Monday, September 13, 2021

Traditional German Plum Cake (Zwetschgenkuchen)

I like to divide every year in a culinary way – come wintertime we enjoy hearty kale, in spring asparagus and rhubarb, in early summer strawberries, in summer cherries and now it’s plum season and that’s why this is a good time to feature a Traditional German Plum Cake recipe. The national institution that is the German Plum Cake, is variously known as Zwetschgendatschi, Zwetschgenkuchen, Pflaumenkuchen, or Quetschekuche, depending on where you are in the country.

Many of the recipes out there are rather specific about the type of plum to be used. I always use plums called Zwetschgen, which are small, dark-as-night plums with a vibrant yellow flesh, both tart and sweet in flavor. They are perfect for baking because they don’t hold as much water as other red plum varieties. Outside of Europe it can be difficult to get Zwetschgen but smallish deep-purple Italian plums aka Italian prune plums are a good substitute, these are oval, rather than round, with dark, cloudy skins, and although they can be a bit tricky to stone, they stay satisfyingly plump in the oven. 

There are countless recipes out there for plum cake. Whether plum cake as a sheet pan cake, as a tart, with or without yeast, a buttery shortcrust pastry base, or one made with Quark (fresh cheese) and oil, with streusel or nut topping, these are all incredibly popular around here but what is non-negotiable, is a generous helping of Schlagsahne (whipped cream) on top.

The dough itself is moderately sweet, enriched with fresh eggs and sweet butter. I like to keep the dough quite plain and all I add as additional flavor is pure vanilla sugar as the plums have enough flavor not to need any extra help, the extra cinnamon can be saved for the top.

This year I took a particular liking to a classic German yeast-based sheet pan cake with a buttery streusel topping. With a nice rustic look to it and a great combination of flavor and textures, this was certainly a hit at our house although my trusted taste testers prefer the softer texture of the classic cake made with soft wheat flour (or in my case white spelt flour), sweet butter and fresh eggss to the sturdier bun dough with its strong bread flour and eggs. The big sheet bakes favored by German bakeries are perfect if you’re feeding a crowd, but, in my humble opinion, for tea (or perhaps coffee) at home, today's recipe for a Traditional German Plum Cake works better.

Clearly a soft rich dough and jammy baked plums need little in the way of adornment, so nothing but a couple of tablespoons of cinnamon sugar will do the trick. For my cake there is no streusel oder nut topping required.

The tartness of the plums plays nicely against the buttery batter and the warm flavors of cinnamon and vanilla. And as an added bonus it smells amazing while baking.

German Plum Cake


(for a 9.5in/24cm springform pan)

For the Cake

  • 1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cups (160g) superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 1 tbsp (8g) pure vanilla sugar
  • 2 eggs (M), free-range or organic
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp (175g) white spelt flour, sifted (or use AP/plain flour instead)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • 35 to 40 pitted Italian (purple) plums

For the Topping

  • 1 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (8g) pure vanilla sugar
  • 3 tbsp sugar (for a bit more crunch, go with coarse grain white sugar)
  • powdered sugar


  1. Butter a springform pan and line with parchment paper, butter the paper and flour well, shaking out the excess flour.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla sugar.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and mix well.
  5. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stir just until combined.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared springform pan.
  8. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter.
  9. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar topping.
  10. Bake 1 hour, approximately – let cool on wire rack for about 1 hour, than remove the outer ring of the springform pan, let cool for another hour before removing the bottom part of your springform pan as well. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  11. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and plenty of Schlagsahne (whipped cream).



(für eine 24cm Springform)

Für den Kuchen

  • 115g Süßrahmbutter, Zimmertemperatur
  • 160g feinster Backzucker
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • 2 Eier (M), aus Freilandhaltung oder ökologischer/biologischer Produktion
  • 175g Dinkelmehl, Type 630 (oder Weizenmehl, Type 405)
  • 1 1⁄2 TL Weinstein Backpulver
  • eine Prise Ur-Salz (optional)
  • 35 bis 40 frische Zwetschgen, entsteint

