Are you looking for a new treat that is perfect for your next party or a child’s birthday celebration?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
Because today I would like to share with you a popular recipe for a fancy baked goodie I know from home.
Round, palm-sized sponge cakes with a sweet and thick icing on top are a favorite item found in German bakeries throughout the year. They are a mix between cookies, because of their size, and a cake, due to their texture.
And if you ask me, what could be better than a mix of two great baked goods in one?
But don’t call them cupcakes!
Rather than being baked in muffin tins with paper liners, they are baked in mounds like cookies on a sheet pan.
A Crumble of History
The most interesting fact about these small sweets involves its German name, with an American twist!
These desserts are called Amerikaner in Germany, literally translated as “Americans.”
How did they get such a unique name?
There are various myths and stories behind the title, but let’s take a quick look at one of the most popular explanations:
Before baking powder became available in the mid-19th century, ammonium bicarbonate was used as one of the main chemical leavening agents for baked goods.
When these cookies were first made, the original name given to them referred to that chemical substance: Ammoniakaner (“Ammoniacans”).
Not too appealing, right?
The name was too literal – a chemical was definitely the wrong name for such a pretty treat!
The producers of these pastries finally decided to rename them by simplifying the term to Amerikaner (“Americans”), the name for U.S. citizens in the German language.
Get Creative with the Toppings
Sometimes – mainly in English-speaking countries – they are also referred to as a half-moon cookies, or black and whites.
In that case, the icing is evenly divided between a light-colored (lusually emon or vanilla) half and a dark-colored (typically chocolate) half.
This is especially great for parties and children’s birthday celebrations. The decorations you choose can go along with any theme!
Why not use some gummy bears, chocolate drops, nonpareils, colorful candy, toffee, peanut brittle, or whatever else you like for your toppings?
Or you can create a pattern with lemon icing and chocolate glaze, just like I did on mine, and vary the typical half-moon appearance.
Give the recipe a try now, and get ready to make some pretty pastries!
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Whisk Butter, Sugar, and Eggs
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
Line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until creamy. Add both eggs and a pinch of salt, and whisk until all ingredients are incorporated.
You can also make the batter in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Step 2 – Add Remaining Ingredients
Add cornstarch, milk, flour, and baking powder to the mix. Whisk together until you have a homogenous batter.
The cornstarch provides a fluffy consistency, while the baking powder works as a raising agent.
Step 3 – Shape the Batter
With the help of 2 tablespoons, form nine heaps onto the prepared baking sheet. If you’re familiar with making drop biscuits, this is a similar process.
The recipe makes 9 cookies, but if you prefer even smaller ones, you can use two teaspoons instead of tablespoons to form the heaps on the baking sheet.
Step 4 – Bake
Bake them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Take out, and leave to cool slightly for a few minutes on a wire rack. While they are still slightly warm, flip them over so that the flat side can cool completely.
Step 5 – Decorate
Mix the powdered sugar with the lemon juice, and stir until smooth. Spread the icing on the flat side of the cake, and wait for it to set.
You can also use chocolate glaze as an additional option for decorating.
If you like, garnish with nonpareils, mini chocolate chips, sprinkles, or other sweets before the icing sets.
Ready for Some Baking Fun?
Making these small, adorable pastries is the perfect opportunity to allow your creativity to flow. Sprinkles, chocolate glaze, lemon glaze, gummies… the decorating options are endless!
But no matter what you decide for the decoration, I’m sure these little sweets will soon become favorites of yours.
So let’s enjoy a plate of tasty treats, and surprise your family with some bite-sized goodies!
Have you heard of these little desserts? Do you know them by a different name? Do you already have ideas for some toppings, or would you rather stay with the classic black and white design?
Let us know by posting a comment below!
And be sure to check out more German inspired recipes as well as our large cookie assortment.
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Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.