Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hazelnut Streusel Cake - Haselnuss-Streuselkuchen

Ever since our visit to the "Zollverein Coal Mine" in Essen (Germany), I have been wanting to bake an uncomplicated cake that could be considered “regional” for the “Ruhr District”. Residents of the area are known to really enjoy eating hand-held pastries and so-called "dry" cakes with sweet toppings such as streusel that withstand a good dunking into a cup of coffee, tea or a cold glass of milk. After some research, I settled on a simple recipe for Hazelnut Streusel Cake, a cake with a yeast based dough and lots of chunky, delicious, crunchy streusel.

A generous slice of this cake would be a tasty addition not only to a lunch box but also to a picnic basket. It also goes perfectly with that afternoon or morning cup of tea or coffee or glass of milk.The coal miners used to have the most wonderful tin lunch boxes - I am still looking for a vintage one.

My eager taste testers agreed that this cake can withstand some serious dunking. Just what I was looking for in a recipe for a simple cake.

Traditionally, in European baking and pastry making, “streusel” is a topping of only unsalted butter, flour, and white sugar that is often added on top of pastries (“Streuselteilchen”) and cakes (“Streuselkuchen”). Contemporary recipes call for adding spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon and/or chopped or grounds nuts. Although the topping is of German origin, the pastries are mostly referred to as Danish or Swedish.

American recipes calling for “streusel” most often give a recipe for what could be defined as a “crumb topping”, not a real “streusel topping”. As a general rule, the ratio of the ingredients for the “streusel topping” will be that of 1 part sugar/1 part butter/ two parts 2 flour. In comparison, North American “crumb toppings” often feature a 3:1:2 or even 3:3:1 ratio for the sugar/butter/flour,  leaving you with a sandy-like topping that shakes off easily while the real “streusel topping”  will meld with the sugar for a crispy,  more chunky effect.

Recipe for Hazelnut Streusel Cake

Ingredients for the Cake
  • 10 grams fresh yeast
  • 50 ml lukewarm milk
  • 275 grams AP (plain) flour, divided into 150 grams and 125 grams
  • 130 grams superfine (caster) white sugar
  • 20 grams unsalted butter, soft
  • 1 egg (L)
  • one pinch of fine salt
  • 100 grams unsalted butter, cold
  • 75 grams ground hazelnuts
  • some confectioners´  sugar for serving (optional)

Preparation of the Cake
  1. Dissolve the fresh yeast in the warm milk.
  2. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer together with 150 grams flour, 30 grams sugar, soft butter, egg and the pinch of salt.
  3. Using the dough hook, knead the starter for a good five minutes or until it turns into a homogenous, soft dough.
  4. Transfer the dough to a bowl and cover. Let it rest in a warm place for a good hour.
  5. To make the streusel topping, add the cold butter, 100 grams sugar, 125 grams flour, the ground hazelnuts and ½ tablespoon water to a bowl and either with the mixer or by hand combine all ingredients until they form nice somewhat chunky streusel.
  6. Transfer the streusel topping to the fridge while the yeast dough is resting.
  7. After the yeast dough has rested, transfer it to a 26 centimeter spring form pan and spread it with well-floured hands. Top with the streusel, cover and let rest an additional fifteen to twenty minutes.
  8. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  9. Bake the cake for about twenty to twenty-five minutes or until it has a golden brown color.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and dust with some confectioners´ sugar before serving.
  11. Slice and serve either after it has completely cooled or while it is still warm (which is what I did). NOTE: This cake is best served the day that it is made but you can easily freeze it whole or just a few slices. Or use it for dunking the day after it was made.

I decided to present my cake on a so-called “Grubentuch”, a kind of tea towel that has a long history in the Ruhr District. Coal Miners in the Ruhr District used these towels a lot for various purposes – the sturdy cloth served not only as a tea towel but also as a wash cloth, apron, pot holder or simply as a hand towel.

Its sturdy fabric (50 % cotton and 50 % linen fibers) and bold patterns made it an ideal choice for the coal miners to wipe off the coal dust from their hands and faces. Today, these towels are still being produced in the Ruhr District and have become a sought after souvenir – I really enjoy their “vintage look” and bought a whole stack of them to use as tablecloths.


  1. My grandmother´s streusel for her apple crisp has your ratio and it´s different from the over buttery that´s in so many recipes now.
    I simply adore hazelnuts and this is the type of cake to bake any day, any season. Wonderful Andrea!

    1. Paula, thank you for the comment! Streusel is such a wonderful topping for a nice, simple cake and many other delicious baked goods and I am sure that your grandmother made wonderul apple crisp with s streusel topping, sounds really good to me.

  2. I love the look of this cake and plan to make it as soon as I can fit it in. Your tea towel is beautiful!

    1. Guyla, you will enjoy making this very easy cake with a nice little yeast base and tons of streusel on top - for some resaon, these easy cakes do have a real fun appeal.

  3. My paternal grandfather was a coal miner in Pennsylvania and I am sure he would have loved this cake in his lunch box. I love the tea towels and they must have been such a cheerful note to the miners working in the cold, dark caves. Your cake is beautiful and is perfect for dunking in tea. My daughter has been coming over in the afternoons and we have taking to having tea when I get home from work. I will have to make this as we both enjoy dunking our cookies in tea. :)

    1. Elaine, what a wonderful comment - I was so enthused by the our visist to the Coal Mine, that I did a ton of research after, especially into the kinds of reginoal foods that coal miners used to enjoy. And I must say, it has been a lot of fun. So much so, that I am planning a "give-away "of a bunch of these blue tea towels in the month of February (open to ALL - not only residents of the EU).

  4. I'm not sure if the tin lunch boxes were the same as the ones my dad used to carry to his mechanic job, but you bring back fond memories when I think of that durable tin box filled with sandwiches my mom made. He would have loved this treat to dunk in his coffee.

    1. Kristin, I am sure that the tinlunch boxes were either the same style or quite similar - as soon as I find a vintage one, I will post a picture, so you will be able to see for yourself (that will be fun).

  5. I do love your beautiful blue cloth! The patterns and the shade of blue is very pretty. I love streusel toppings and if I have a choice I'd always pick the one with it. This hazelnut cake looks so good. I'm about to go to sleep and onlyu crave for this cake right now.

    1. Nami, sorry that I am keeping you awake with pictures of my cake...seriously, thanks so much for all your wonderful comments!

  6. I'm sure the workers would have loved taking a piece of your streusel cake in their lunch box to work in the sounds delicious. Karen

    1. Karen, I ceratinly hope that they would have liked it - they are known to have enjoyed the Streusel pastries quite a bit because they would hold up to a good packaging in their tin lunch boxes. Thanks for all the very nice comments, Karen! I always love hearing from you!