The Baumkuchen is only still produced in old traditional craftsmanship at 3 bakeries.
A delicacy based on an ancient recipe
The Salzwedeler Baumkuchen – handed-down traditional craftsmanship
Three bakeries in Salzwedel produce the popular Baumkuchen in old traditional craftsmanship. Bettina Hennig still runs her father's bakery where the Baumkuchen are still baked according to the original recipe from 1807.
Baking a Baumkuchen is a unique craft. You cannot be trained as a "Baumkuchen baker". Anyone who has qualified as a pastry chef can bake a Baumkuchen in theory. "But every pastry chef bakes a Baumkuchen once during their training and that's it. I don't need a pastry chef, I need someone who can do it," says Bettina Hennig, managing director of the Salzwedeler Baumkuchenfabrik. You have to be skilled, have enough strength to lift the ten-kilo pole with the Baumkuchen and be able to withstand the heat of the open oven. "Then a mason is also welcome if he does a good job." Bettina Hennig's father Oskar was still hands-on himself, as the saying goes. He learned the craft of Baumkuchen baking in the fifties when he did his apprenticeship at the Kruse bakery. At that time the Kruse family owned the original recipe by master pastry chef Johann Schernikow, who was the first to write down baking instructions for the Baumkuchen in 1807 and became the royal purveyor to the court of Wilhelm IV of Prussia as a result. But the Kruses did not have it easy. First the head of the family, Fritz Kruse, died, later his widow ended up in prison because she supplied customers in West Germany with Baumkuchen. Her business was expropriated and only her daughter Gertrude was allowed to continue working in the bakery. What nobody knew: Gertrude Kruse guarded the book by Schernikow and passed it on to her loyal employee Oskar Hennig before her death.
When the Hennigs both became unemployed after the fall of the Wall, they came up with the idea to open their own Baumkuchen bakery. After all, Oskar Hennig was not only in possession of the original recipe, he had mastered the craft. "They had nothing but the book, the knowledge and my father's skill and started from scratch. But I never doubted that they would make it," remembers Bettina Hennig. As a young woman she went to the West back then until she received a postcard from her father: "We are starting a company and want to make Baumkuchen," he wrote succinctly. So it was clear to her that she had to go back to Salzwedel. She wanted to be there and help build up the company. The Baumkuchen bakery is strongly influenced by Oskar Hennig. He regularly comes out of the bakery and seeks contact with customers, spontaneously inviting guests into his bakery. The guided tours with demonstration baking were developed from this later on. It is precisely this open and cordial manner that saves the bakery from going out of business. Because at that time business was going so badly that the Hennigs considered closing the bakery. Oskar Hennig guided an interested guest through his bakery and talked to him for a long time, even confiding to him "that the lights will soon be going out here." This guest turned out to be a banker, provided them with the necessary credit and saved the Baumkuchen bakery. "I'm not superstitious, but a coincidence like that? It was meant to be. We sent him his money and a Baumkuchen after Christmas every year. We would not have been able to do it without him," says Bettina Hennig with a smile. She is just as grateful to her employees, who have always stuck together and stood by the company even in difficult times. Today the bakery has a loyal customer base. Baumkuchen are not only bought in the local shop, but also online. And just before Christmas, Bettina Hennig and her staff send the Salzwedeler Baumkuchen all over the world.