Saturday, November 10, 2012

Canteen: Beetroot & White Chocolate Cake

In the last days of October, Berlin really put all of its might into decorating the city with explosions of colour and light. A giant took hold of the sun, sliced it open, only to discover it was in fact a colossal citrus fruit brimming with potent pigment and radiant beams. He squeezed the fruit with much vigour, expressing puffs of gold, amber and orange down into the little neighbourhoods of the people below. The trees shone in the brilliance of the once mighty and relentless sun, and took on new shades as this heavenly nectar soaked into their leaves, and as time progressed, the brilliant beams that pierced the canopy of the trees became weaker and less frequent, the sun-fruit was drying out, leaving in its wake a chilly grey evening. Quite a sight it was while it lasted, lucky I got some photographs...

Friedrichshain Cemetery 

Friedrichshain Cemetery

Volkspark Friedrichshain

Volkspark Friedrichshain is the nearest large city park to where I live. It's a sprawling, tree filled park and contains two large hills, that haven't always been part of the landscape. During the second world war, the third reich built two fucking enormous concrete air raid bunkers in the park. The larger of the two bunkers was bombed extensively during the war, but was only properly demolished by controlled explosions after the war. The bunkers were then dismantled, filled with rubble, and the leftover 2 million tonnes of debris was landscaped to create the two "mountains"; Große Bunkerberg (large bunker mountain) and Kleine Bunkerberg (small bunker mountain).

Große Bunkerberg after it's demolition in 1946

My thoughts were with the people living in this area after the war, and how they would become the fabric of the GDR, East Berlin. One of the things that often occurs to me is the limited selection of goods available to people in East Germany, of course food was no exception. After flicking through one of my favourite cookbooks, Canteen: Great British Food Birta came across something that sounded very intriguing, a Beetroot and white chocolate cake! 

What has this got to do with East Germany? Well, not a lot, apart from the fact that I have strong associations between Germany and beetroot, and life in the GDR meant no access to anything produced outside of the soviet states. (exotic foods were so unobtainable for common people that the GDR actually used a left over war bunker in Berlin as a high security storage house for precious imported fruits like bananas & pineapples, these were reserved for politicians and other important figures). It's sad to think that something as simple as a banana cake would have been an impossible luxury for poor old East Berliners, but since beetroot is always plentiful, I fantasize that people were being creative & eating beetroot cakes, beetroot donuts, beetroot ice cream - the substitutions are only as limited as your imagination.

So, here begins the Beetroot and White Chocolate Cake process....

The end result was a pretty humble looking creature, with just a hint of something earthy in the flavour. For me it was interesting because the taste wasn't overpowering at all, you could just detect something slightly unusual. We took this cake to our friends' house in the evening to eat and watch Goodbye Lenin. We tortured them to try and guess the secret ingredient, which they never managed to figure out, and throughout the entire movie, I was distracted by my imagination of East Berliners eating Beetroot Cakes.

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