The word 'Topfen', is just another name for 'Quark', a European-style fresh farmers' cheese that is somewhat creamier than cottage cheese. In general, while the expression 'Topfen' is widely used in Austria, Germans usually refer to this fresh cheese as 'Quark'.
It has a delightful mild yogurt tang. In general, Quark can by used for anything that you may use crème fraîche, sour cream, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt for.
Quark (Topfen) can be described as a fresh, creamy cheese with a distinct flavor. It is very popular for both savory and sweet meals in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. The Vienna (or Old Viennese) Topfen Cake is a traditional tart with origins that date back to the days of the Empire. And it is fairly simple to make, with just a few steps to remember.
And while Topfen (Quark) is an essential ingredient for baked cheesecakes in the two German speaking countries (Austria and Germany), the approach to cheesecake is different. German cheesecake (Käsekuchen) often includes a pie crust to encase the baked filling, while this classic Old Viennese Topfen Cake (Altwiener Topfentorte) is crustless and made with Quark mixed with almond flour and is essentially gluten free.
The combination of a bit of good quality butter, Quark, farm fresh eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond flour gives this traditional Old Viennese Topfen Cake a wonderful light texture that will surprise you. But you will definitely need to separate the eggs and with a light, quick hand fold the beaten egg whites into the Quark mixture, otherwise you will end up with a cake on the dense side. It is always a good idea to make sure your beater and bowl are clean - free of any fats - before you start beating your egg whites to ensure good volume results.
While I have blogged about this little elegant cake before, I decided to write about it one more time. I revised the recipe slightly and instead of serving it with fresh red currants, I decided to prepare oven-baked rhubarb and serve it alongside. This recipe has stolen my heart. Simple, Delicious. No flour needed. And to a certain degree, also versatile. If you are out of almond flour, use hazelnut (or any other nut) flour, got no lemons, use orange (or other citrus) here. No vanilla sugar. No problem. Use a pinch of cinnamon, or leftover speculoos or gingerbread spices (or any other spices you enjoy).
For the Roasted Rhubarb, wash (and peel if necessary) about 4 to 5 stalks of fresh rhubarb. Pre-heat the oven to 200° C (395°F), then cut the rhubarb into 5cm (2in) or so lengths and place in a roasting pan with half a tea-cup of water and some light brown (or white) sugar. Roast until just soft enough to take the point of a knife, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then drain, reserving the cooking juices. You can boil down the juices to a syrupy consistency and use any left-overs in some springtime lemonade.
Old Viennese Topfen Cake - Altwiener Topfentorte
(this is a smallish cake, so it serves about 6 to 8, depending, of course, entirely on the size of your cake slices)
- 120g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 120g superfine baking (caster) sugar
- 4 eggs (M), free-range or organic, separated
- 120g Quark (I recommend the use of the 'skim' variety, called 'Magerquark' - 10%)*
- grated zest of an organic lemon (if you do not have lemons, use an organic orange instead)
- 8g pure vanilla sugar (if you do not have vanilla sugar, use a pinch of cinnamon)
- a pinch fine sea salt
- 120g almond flour (if you do not have almond flour, use another nut flour instead)
- icing sugar for dusting and oven-baked rhubarb OR fresh fuits are entirely optional
*Instead of the Austrian Topfen or the German Quark, you can take any fresh farmers' cheese, cottage cheese or ricotta because the eggs will hold everything together, but your choice of fresh cheese will affect the final flavor of the cheesecake. And it might be a good idea to whiz the cottage cheese or ricotta in your food processor to a smoother consistency. Or use 'skyr' (similar to strained yogurt) if you have that.
- a 22cm (8.5in) springform pan
- baking parchment
- Pre-heat your oven 180°C (356°F).
- Butter the springform pan, line with baking parchment and dust with almond meal, shaking out any excess.
- With a mixer, beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add one egg yolk at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Then add the Quark, lemon zest and vanilla sugar and mix through. Set aside.
- Using a separate clean and dry bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.
- Fold a third of the beaten egg white into the Quark mixture, then fold in the remaining eggwhites, along with the almond flour. Do this quickly using a spatula with a cutting motion.
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for approximately 40 to 45 minutes. If the top of the cake browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the last 20 minutes or so of baking.
- Take the cake out of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely on the wire rack.
- Once completely cooled, remove the cake from the pan, remove the baking parchment, dust with icing sugar (optional) and serve as is, with fresh fruit or oven-baked rhubarb.
Enjoy - and if you can get your hands on fresh rhubarb, make the oven-baked rhubarb alongside. These two together make for a wonderful afternoon delight.