Three of the best: German cakes


The Germans enjoy, as they say, not just the usual three meals a day, but a luxurious fourth one too: there’s Kaffee und Kuchen – coffee and cake.  Walk into a café or Konditorei (cake shop) mid afternoon on any day of the week and you’ll find tables packed with the world and her mother enjoying a hot cup of coffee and a (very) thick slice of cake.  And in Germany, there are so very, very many cakes to choose from.  A peek into even the smallest of Konditorei curved glass counters reveals a mind boggling range of cakes and sweets, from vast gateaus and Strudels to truffles and petit fours.  Everyone has their favourites: what follows here are to my mind, the four greatest German cakes of all…

Apfelkuchen (apple cake)

German apple cake
Apfelkuchen (apple cake)

There are so many variations on the Apfelküchen theme, I’d be hard pushed to list all the possibilities here.  Consider, if you will, a tart-shaped pastry base or a more biscuity bottom layer packed with apples either thinly sliced or cut into fat chunks; the addition of marzipan, raisins or almonds; and the finished product sunken on top, glazed with jam or sprinkled with crumble or cinnamon.  However it’s embellished, a German apple cake fresh out of the oven looks and smells sweet and comforting – it’s a homely hug of an afternoon treat.  And you can throw all the ice cream at it that you want – it’s definitely one of Germany’s lighter coffee accompaniments!

Käsekuchen (cheesecake)

Käsekuchen with apricots

The trouble many non-Germans have when approaching the Käsekuchen, or cheesecake, for the first time, is that they have firm preconceptions of what a cheesecake should be.  But a German cheesecake doesn’t have a buttery, biscuity base; it’s not refrigerated; and it’s not fill of buttermilk or heavy cream. Käsekuchen has a tart-like pastry base (and sometimes sides) and in all likelihood a few raisins scattered along the bottom of its fresh cheese and quark filling – or even a couple of stone fruits thrown in for good measure. It may not be a New York Cheesecake. It’s not even a British one.  But good grief German cheesecake is good. It’s also very simple to make at home, though you may prefer not to discover just how butter, sugar and fresh cheese is in there!

Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau)

Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte

No questions asked: Black Forest Gateau is the ultimate German teatime treat.  A decadent yet comforting feast of a cake, it combines layers of chocolate sponge, vast quantities of whipped cream, oozingly soft sour cherries and a generous glug of kirsch on a thin biscuit base. I first discovered it aged six, after a hard day’s snow-ploughing extremely slowly down the lowest possible slopes of the Alps. Almost 30 years later, and now gluten-free, I can only gaze at its luxurious layers behind glass counters in cafés and Konditorein (though I’ve found other ways to satisfy my black forest cravings) but for me, it’ll always be the queen of German cakes.

There are so very many other German cakes that could have made it onto this very short list: so many fresh fruit cakes stacked with strawberries or plums (Erdbeer- and Pflaumkuchen) and jelly or whipped cream; so many crumble cakes (Streuselkuchen); cakes layered with caramel or marzipan or filled with poppy seeds or almonds and honey.  So, which of your favourites did I miss out?

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Joeli Brearley

    I like the look of that top one. What’s that called please? Could you bring me a slice next time you bob back Fromm Germany?

  2. says: natalye

    Yum! Looks super tasty. I have not had German cheesecake at all since I am vegan but I am still very curious. My husband wasn’t super fond of the American kind since he is so used to his quark.

  3. says: Sarah1976

    I’m generally indifferent to German cakes (so dry!) with two important exceptions:

    Prinz-Regenten-Torte: This is magical. Thin layers (6-8!) of genoise with fluffy chocolatey, coffeey, lightly boozy frosting. Very rarely dry – shocker.

    Zwetschgenkuchen: Weirdly enough, dryness isn’t a drawback on this one, because the plums are often so rich and jammy that a dryish cake complements the fruit.

    Matter of fact, it’s Zwetschgen season now. Get ’em while the gettin’s good!

  4. says: bevchen

    If this was Jan’s list Pflaumenkuchen would definitely be numner 1 😀

    Personally, I think Sachertorte is overrated. It looks so chocolately but then it mainly tastes of jam. Disappointing!

    Hmm, I like Linzer Torte, but that’s technically Austrian. Agree with the Schwarzwaldtorte (I have to… I almost live in the Black Forest ;-)) But really any home made cake you can get at a tiny café is my favourite, no matter what type it is 😀

    1. Haha! I will share the Käsekuchen recipe soon, but I haven’t tried making any of the other ones yet. I don’t bake often, partly because I have to do it gluten-free and find it all a bit complicated, but I’m longing to make a variation on a Black Forest theme. As soon as I do then of course I will share them here.

      1. says: Ginger

        I’ve posted a Sachertorte and a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte recipe on my blog, The Käsekuchen is coming soon – unfortunately it always gets eaten before I can take a picture of the finished cake …
        I cannot imagine a successful glutenfree version of either of them, I’m afraid. I suppose they’re meant to damage your health and your waistline, one slice at a time 😉

        1. I know what you mean about eating things before you manage to get a photo! And if I ever manage to successfully make a gluten-free Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte I shall be sure to let you know 😉

          Thanks for your comment – I look forward to having a root around your blog 🙂

  5. says: Courtney

    Oh my. All four of these cakes look insanely delicious! I feel you on the last one – if I weren’t a Celiac, I’d love to dig into that black forest cake. Yum!

  6. says: Kathleen R

    My favorite is Pflaumkuchen, but I love German cheesecake. An American friend was commenting the other day how disappointing German cake can be, “It rarely is as sweet as it looks.” Echt? Ich glaube. I guess I enjoy the not so over powering, non-teeth hurting, torte. I want to taste the flavor, I want to finish my cake, not have it finish me.

  7. You’re just trying to get me to miss Germany so I’ll go back and hang out with you, aren’t you??

    It’s not really a cake but I love the alcoholic “Cuban” doughnuts you get around carnival time. OM NOM NOM.

  8. says: platedujour

    The last two are my favorites, I especially love the cheesecake. I live in Luxembourg so we go to Germany quite often just to get the desert and we usually go for these two options 🙂

      1. says: platedujour

        Oh you’re joking right?? Who says that?! My boyfriend and I love German food. We go to Trier on our weekend trips just to have lunch- we have our favorite restaurant where you get REAL good German food, and beer and desserts of course! Writing this just made me think that we should go this weekend again 😀

  9. says: Joshua D

    From these four, Apfelkuchen und Käsekuchen I would pick. The German Käsekuchen is different from the New York Cheesecake I grew up with, but still excellent in its own right. Often I’ll just randomly pick a Kuchen to try it out, but my other favorite ones that I would regularly choose if I had a choice are Baumkuchen und Kalter Hund.

    1. Oh, delicious! I’ve never had either of the latter two as I have to make them gluten-free myself to be able to eat them, but they’re definitely on my list! And you’re right, Käsekuchen is nothing like cheesecake elsewhere in the world, but I do love it 🙂

  10. says: Claire

    My absolute favorite is the Agnes Bernauer (a specialty found in Garmisch-Partenkirchen), however, I do so enjoy a Frankfurter Kranz and Zwetschenkuchen! (I only read about three different cakes here, what am I missing?) Love this posting…Kaffeezeit is an amazing tradition.

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