The First Tree Cake
According to Peter Hantz, the main kürtőskalács preservationist, this is the earliest attested recipe for a layered rotisserie cake (a tree cake). The source is a cookbook from 1582, authored by one Susanna Harsdörfer of Nuremberg. The title is Was zu 180 Zuckern Leckkuchleinn von Wirtz und Zucker genomen wirt, which means "How to make 180 sweet and tasty cakes with spice and sugar." It's quite a mouthful. Somehow it evaded the notice of Fritz Hahn, the most preëminent baumkuchen scholar—he wrote that the first tree cake recipe was published in a cookbook by Maria Sophia Schellhammer, a full 110 years after Frau Harsdörfer's.
Anyway, her 1582 cookbook is here, and there's a recipe for a tree cake!The whole book is handwritten in Kurrentschrift, a type of cursive, and the language is Early New High German. The translation was a joint effort between several members of the "Cooking Rumpolt" Yahoo! group. I wish to extend infinite gratitude to Katherine Barich (for translating the original, and for having a very informative blog) and Sharon Palmer (for providing her anachronistic culinary expertise).