It was my friend Karola’s birthday this weekend and I made the cake for her party. She’s German, so I thought I’d surprise her with a traditional German cake. Donauwelle translates as “Danube wave” because the cake is supposed to resemble the river. It’s a multi-layered, cherry-filled, vanilla and chocolate concoction – a little time consuming to make but most of the time is dedicated to chilling it in stages.
A huge thank you to my friend Jenia for meeting the challenge of photographing the cake under a none-too-bright standard lamp! She got a great shot – I love it!
250g butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk
2 cans pitted cherries (I used about 1 1/2 cans)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup white sugar
4 cups milk
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
200g dark chocolate
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons nutella
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Grease a large rimmed baking pan (I used one that is 36cm x 26cm but most recipes I looked at called for 40cm x 30cm) and line with parchment paper with some overhang to help with removal.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda then stir into the butter mixture.
Spread 1/2 of the batter in the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Stir the cocoa powder and milk into the remaining batter until just incorporated. Spread evenly over the vanilla layer. Drain and pat the cherries dry with paper towel, and scatter them liberally over the top of the cake batter.
The cherries will sink into the cake while it bakes, creating the wave pattern between the two layers.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes in pan then carefully lift out using the paper and cool completely on a wire rack. When cool, remove the paper and put the cake on a large serving platter. Two sets of hands are useful for moving the cake!
I actually put mine back in the baking pan to serve from because I had to take it to my friend’s place and it made it easier to transport.
In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until the pudding thickens, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Spread the pudding over the surface of the cake and refrigerate until cold.
Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a double boiler or a metal bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in the oil and nutella. Spread the chocolate over the pudding layer. Let the chocolate cool just a little then use the tines of a fork or a cake comb to make the wave pattern on the top. Refrigerate until chocolate is set.
This recipe makes enough to cut into squares for about 20 people. 12 of us made it through about half.