Truthfully, I only wanted to bake Krantz Cake because I fell in love with the photos when I first picked up a copy of Jerusalem: A Cookbook. In reality, yeasted breads make me a nervous wreck.
I read the words yeast, knead, rise, and roll and I shy away. When you mess up yeasted bread, your mistakes are apparent immediately. There’s no way of hiding the fact that you didn’t let your dough rise completely, roll your dough out evenly, or let your bread bake completely leaving you with a stretchy/gummy interior. I don’t like my mistakes glaring at me… I like to hide my mistakes and pretend they don’t exist.
But rather than pretending my mistakes don’t exist, as healthy as that may be, I decided to learn from my failures and attempt to bake a yeasted cake last week— Krantz Cake, to be exact. This is my Mount Everest.
I’ve loved every recipe I’ve ever made from this cookbook and Krantz Cake is no exception. It’s a tender, subtly sweet, brioche-like bread filled with smooth dark chocolate and nuts for a delightful crunch in every bite. It is a slightly messy and complicated process and requires your attention, patience, and time…
The entire prep takes two days, but a lot of that is waiting for the dough to rise and then a bit of rolling, trimming, and twisting. I also took photos of every single step so that elongated the process, but I found using a picture tutorial extremely helpful! All those phrases about logs, cigar rolling, plaiting, braiding, etc. can get confusing so I wanted to include that in my post, as well!
Even if your twisting skills aren’t on point, the cakes will still turn out stunning and immensely satisfying. Luckily, you can never go too wrong with a cake saturated in a generous amount of simple syrup and filled with layers of chocolate and nuts.
I followed the recipe exactly and I absolutely loved the finished product (Note: I could not stop eating). But I do, however, have a few notes for the next time I make this… First, I absolutely hate flouring my kitchen counters, it always leaves a huge mess and I like to avoid cleaning whenever possible. I rolled my dough out on a floured half-sheet baking pan (18 by 13 inches), which I found very convenient (without all the rulers) when rolling the dough out 15 by 11 inches. The dough rolls out very nicely so you don’t have any issues with the dough sticking to the pan and it’s also a lot easier to clean than your entire kitchen counter.
Second, it is a lot easier to spread your filling and cut your dough in half when your chocolate is smooth and thoroughly melted. Depending on how quickly you work, your chocolate mixture may have hardened by the time you begin rolling your second cake, so quickly reheat your chocolate using the double boiler method so you don’t burn/overcook the chocolate!
Third, this might just be a personal issue because my oven is inconsistent, but I found my cakes to brown very quickly in the oven. They didn’t overcook, but they didn’t have that light golden brown crust I was hoping for. In order to avoid this, just check on your bread periodically and if you find it browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil (I was simultaneously making diner when I made these so I wasn’t as vigilant as I should have been).
Last but not least, if you can, try to wait to eat them until the next day when the syrup has fully saturated the cake. It is absolutely divine and completely worth the wait. Happy Baking! Conquer the yeast!
Krantz Cake recipe from Jerusalem: A Cookbook:
4 cups / 530 grams all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ cup / 100 grams superfine sugar
2 teaspoons fast-rising active dry yeast
Grated zest of 1 small lemon
3 extra-large free-range eggs
½ cup / 120 millilitres water
Rounded ¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup / 150 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ¾-inch / 2 centimeter cubes
Sunflower oil, for greasing
Scant ½ cup / 50 grams confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup / 30 grams best-quality cocoa powder
4 ounces / 130 grams good-quality dark chocolate, melted
½ cup / 120 grams unsalted butter, melted
1 cup / 100 grams pecans, coarsely chopped (I used pistachios!)
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2/3 cup / 160 millilitres water
1 ¼ cups / 260 grams superfine sugar
- To make the dough, place the flour, sugar, yeast, and lemon zest in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the eggs and water and mix on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes, until the dough comes together. Add the salt and then start adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing until it is incorporated into the dough. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is completely smooth, elastic, and shiny. During the mixing, you will need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times and throw a small amount of flour onto the sides so that all of the dough leaves them.
- Place the dough in a large bowl brushed with sunflower oil, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight.
- Grease two 2 ¼-pound / 1 kilograms loaf pans (9 by 4 inches / 23 by 10 centimeters) with some sunflower oil and line the bottom of each pan with a piece of waxed paper. Divide the dough in half and keep one-half covered in the fridge.
- To make the filling, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, chocolate, and butter. You will get a spreadable paste. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 centimeters). Trim the sides to make them even, and then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread half the chocolate mixture over the rectangle, leaving a ¾-inch / 2 centimeter border all around. Sprinkle half the pecans on top of the chocolate, and then sprinkle over half the superfine sugar.
- Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam.
- Trim about ¾-inch / 2 centimeters off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. Gently squeeze together the other ends so that you are left with the two halves, intertwined, showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake into a loaf pan. Cover the pan with a wet tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours. The cake will rise by 10 to 20 percent. Repeat the whole process to make the second cake.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the cakes have finished rising. Remove the tea towels, place the cakes on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cakes are in the oven, make the syrup.
- To make the syrup, Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat and leave to cool down. As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush all of the syrup over them. It is important to use up all the syrup. Leave the cakes until they are just warm, then remove them from the pans and let cool completely before serving.