Breads and Crackers · Oktoberfest · Onions

Oktoberfest 2007 – Part 2 – the Onion Cake


As I mentioned yesterday, we had a dinner of German food this past Saturday night.  In my previous post I talked about the sauerkraut my husband made.  Next up is his mother's mother's onion cake recipe.

We found this recipe in one of the notebooks I "inherited" when my mother-in-law passed away almost five years ago.  The other recipes before it were various cookies – such as all the holiday cookies that she made every year and sent out to family.  There were also a few bread and cake recipes – all hand-written.

Let's begin.

Bill's Grandmother's Onion Cake

1/2 pkg dry yeast

1/2 cup milk (approx.)

1 egg

4 T butter (room temp)

1  1/2 C flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 lb onions, cut into thin strips

2 T bacon fat

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup sour cream

2 T bread crumbs

a bit more butter

You'll also need an 8" round cake pan, lightly greased.


The recipe itself is written in a very abbreviated form – just the ingredients and a few lines of instruction regarding the dough, the filling, etc.  I've added my own two cents' worth to the mix.  Let me know if you have any questions.

1.  Warm the milk a bit and put that in the bottom of a bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes.


If the yeast is still good, you should start to see little bubbles appearing and the mixture will start to become foamy.  At this point, add the eggs, the butter, and about half the flour.  I used a Kitchenaid mixer with a dough hook, but you can also stir this together in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  If you're using the Kitchenaid, add the salt and the rest of the flour and set at a medium speed.  Knead the dough in this manner for about ten minutes or until the dough is smooth.  If the dough keeps sticking to the side of the bowl, add a little more flour.

* Don't put the salt in directly with the yeast – salt can kill the yeast, or at the very least, put a hurtin' on it, and if that happens – flat bread.  Or cake, in this case.

If you are mixing the dough by hand, keep adding flour until the dough is too thick to stir.  Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface and and knead until smooth and shiny and springy to the touch.

2. When the dough is ready, place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set the bowl in a warm spot and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk. 


I set mine on a little table near a front window.  The front of our house faces south, and the sun was pouring in.   Perfect.


3.  While the dough is rising, get working on the filling.  First thing, if you haven't already, you need to slice the onions.  I used my food processor – mainly to keep all the onion and onion vapor contained and keep my eyes from watering so much.


Next, melt the bacon fat in a skillet (you can use butter if you don't have any bacon fat handy) and add the onions. 


Add the teaspoon of salt and saute the onions until they are soft and golden.  I was kind of in a hurry, so I moved the onions into a strainer and spread them out a bit so they'd cool faster.


After the onions have cooled, place them in a large bowl and add the eggs and the sour cream.  (In this next picture, you'll notice that I have added more than two eggs.  I had doubled the recipe when I took these pictures on Saturday.)


Mix well…


…and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 375 (F).

4.  When the dough is ready…


(If you poke the dough with your finger or knuckles, and the indentation stays, your dough has finished rising.  That's what that little dent is in the picture above.)

…turn it out onto a lightly floured surface…


…and while you're at it, take a close look at what's been going on…


See the stretchy, fibrous-looking parts there in the middle?  Those are evidence that the gluten in the flour is working properly and your final product will have structure. 

Press the dough into your lightly oiled 8" cake pan…


If the dough seems like it doesn't want to stay stretched out to fit the pan, it helps to kind of spread your fingers a bit as you press down on the dough.  Like when you make a pizza, you need to convince the dough to stretch out bit by bit.  If you try too hard, you'll tear it.  So take your time.  And if it's not perfect (mine certainly isn't) – don't fret.  It will all be okay.

Next, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the dough – this helps absorb some of the liquid from the onion mixture.


And then pour the onion mixture on top. 


Dot with a bit of butter and place the pan on a rack in the middle of your preheated oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.


Nope.  Not ready yet.  You're looking for golden brown.  But look how nicely it's rising!

I think I had to bake mine for about 45 minutes, but my oven runs a bit cold.  Just keep checking every five minutes or so until you get the golden brown color you want.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about fifteen minutes or so.  You might need to run a knife around the edge of the pan – I used an up and down slicing motion so as not to pull on the edges of the cake. 

Next, hold the pan and…how do I explain this…you kind of jerk the pan up a bit – you're trying to loosen the cake from the bottom of the pan.  Keep turning the pan as you do this until the whole thing is loose. 

Now, you need to get the cake out.  You can either place a cooling rack (or your hand, or a plate) on top of the cake and quickly invert it, and then flip it back right side up onto another plate or flat surface.  Or you can gently ease a spatula under the edge of the cake, lift it out and put it on the rack to finish cooling.

Whichever way you do it, be committed to it.  No guts; no glory.  He (or she) who hesitates could have a broken cake.

Anyway…here's what one of mine looked like:


Ours was about room temperature when we served it.  I cut it into 12 wedges – it's pretty filling; you could even do 16 wedges. 

The eggs and butter give the dough a soft, rich texture.  The mix of sour cream and egg combined with the sauteed onions is lush and delicious.  It's a cake, yes, but it's savory.  And to add to the confusion, Bill's uncle told us this was served after dinner, with coffee. 

Well, we served ours along with dinner, and that seemed agreeable to our guests, and that was all that mattered. 

Let me know if you make this – and let me know how it turned out and if you liked it. 

(It occurred to me that this would also taste really good with half mushrooms and half onions…I'll have to try that some time.)

Next up – the Sauerbraten.

Leave a Reply