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Dresden's Secret Weapon

Steffen Marquardt (sms)December 23, 2006

The "Dresdner Stollen," a Christmas treat made exclusively in the eastern German city, has its supporters around the world. But anti-terrorism laws in the US make it harder for Americans to get their fruitcake fix.

It smells like cake, but it just might be a bio-weaponImage: AP

In its 550-year existence, the Dresdner Stollen has become a regular part of German Christmases as well as those of other people around the world. But none of its bakers is willing to cough up the cake's recipe.

"It has to be partially handmade and have a certain percentage of butter and particular amounts of raisins, lemon and orange peel," said Elisabeth Kreuzkamm-Aumüller, a Dresden bakery owner. "It is also very important that it does not have any margarine or artificial flavors."

Bäckermeisterin Marlies Morenz macht in ihrer Bäckerei in Dresden einen Stollen
Many say Dresdner Stollen leave other fruit cakes in the (powered sugar) dustImage: AP

The cake also needs to have almonds and be shaped in traditional form, sprinkled with powdered sugar and can only be made in Dresden to be called a true Dresdner Stollen, Kreuzkamm-Aumüller added.

She should know what she's talking about -- her great-great-grandfather first started making the cakes in 1825 and was a cake maker for the royal family. World War II, however, saw the bakery destroyed and the family continued their work in Munich until the Berlin Wall fell and they could re-open in Dresden, where the family now has a bakery and cafe.

Kreuzkamm-Aumüller made the move to Dresden in 1993, intending to stay only for a few months. But 13 years later, she is married with four kids and has no plans to leave.

Powered sugar or weapon of mass destruction?

The cakes she makes, on the other hand, are sent to 86 countries around the world. In the United States, however, people are facing difficulties when it comes to their Christmas treat of choice.

Bäckermeister Ronald Morenz in seiner Bäckerei in Dresden holt einen Stollen aus dem Backofen
That fruitcake better have valid papersImage: AP

"After Sept.11, we have had the problem that our bags of sugar are confused with anthrax," Kreuzkamm-Aumüller said. "We've had to answer a lot of questions about why we are sending little bags of white powder around the world."

Now the packages all bear an English tip that the bags are just sugar, are not a threat to national security and do not need to be destroyed.

Stollen, like all other food imported to the US for the last three years, fall under a biological weapon law, which requires all packages to be registered on the Internet.

Where do you think that Stollen's going?

"It doesn't matter if you send one Stollen or an entire container full, you have to fill out 13 pages on the Internet and register the Stollen -- where it comes from, whom it is going to, what's inside it, how it's packed," Kreuzkamm-Aumüller said, continuing to list other details.

BdT Dresden Stollen
Slicing into a stollen has become a Christmas tradition around the worldImage: AP

The procedure has become so time-intensive that Kreuzkamm-Aumüller said she's calculated the best times to start the 10-minute process.

"Unless you registered in the morning you could sit and be just about finished and then the server would crash, then all your work would be for nothing," she said, adding that when some 8 percent of her Stollen are sent to the USA, it's worth taking the time to fill out the paperwork.

But Kreuzkamm-Aumüller said she'd rather not consider the red tape that must have been involved in baking a 164-kilogram (362-pound) Dresdner Stollen eaten this year at a ceremony in Washington honoring German reunification on Oct. 3. It fed some 3,000 guests including former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and former President George Bush.