This classic sugar-dusted seasonal German fruit cake is also known around the world as „Christmas Stollen“ ("Weihnachtsstollen"), or simply „Stollen“. The distinct shape of this baked, sweet delight is said to represent the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothing.
Stollen was invented in the City of Dresden, and nowadays is the subject of an annual festival in its honor, the so-called „Stollenfest“. Each year the stollen is paraded through the market square, then sliced and sold to the public, with the proceeds supporting local charities. This candied fruit peel-studded cake has been around since 1474 and was originally known as “Striezel” which referred to a braided shape. The Stollen actually started life as a very different confection. During its long history, it has been transformed from a simple oat bread consisting only of flour, oats and water, to a rich, buttery loaf. The dough itself only became enriched with butter in 1647, when Pope Innocent VIII gave his official permission to include butter and milk in the recipe during the Advent season, then a time of fasting.
„Dresdner Christstollen” is said to be the most famous and oldest stollen. It is a yeast bread or rather cake with lots of raisins, currants, candied lemon and orange peel, and with those most Christmassy of spices, namely cinnamon, anise, coriander, cloves, allspice and cardamom. The commercial production of Dresden stollen is carefully licensed and regulated to ensure quality and authenticity.
Nowadays, there are several other variations of Stollen, some have a yeast dough others do not. There are Stollen like „Poppy Seed Stollen“ (Mohnstollen), „Nut Stollen“ (Nußstollen), „Marzipan Stollen“ (Marzipanstollen), and „Quark Stollen“ (Quarkstollen) made with fresh quark, also known as „curd cheese“. In fact, there are probably as many recipes for stollen as there are (home) bakers.
Having baked Christmas Stollen for many years now, some with yeast, others without, I am now very partial to a Stollen that has no yeast in, like this recipe. It is easy to put together, bakes up beautifully and is prepared with curd cheese (quark) instead of yeast. But I will caution you, if you are expecting a dough that is light, this certainly isn´t it. With lots of dried fruit and nuts (and candied fruit peel if you use it), this is a rather dense dough that bakes up into a wonderfully rich cake, best enjoyed in the afternoon or for breakfast with a nice big cup of coffee or tea. You can enjoy a big slice on its own, or slather it with some good butter and your favorite jam or honey.
Before you get started baking, you should remember that your dried fruit (such as raisins, sultanas or currants) need to soak in a lovely bath of rum, brandy, or hot apple juice for a full day before you bake the Stollen.
It is also good to know before planning your Christmas baking that once the Stollen has cooled, it will keep for a few weeks if you wrap it well, otherwise it will dry out. For storage, it has to be kept in a dry and rather cool place.
One more thing to remember before you get started, around here, Stollen are usually baked in a special Stollen baking pan that you can order online but you could also use a bread baking pan or shape the dough by hand to imitate the shape.
I have made a few adjustments to the original recipe and the resulting confection is moister, with even more dried fruit and nuts than before.
Recipe for Christmas Stollen (Quarkstollen)
Inspired by a recipe from Stevan Paul ("Deutschland Vegetarisch")
Ingredients for the Christmas Stollen
- 250 grams dried sultanas
- 50 ml to 100 ml dark rum, brandy or apple juice (enough to cover and soak the sultanas)
- 500 grams AP (plain) wheat flour (you can also use white spelt flour here)
- 2 ½ tsp. baking powder
- 150 grams super fine (caster) baking sugar
- 2 tsps pure vanilla sugar (or homemade)
- a pinch of fine sea salt
- 1-2 tsps Stollen Spice Mix*(according to your personal taste)
- 200 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
- 250 grams, curd cheese also called "quark", room temperature (fat reduced)
- finely grated zest from one organic orange
- 2 eggs (M), free range or organic
- 100 grams golden raisins (Stevan Paul´s recipe calls for diced candied lemon peel)
- 100 grams chopped, natural almonds (Stevan Paul´s recipe calls for diced candied orange peel)
- some unsalted melted butter for brushing the warm baked caked (as needed, about 50 grams)
- a generous amount of powdered sugar to dust the cake (as needed, about 25 grams)
- Warm the rum or juice. Soak the sultanas/raisins/currants either in the rum, brandy or the apple juice and let sit at room temperature, overnight.
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Prepare a baking sheet, cover with parchment paper (baking parchment) or use a Silpat non-stick baking mat to line your baking sheet. NOTE: If you are using a specialty Stollen baking pan, brush with melted butter, dust with flour, tap out excess flour and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, vanilla sugar, salt and spice mix.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer or in a large bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter, curd cheese, and orange zest until smooth, then beat in the egg.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.
- Stir in the golden raisins (or candied fruit peel if using) and the chopped almonds.
- Shape the dough in a roughly oval form, fold dough in half lengthwise and place it on the prepared baking sheet. OR: using a Stollen baking pan, place the dough in the pan and press it in, then place the filled baking pan on the prepared baking sheet, making sure, you place it "upside down".
- Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, until golden on top. Transfer to a cooling rack.
- While still warm brush generously with melted butter and dust very liberally with powdered sugar. You can repeat this step to create a generous white coating. Let cool.
NOTE 2: If wrapped really well, the Stollen will keep for about two weeks in a cool, dry place.
Stollen Spice Mix (Stollengewürz-Mischung)
(feel free to double or triple the quantities, as needed)
Ingredients for the Spice Mix
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (I always use Ceylon cinnamon)
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp ground mace
Preparation of the Stollen Spice Mix
- Carefully measure out the spices.
- Mix all spices well.
- Scoop the mix into a spice jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Label the jar (with date and contents).
- Use this mixture in recipes that call for Stollen Spice Mix
- Discard any leftovers after four months.
If you have not tasted Stollen before, trust me, you will be in for a treat. Why not start a new tradition this season and bake this classic German Christmas loaf known as Stollen, a spirited, spiced (use the fresh, warm spices listed above), sugar-topped confection, packed with almonds, dried fruit (raisins or sultanas are a given here), and candied citrus peel (an option).
If you would like to add Marzipan (almond paste), you can do so by using about 150 grams, all rolled up and enclosed in the middle of the dough.
It is also good to remember that Stollen keeps rather well, which lends itself to both local and national distribution – think of your neighbours, friends and family and send them some.
As you can glimpse from the pictures above, I prepared my Burnt Sugar Almonds (recipe can be found here), Dutch Pepernoten (recipe to follow in a few days), and Stollen, for a Christmas Charity Bake Sale on the weekend. I filled seasonal, labelled cellophane bags with the Almonds, cut the Stollen into thick slices and placed the cookies together with Dutch tea bags in Christmas themed mugs - all sold out at the end of the afternoon - so, go ahead and make some goodies this season, give some away and keep some for yourself!
* non-stick stollen baking pan can be ordered in the US here
* stollen baking tins can be ordered in the UK here