April 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
Peter and Susanne Kuhn are the charming and mildly eccentric (in the nicest possible way) couple who run the Hotel Edelweiss in Engelberg, central Switzerland, where we spent our half term skiing holiday this year.
Engelberg is just 50 minutes by train from Lucerne and its encircling mountains are dead ringers for Himalayan peaks.
Talking of Himalayan peaks, more than 200 Bollywood movies have been filmed in and around Engelberg, a peaceful stand-in for war-torn Kashmir. Engelberg is now a Mecca (please excuse inappropriate cultural metaphor!) for wealthy middle class Indians who flock here in droves. This explains the rash of multilingual notices pinned up everywhere:
The monastery which dominates the Engelberg valley adds a further “Black Narcissus” vibe to the village:
The monks who founded the monastery not only gave Engelberg its name “the Angel Mountain” but also endowed the place with its own dairy so you can combine a cultural visit with a little cheese shopping. Both a traditional waxed hard cheese and the newer soft-rinded bell shaped “Engelberger Klosterglocke” are made on site:
Engelberg is a weird mixture of charming family resort – the Belle Epoque architecture lend the village a quaint nostalgic feel – and freeride skiing paradise “It has glaciers, cliffs, endless pillow lines – and some of the sickest snow anywhere” to quote a recent article in Fall Line magazine, the ski bum’s periodical of choice.
Here’s the solid imposing bulk of the Hotel Edelweiss where we spent our week:
And here am I, with mountain guide Frédy, contemplating some of Engelberg’s perfect untracked powder (yes, there really is some truth in the ski mag hyperbole):
Looking at the Engelberg piste map, regular French Three Valleys skiers might be a little sniffy at the apparently scant number of mainly red runs here. But it’s quality not quantity that counts – remember that from the Klein Titlis at 3028m it’s more than 2km of vertical drop down to the village at 1050m. That’s a figure that most heliski operators would fail to match in a day…
The Kuhns promote the Edelweiss as a family-friendly hotel. During half term week the hotel was indeed packed with mainly Dutch families, children of all ages everywhere. This could have been hideous but in fact the comfortable, spacious hotel and Peter and Susanne’s attention to organisation meant that all ran smoothly and calmly. Imagine a Mark Warner or Ski Esprit style establishment but run by experienced grown-ups rather than hung over gap year students!
We had a very relaxed and comfortable week, and as we left, I was delighted that Susanne, hearing of my interest in collecting recipes, handed me a photocopy from her treasured handwritten family recipe book:
Here’s my translation of the recipe from the Schwyzerdeutsch. The picture is a bit of a cheat as it’s not a carrot cake made by either my or Susanne’s fair hands but was taken at the very handy Steiner bakery at Zürich airport. This looks to be a very different version of carrot cake from the American version we’re all used to. It’s got me wondering where the first carrot cake recipe came from – is it a mittel European recipe that was taken to America, made richer, bigger, coated with cream cheese and exported back again?
Recipe for carrot cake
5 eggs, separated
zest of 1 lemon
75g flour sifted with1 teaspoon baking powder
250g finely grated carrots
150g ground hazelnuts
150g ground almonds
Prepare a 26cm round cake tin, preferably springform, by greasing and lining with fine dry breadcrumbs.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture becomes a thick, pale foam (you will need an electric mixer of some kind to achieve this).
Add the flour and baking powder mixture, the grated carrots and ground nuts.
Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage and fold in to the mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread with a spatula to level.
The temperature and cooking times quoted are for a fan oven. Bake for 15 minutes at 170 degrees C then lower the oven temperature to 150 degrees C and bake for a further 30-40 minutes.
Turn out onto a rack to cool. Then ice with a mixture of 200g icing sugar mixed with 2 dessertspoons of lemon juice and 2 dessertspoons of water and, if liked, decorate with 16 marzipan carrots.
I haven’t tried the recipe yet so would love to hear any feedback. And if you know anything about the history of carrot cake and how it arrived in the US I’d be really interested in hearing about it.
Phone: +41 41 639 78 78
Fax: +41 41 639 78 88
Show Cheese Factory at the Engelberg Monastery
CH-6390 Engelberg, Switzerland
Phone +41 41 638 08 88
Fax +41 41 638 08 87