The recipe that I am featuring today is for a so-called “Rehrücken” (“Saddle of Venison Cake”), a chocolate almond cake with chocolate icing. “Rehrücken", a word that in German means "saddle of venison," is used to designate this cake with a long tradition behind it. The cake is like a saddle of venison only in its shape, and for many generations, molds made in the shape of a stylized saddle of venison have been manufactured especially for making this fanciful cake. These special molds are fluted and have deep indentations down the middle but if you do not own a "Rehrücken" baking pan, you should note that this cake can also be made in a deep loaf pan.
The almonds that are used to decorate the chocolate icing of the cake are meant to suggest the strips of bacon or salt pork inserted into genuine saddles of venison to lard them.
Recipe for Saddle of Venison Cake (“Rehrücken”)
Ingredients for the Cake
- 6 eggs (L), separated (use free range or organic if possible)
- 100 grams (1 stick minus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus some more for buttering the pan
- 180 grams (1 cup minus 1 tbsp) superfine white sugar
- 2 tbsp Kirsch (you can substitute dark rum)
- zest of ½ organic orange (about ½ tsp)
- 50 grams (1/3 cup) dark chocolate cocoa powder (I always use a good qualty German or Dutch brand)
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 100 grams (3/4 cup) plain/AP flour, plus some more for flouring the pan (a lot of Europeans use fine breadcrumbs or finely groung nuts to "dust" their baking pans)
- 50 grams (1/3 cup) potato starch
- 100 grams (1 cup) finely ground almonds (skin on is fine - you could also use almond meal)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 pinch of fine salt (I always use sea salt)
Ingredients for Glaze and Chocolate Icing
- 100 grams (1/3 cup) apricot jam or preserves (homemade if possible)
- 200 ml (2/3 cup) heavy cream (I always use 35% cream)
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 pinch of fine salt
- 150 grams (1 cup) dark chocolate cocoa powder
- 200 grams (1 cup) superfine white sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preparation of the Cake
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
- With a pastry brush, liberally butter a saddle of venison baking pan or loaf pan and dust with flour, breadcrumbs or finely ground almonds. Shake out the excess.
- In the bowl of your mixer, using your whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, transfer to a medium bowl and place in the fridge while continuing to prepare the rest of the batter.
- In another bowl of your mixer, beat the butter, sugar and egg yolks for about 3 to 5 minutes or until they fluffy, pale yellow and thick.
- Then add the Kirsch and the orange zest and mix briefly just until combined.
- In a large bowl whisk together the cocoa powder, ginger, cinnamon, flour, starch, almonds, baking powder and salt.
- To the butter mixture add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- Take the beaten egg whites out of the fridge.Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the batter, trying not to deflate them too much but until no trace of the egg whites remains.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the cake shrinks slightly away from the sides of the pan and is springy to the touch, being carefully not to overbake. The cake tends to dry out easily if baked for too long.
- Cool the cake for about 5 minutes in the pan. Using a serrated knife, level-off the bottom of the cake and carefully turn the cake out onto a cooling rack.
- Let the cake cool completely.
Preparation of the Glaze and Chocolate Icing
- Heat the apricot jam or preserves and then strain through a fine sieve.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze evenly over the cooled cake on the wire rack. Let the jam cool and wait until it has “set”.
- To a small heavy saucepan add the cream, butter, salt, cocoa and sugar.
- Cook the mixture for about 5 minutes over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the icing is smooth and thick.
- Take it off the heat and whisk in the pure vanilla extract.
- Allow the icing to cool for about 5 minutes.
- Pour the icing over the cake as evenly as possible.
- While the glaze is still soft, in a regular pattern, stick the slivered almonds upright into the glaze.
- Allow the galze to set completely for about 45 minutes before serving.
- Cut the “Rehrücken” in such a way that one of the shorter rows of almond decorates each serving.
- The cake is at its best if served the same day with some slightly sweetened whipped cream and a big bowl of Café au lait (“Milchkaffee”).
While this is a cake that I always bake in one of my a special baking pans that look like a long loaf pan curved in a half-moon shape with evenly spaced grooves across the width, and a flat section down the center, known as a “Rehrücken Backform”, I mentioned that this cake can easily be made in a regular loaf pan as well or you could try to find this baking pan in German or Austrian specialty stores or online. It does look fancy when baked in the traditional mold and it makes for a nice and different kind of cake presentation!
The baking pans are made from different materials such as stoneware, aluminium or non-stick and below is a picture of the three pans from my collection.