In Lifelines, Louise falls in love with German drummer Dieter Hinterkopf when she travels from Oregon to Düsseldorf to study art in 1971. The Hinterkopf Geburtstagskuchen is Dieter’s family‘s traditional birthday cake.
Louise’s mother-in-law, Hannelore, instructs Louise to make the cake for her Dieter, part of the complicated family history that Hannelore shares.
The preparation includes an unusual step: the cake is layered with currant jelly and left to sit somewhere cool, which makes it dense and sweet. Louise also learns about a more controversial tradition: she hears murmuring in the family that the cake is only made for men.
The Geburtstagskuchen appears at different points in the novel’s timeline; while some traditions endure and others change, the cake is always served with meringue.
This recipe is from my family; my great-grandmother, who lived in Germany, used to mail the birthday cake (without the meringue) to my grandfather, who had immigrated to the United States. The slow postal journey gave the cake the required time to sit.