It isn’t Christmas in a German household unless there’s delicious and elaborately-made fruit and nut cake-like bread on the table. Called by many names — Streizel, Dresden Stollen, Wiehnachts Stollen, Christstollen or simply Stollen — this traditional Christmas cake may be purchased from King of Cakes, a traditional European bakery located in Seventeen Mile Rocks.
This moist, buttery soft, brick-shaped bread is doused with fruit, nuts and marzipan (almond and sugar) at the centre, and then dusted with a generous amount of granulated sugar coating as the final touch. They say that a bite of this bread brings all that warm holiday feelings, especially when paired with a cup of coffee or tea.
Before you pick a batch of this Christmas treat, though, here’s a rich tale of how the Stollen came to be.
Stollen Used to Be Hard and Tasteless
The earliest versions of the Stollen bread, made around the 1400s, consisted of basic ingredients like flour, yeast, water and oil. These were hard in texture and bland in taste but people during the medieval period needed this bread to sort of carbo-load and energise themselves for the rest of the day during the Advent season, a period of fasting.
In the 15th century, the Catholic Church banned the use of butter and milk whilst fasting. To use these “luxury items” at a solemn time leading up the birth of Jesus Christ was against the teachings of the Church. The ban was supposed to suppress people’s gluttony for rich, sweet-tasting food so that they can properly reflect on the meaning of the season.
However, two noble brothers from Dresden in Saxony in central Germany wrote a letter to the Pope in Rome to overturn the ban on butter and milk on behalf of local bakers. Their first appeal was denied.
It took five popes some 40 years later for the appeal to be granted but for Dresden alone. It was approved on the condition that anyone using butter and milk during Advent season should also make an annual contribution for the construction and upkeep of a new cathedral, which would later become the Freiberg Minster.
This agreement would be known as the “Butterbrief.”
Once the ban was lifted, Dresden’s vastly-improved Stollen recipe ushered a new baking tradition that would be passed on from generation to generation. The original Stollen recipe, post-ban, was filled with raisins but variations now included adding bitter almonds, lemon peel and zest, candied orange, poppy seeds, as well as some spices and spirits.
Celebrating the Stollen Tradition
In Dresden, Stollen-baking is marked by an official festival that started during the time of King Augustus II in the 1700s. He was said to have a sweet tooth and always liked to celebrate so he ordered the bakers’ guild to prepare a giant Stollen cake for a big festival.
The Dresden Stollenfest takes place on a Saturday prior to the second Advent Sunday. Three hundred years later, this Dresden tradition is still attracting locals and tourists from around the world.
Making the Perfect Stollen
To make Stollen is a balancing act. To the untrained and impatient baker, it’s tricky to get that texture, quality and blends of flavours of an old-fashioned, traditional recipe right.
Filled with copious amounts of alcohol-soaked nuts and fruits with a marzipan centre, Stollen requires several steps and a hefty list of items to prepare. If you’ve got at least 48 hours to dedicate to baking this bread and you carefully studied the process, then your family and friends can enjoy this medley of fruit of nuts come Christmas day.
Adding preservatives and flavouring, as well as using margarine, is a violation of the process.
Stollen in Queensland
But if baking this bread sounds taxing, it’s a good thing you can get it at the local bakery, King of Cakes. The biggest mistake people make about making the perfect Stollen is to never have the bread on their Christmas table — even if it’s store-bought!
King of Cakes is run by a culinary expert and Master Pastry Chef Wolfgang Kelke. Born in Munich, where his family operated a cafe, Mr Kelke trained and developed his culinary excellence with some of the finest restaurants around the world.
In 1990, Mr Kelke and his family moved to Brisbane in Taringa, where he opened his first cake shop. Though now proudly Australian, he never forgets his roots and influences, which continue to reflect on his products and creations.
King of Cakes in Seventeen Miles Plain is the head office but the store has two other outlets in Taringa and Clayfield.