Page 48 - Pastry & Baking Magazine

Pastry & Baking
North America
Artisan Baker
Publisher’s Note:
Ciril Hitz is the Department Chair for
the International Baking and Pastry Institute at Johnson &
Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been
recognized both nationally and internationally with numerous
awards and accomplishments. More information on Ciril and
his work can be viewed on his web site:
uneral cake is a much-debated topic at our house.
It is not so much the cake itself (nobody seems to
have a problem with that!), but rather the name.
For most people, the name alone peaks their interest and
conjures up all kinds of images and ideas. I have to admit, it
is a bit unusual and definitely deserves an explanation.
About a year ago, one of my baking friends was over for a
visit. Wouldn’t you know it, but the conversation ended up
making its way to baking (funny how that always happens). I
started telling him about a new product idea I was fooling
around with, and as I described it, a wry smile appeared on
his face. “What?” I asked. He told me that where he was from
in Germany, this was known as “Funeral Cake.” “Sounds very
interesting,” I said. “Tell me more.”
The origin of the name revolves around the traditional
gathering of family and friends after a loved one has passed
away. Typically this great feast takes place at a restaurant, and
as all good German bakers do, they work very rationally and
make the use of what they have on hand. Many bakers have
some sweet dough and crumb topping tucked away in the
freezer, a container of pastry cream in the fridge, and a few
cans of fruit sitting on a shelf somewhere. So, what kind of a
dessert could one create without much notice? Start with a
layer of sweet dough, add some pastry cream, top with fruit
and sprinkle on some crumb topping and voilà! Funeral Cake.
Funeral Cake –
How Sweet It Is!”
It sounded just great to me and I wanted to try it out for
the next bake sale we were having that summer. I told my wife
about the new product addition and described it in all its glory.
Fantastic!” she said. Then I gave her the name. Needless to
say, I did not get the same enthusiastic response. In fact, she
told me flat out we were not, under any circumstances, going
to sell a product called “Funeral Cake” at our bake
sales…someone would surely be offended. While I couldn’t
convince her of the name, I did manage to make some and
sold them under the very benign and unoffending name,
Peach Surprise.”
It was a hit.We sold out. At the next bake sale, I was greeting
customers and many were asking about that special “surprise”
product we had made before. “Oh, you mean the Funeral
Cake,” I would say, and proceeded to tell them the story about
how the name came to be. I must have told the story at least
ten times, and no one seemed to be offended - or at least they
hid it very well if they were! We still make it at our bake sales,
but now most people refer to it as Funeral Cake…and despite
the name, it still sells out every time.
I hope this story inspires you to try this out, even if you
are not baking for a funeral. I bet your customers, family, and
friends will enjoy the experience just as much as mine have.
But don’t wait too long…you don’t want to be late for your
own funeral cake!