The Tale Of My Gugelhupf (Kugelhopf) Pan

Every childhood visit to my Swiss German grandparents in Pennsylvania was greeted by the smell of freshly-baked Gugelhupf. The taste and smell of this round, high-domed, dense, buttery, raisin-speckled cake baked in a decorative pan with a hole in the center penetrates every memory I have of them.

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My grandmother was born and raised in Münich, Germany.  Like many young German girls in the early 1900s, she went to work at a tourist resort in Switzerland.  It was there she met my Swiss grandfather.  After marrying, this city girl resettled in Niderurnen, a small village in the shadow of the Swiss Glarner Alps.

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Below is a photograph of the house built by my great-grandfather and lived in by my grandparents, dad and aunt.

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I tracked down the Alp farmer who bought the house many years ago with the idea of coming down from the mountains and retiring in the village.  Not surprisingly, this lovely, hearty soul still resides high in his beloved Alp.  Whenever I visited, I would bring a home-baked Gugelhupf.

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I can only imagine the difficulties my grandmother endured adjusting to a different culture, geography, pace of life and, arguably, a different language.  One familiarity between the Bavarian city and the tiny Glarus village was Gugelhupf.  So beloved and important was this simple cake to my grandmother, grandfather and their young children (my father and aunt) that her copper pan was one of the few items she carried on-board the ship, the Hansiatic, when they immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1920s.

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I began making Grandma’s Gugelhupf recipe when I was a young girl.  One of my earliest baking memories is the joy of replicating her cake at home under my mother’s loving and watchful eye, and the complete thrill of turning out the still warm cake from my own pan and having it not stick.

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I still remember with deep sadness the first time I visited my grandparents, now as an adult, and the familiar smell did not greet my arrival.  I knew it was the beginning of the end.  Almost 15 years ago, my aunt gave me the greatest of all gifts – Grandma’s pan.

Regional varieties of Gugelhupf vary as much as the spelling.

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Included in my oft-baked repertoire is the yeast-leavened, golden raisin-studded, almond-topped, brioche-light Alsace Kugelhopf always baked in my very old, French ceramic pan and often served with butter I press in my wooden cow butter mold.

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The rest rely on baking powder as leavening.  A moist and delicious poppy seed Gugelhupf recipe passed down to my sister-in-law by her Bohemian relatives, then generously shared with me, is typically baked in one of my many beautifully shaped non-stick pans.

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Marmorgugelhupf is usually baked in a copper pan gifted to me when my 95 year old Swiss neighbor moved into a nursing home.

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The recipe for this delicious chocolate and plain marbled version traces back to one of the finest bakeries in Vienna.  I also love baking it in my Bavarian Knot pan, an ode to my Bavarian roots.

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The lemon, chocolate and dried cherry almond paste Gugelhupfen are typically baked in my less decorative American bundt pans.

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Grandma’s treasured copper Gugelhupf pan is reserved for her recipe alone.  It brings great joy that I was able to carry both full circle back to Switzerland, our home for six wonderful years.  When we moved back to the U.S., I did not trust this treasure to the movers.  Like my grandmother did over 80 years ago, I bundled it in my suitcase.

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Comments

  1. Bernhard says:

    A very nice and moving story – as always. Keep going!

  2. Beautifully written!

  3. glad i set aside a quiet moment to read this, as i knew it would be a special piece. so wonderful and touching. and what a treasure, that kugelhopf pan of your grandmother’s. thank you for sharing this story with us. hugs & sweetness from zürich !

  4. Thanks, everyone. So nice of you all to take the time to write comments. I will post her recipe soon, as well as the one my mom sometimes made. Grandma’s is interesting because she separated the eggs and, at the end, folded in the beaten egg whites. Mom made it for years but later made one that has a richer, moister texture. It actually tastes almost exactly like the one served at a little restaurant known for Kugekhopf at the end of an easy winter and summer hiking trail in Glarus.

  5. I just randomly found your site as my 98 year old Grerman/Swiss mother just passed away and I was trying to find an original “old world” kugelhopf recipe. I cried when I read the ” no smells of cake baking meant the beginning of the end”. It’s so sad. I wonder, now, why I didn’t appreciate it when I had it.

    I look forward to your post of the recipe. I’m also trying to find an old original Kugekhopf pan from Ebay or Etsy as I wasn’t the recipient of my mothers coveted pan. Thx

    • Debbi, this is the nicest comment I have ever received! It is so nice to hear from someone who loves this cake as much as I do because of the memories of people we loved baking it. I will soon post Grandma’s recipe and my mom’s adaptation which is a bit richer and denser. Thanks so, so much!!! by the way, be careful buying old copper pans. They must still be tin-lined to be safe to use.

  6. Thx! I just followed you on Facebook too! Don’t want to miss it!
    ;0)

    • Debbi, I just posted the recipe. I will also post my Mom’s, which is a tad moister and denser. If this is not like the one you remember, I am happy to email my Mom’s version if you do not want to wait for that post.

  7. I would love an email of your mom’s! Thx so much!
    Debbi

  8. Marie Giddings says:

    I have my Mom’s Gugelhupf pan which she also brought over from Germany 83 years ago.
    It is metal with a porcelain finish on the inside. It has a few chips in the finish. My biggest
    problem the cake sticks and I can’t get the cake out in one piece? I try to grease it good.
    What am I doing wrong?

    • Marie, grease the entire surface then coat every inch with flour. Turn the pan over to shake out the excess. Cakes also stick if you try to remove them when it is still hot.

  9. Marie Giddings says:

    Would love a copy of your grandmother’s and your moms Gugelhupf recipe.
    Thanks!

  10. just read your post so touching. I was really interested in what’s a Gugelhupf pan as I saw the recipe in a German magazine I found in the Drs. office. Was twice blessed as I found out what I was looking for plus your wonderful love story about your Grandmother. I am going to make this cake for a church ethnic lunch tomorrow. Thanks for your story.

    • Thank you so much!! Any lovely bundt pan will do. They are available in the U.S. at any store selling cake pans.

  11. Cheryl M. McCormick says:

    I am not a baker … at all! But I was moved to tears by this touching tribute to your grandmother – and by Debbi’s comment about her own grandmother. Ultimately, it’s these “little things” that define a life – the familiar rich scents of home that express love, a meal with family and friends, the treasures that get passed down through generations – recipes, tins. Beautiful. I lament never having connected to my grandmother in this way. This post will stay with me for a long time. Thank you, Amy.

    • Aww, thanks. I rescued a Swiss neighbor’s mom’s Kugelhopf pan. They were going to throw it away when she went into a nursing home. I could not bear the thought of that! I keep it with my Grandma’s pan.

  12. Mrs. Adams says:

    I was gifted with my Oma’s pan this Christmas. The butter is softening as I write this email. Love your memories…my Oma was born and raised in Munich. I hope to pass on these memories to my daughter! God bless and I hope your 2017 is wunderbar!

Trackbacks

  1. […] 29, 2014 by Amy Leave a Comment In an earlier post, I told the story of my beloved Kugelhopf/Gugelhupf pan.  It belonged to my Bavarian grandmother […]

  2. […] a previous post, I told the tale of the journey taken by my Grandmother’s Gugelhupf pan. Then, in a follow-up post, I shared Grandma Landolt’s beloved recipe.  A number of people […]

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