there are grandmothers to hand down the recipes. This version comes from a lovely Viennese lady (they know a thing or two about sweet baked goods), who divulged her secrets one evening at our dinner table in Montréal. The name (pronounced B’soffen-uh Kapu-tseen-uh) comes from the rich brown colour of the robes of the Capuchin Friars, a Catholic offshoot of the Franciscans. The B’soffen part refers to the sobriety of the monk in question. In short, he was pickled.

Gather together the ingredients:

220gms white sugar (half a pound).
6 large eggs (of which all the yokes and 5 of the whites will be used). 30 gms (about 1 oz, or six squares, not critical) of good quality dark cooking chocolate, which adds colour, more than flavour.
60 gms (2 oz.) of fine, dried breadcrumbs.
60 gms (2 oz., about ½ cup) of almonds, skin on, freshly ground – much better than buying ready-ground. If you don’t have a clever nut grinder like Her Ladyship, a coffee grinder or a blitz in your food processor will suffice.
1 tsp good quality Vanilla extract.
½ grated lemon rind.

For the Glühwein (see * note below)
You will need a generous ¼ litre (1/3 bottle) of red wine.
Please, don’t sacrifice the Richebourg, the Ch. Lafite or the Opus One. A reasonable, not too tannic hearty red that you enjoy will do just fine. 
2 tblsp. of white sugar,
1 stick cinnamon,
5 cloves,
and the zest from the other half of the lemon.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

While the chocolate just melts in a small pot dunked in a bain marie, butter and coat with breadcrumbs the base of a 24 cm (9 ½ - 10”) springform cake pan. If you are confident of its non-stickability, you may get away with no coating. If it is ancient, cut a disk of baking parchment to fit. While the cake will come away from the sides, if “cut” with a blunt butter knife before springing the form apart, the base may stick. We want the bottom to look pristine.

Cream the 6 egg yolks with about three quarters of the sugar, just as you would if making a sponge.

Add the ground almonds and breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of Vanilla extract, the grated rind of half the lemon and the melted chocolate.

Whisk 5 of the egg whites to a stiff peak, and gradually whisk in,
a spoon at a time, the remaining sugar. Gently fold the meringue mix into the nut-based cake mix  and bake at 150˚C (300˚F) fan oven, or 170˚C (340˚F) normal oven, for about 50 minutes. Keep checking after 40 minutes, until a cake skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool upside down on a cake rack for a quarter of an hour. Turn it right side up, and leave to cool completely. Turn out onto the serving plate (bottom up), taking care to leave the bottom intact, wrap in clingfilm (Saran) and leave overnight in the fridge.

Bring the red wine to a simmer, with the sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves and zest of the remaining half lemon, and allow to infuse off the heat for a few minutes. Now evenly dredge the cake with as much wine as you can safely pour down the throat of your captive monk, re-cover with the film, and leave to evenly infuse and mature for at least one day in the fridge or a cool larder. The ageing process is really important. Steel yourself, and refrain from indulging for two or three days, if you can bear it. The cake is normally served as-is, as it doesn’t need embellishment.
If you really want to push the boat out, you can be hedonistically gluttonous and add a dollop of whipped cream, or go the whole hog and sit each slice on a clear fruit-based wine jelly. But don’t tell Her Ladyship I told you; she is a purist when it comes to tipsy monks.

* Glühwein Tip. At our restaurant, Le Carafon, in Montréal, we used to make up a quantity of sugar syrup (buy it, or boil up sugar and water) in which we gently simmered lemon zest, cloves and cinnamon, to make a concentrated infusion. This was cooled and left in the fridge with the ingredients still in the syrup. When a customer ordered Glühwein, we simply spooned some of the syrup into a coffee mug, topped it up with red wine, and stuck it in the micro-wave. That way we could make up any number of orders, freshly, to just the degree of sweetness the customer preferred. It is much better than buying ready-made bottles of Glühwein, which are frankly not the best quality.


  1. Monte, her ladyship, gluhwein, monks, the red cross.....this recipe is down right Downton abbey...I had strayed but when looking for Ham accompaniments for Christmas I came here. Your Blog visits will now be part of my NYE resolutions!

    1. Dear KerryCatherine, I am so glad you found your way here. If you want to really stay current, why not subscribe and you'll never miss another word! Merry Christmas to you! Monte