You might think that baking with absinthe seems a bit non-traditional, but it’s really not. Absinthe may have a reputation as being a toxic alcoholic beverage that makes you hallucinate. However, distillers in the Val-de-Travers have been making le fée verte (the green fairy) for centuries. In some cases, with recipes that have been passed down for generations.
I had absinthe cake for the first time last spring during a local Nuit des musées (Night of the museums) event, and since then, I’ve been experimenting with absinthe to flavor one of my favorites styles of cake — the Bundt. I often refer to Bundt cake as an American version of the gugelhopf, a typical cake found in Switzerland.
Along with my Bundt recipe, I’m sharing my recommendation for a good Swiss absinthe for baking, and where you can find it!
La Valote Martin: An Absinthe Distillery in Val-de-Travers
In the heart of the Val-de-Travers, considered the birthplace of absinthe, you will discover La Valote Martin — an award-winning distillery.
I had heard of this distillery before, but I first stumbled across it by accident, when I missed my bus stop in Môtiers. As I walked from Fleurier to Boveresse, on my way to the Séchoir for the Nuit des musées event, I stopped immediately when I saw the impressive façade of the 18th century “Maison des Chats” (the house of cats). The green shutters seemed an appropriate color choice, as a hint that the green fairy can be found behind its walls. (Editor’s note: Another distillery is located at this same site: Distillerie La Maison des Chats.)
Visiting an absinthe distiller
The owner and distiller of La Valote Martin, Philippe Martin, offers guided tours of his distillery in English, French or German, and with reservations made in advance. My husband recently organized a tour for us and several of our friends. I was eager to find a bottle of absinthe that Philippe would recommend for my baking project.
La Valote Martin currently offers eight different types of absinthe, and the distillery has a very good reputation. For 2015-2016, the national Swiss distillers competition, Distisuisse, awarded the gold medal to La Valote Martin’s Esmeralda absinthe. Its Nirvana and the Grenouillarde absinthes both received silver medals. His absinthe has also been recognized internationally by the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles for 2016. In this competition, Esmeralda won the Grand Gold, and Nirvana earned Gold.
During the tour, you’ll hear lots of family anecdotes from Philippe about absinthe, as well as the history of this strong alcoholic beverage in the Val-de-Travers. For example, to be considered a true absinthe, it must have four key ingredients: small wormwood, large wormwood, fennel and green anise. Furthermore, you’ll hear about when he was growing up, why he wouldn’t usually be allowed to take a bath on rainy days (Hint: It has to do with the ban on absinthe in Switzerland from 1910 to 2005).
An absinthe garden
Philippe grows the plants used to make his absinthe in the garden across the street from his distillery, which he shares with the Distillerie La Maison des Chats. As part of the tour, you will visit the garden, the plants from which he dries in the attic of the Maison des Chats. He is one of the few distillers in the region that still makes absinthe in this traditional way, with plants he grows and dries himself.
According to Philippe, who learned to make absinthe from his father, if you’re planning to make a dessert with absinthe, he recommends the Marilyn. Made with 10 plants from the Val-de-Travers, it has a sweeter flavor than some of his other absinthes. Also, he describes it on his website as having multiple flavors that tend to linger on your palate. The Marylin absinthe is lovely for sipping with ice-cold water–one part absinthe, two parts water, when it takes on a cloudy appearance. I also like using it in my new Bundt cake recipe–a traditional American pound cake flavored with absinthe, having hints of fennel, anise and lime.
How to make it:
Absinthe Bundt Cake
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook, 7th edition (1991).
Contains: eggs, gluten, milk and wheat.
An electric mixer, or strong arms.
One 12-cup Bundt pan
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
- 5 eggs
- 3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup absinthe
– 1 cup powdered sugar
– about 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
– about 1 tablespoon absinthe
– 1/2 to 1 tablespoon water
– zest of one lime (optional)
- Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat together (with an electric mixture, if possible) the sugar, butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs to the mixture, one at a time until well-incorporated.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder and salt.
- Combine the milk and absinthe in a small bowl or large measuring cup.
- Add the flour mixture to the egg and sugar mixture in the large bowl, alternating with the milk and absinthe. Mix thoroughly, but gently, just until well-combined.
- Bake for 55-60 minutes at 180°C/350°F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, loosen the sides if necessary, and then invert the cake onto a wire rack.
- Once the cake has cooled completely, whisk together the glaze ingredients until smooth.
- With the cake on a wire rack, place it over a cookie sheet or other pan. Pour the glaze over the cake, letting it run down the sides. Scoop up the excess glaze that has fallen on the cookie sheet, and continue to pour it over the top of the cake.
La Valote Martin, Rue du Quarre 10, 2113 Boveresse, Switzerland, Tel: +41 32 861 2654, firstname.lastname@example.org
What kinds of cooking or baking do you do with absinthe? What is your favorite kind of absinthe for your recipes? Please leave a comment below or send me an email. Thanks!