Für das Topping

  • 1 TL Ceylon Zimt
  • 8g Bourbon Vanillezucker
  • 3 EL Zucker
  • Puderzucker


  1. Die Springform buttern, mit Backpapier auskleiden, nochmals buttern und mehlieren, dabei das überschüssige Mehl rausschütteln.
  2. Den Backofen auf 180°C vorheizen.
  3. In einer Rührschüssel die Butter, den Zucker und den Vanillezucker schaumig rühren.
  4. Eier einzeln hinzufügen und gut verrühren.
  5. In einer anderen Rührschüssel Mehl, Backpulver und Salz verrühren.
  6. Die Mehlmischung zu der Buttermischung geben, unterheben.
  7. Den Teig in die vorbereitete Springform geben und glatt streichen.
  8. Die vorbereiteten Pflaumenhälften auf den Teig setzen.
  9. Mit der Zimt-Zuckermischung bestreuen.
  10. Ungefähr eine Stunde backen, dann auf einem Kuchenrost ca. 1 Stunde abkühlen lassen, dann den äußeren Ring der Springform abnehmen, eine weitere Stunde abkühlen lassen, bevor auch der untere Teil der Springform entfernt werden kann.
  11. Mit Puderzucker bestäuben und mit einer großzügigen Portion Schlagsahne servieren.

For more plum inspiration on my blog, take a look at:

Nigel Slater´s Autumnal Plum Cake with Hazelnuts and Spiced Frosting (HERE)

Rice Pudding with caramelized Italian Plums (HERE)

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Bread Wreath with Pesto, Tomatoes and Cheese l Brotkranz mit Pesto, Tomaten und Käse

The month of September has arrived, and with it not only cooler temperatures but also the appetite for hearty food. So, it seems high time to start this first month of fall with some fun bread baking, with bold textures and ingredients that capture the tastes of late summer.

I was looking for an easy weeknight bread, shaped like a wreath, or crown, a bread with a rustic look and feel that is easily shareable and can be served alongside a ragù pasta dish and still stand out. I had some homemade arugula (aka rocket) and basil pesto, sun-dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil, shredded cheese and tons of garden herbs. As I always have fresh yeast and spelt flour on hand, I decided to make a lovely Bread Wreath with Arugula and Basil Pesto, Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes.

The yeast dough is easy. A no fuss recipe that is still big on taste. I use fresh yeast for my recipe but you can go with dry (instan) yeast, of course. It a very basic yeast dough with added herbs – I like to use fresh parsley from my herb garden, of course, you can also use other soft herbs such as oniony chives, woodsy sage or estragon (tarragon) with a slight anise flavor

You should note that because of the amount of liquid used, this is a rather shaggy, wet dough that needs a bit of tender handling, but if you use some additional flour while shaping and manoeuvring the dough, you should not run into any trouble.

The filling calls for homemade pesto. However, if you happen to have a jar left in your cupboard from that trip to the farmers' market, by all means, use that, about 100g will do – or eye-ball the quantity, as all you are looking for is a thin, well spread layer of pesto all across your rolled-out yeast dough. You will then scatter the finely minced shallot, diced oil-cured, sun-dried tomatoes and grated cheese on top, season with a generous grinding of black pepper and salt. With the help of a bench scraper, roll up the dough into a sausage, then transfer it to a parchment-lined baking pan that you previously dusted with flour and while the wreath rests for an additional 15 minutes or so, you can pre-heat your oven. That’s it. All you have to do is wait a good 45 minutes and you will be able to enjoy a freshly-baked bread with all those wonderful Mediterranean flavors. 

Bread Wreath with Pesto, Tomatoes and Cheese


For the dough

  • 500g white spelt flour (alternatively use strong bread flour), plus extra for the work surface 
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg (M), organic or free-range
  • 200ml water (warm)
  • 100ml milk (I like to use 3.5%), warm
  • 21g of fresh yeast or 1 pkg. dry yeast
  • ½ bunch parsley OR other soft herb, washed, dried well and finely chopped (or other soft herbs)

For the filling

  • 100g pesto (I like to use a arugula/basil pesto, if possible homemade)
  • 1 shallot (or a small mild onion)
  • 100g tomatoes (sun-dried, soaked in oil), oil drained and coarsely chopped
  • 125g cheese such as Emmenthal, grated (or use another cheese of your choice)
  • freshly ground black pepper, salt


  1. Knead all ingredients to a smooth dough.
  2. Let it stand covered in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours or until the volume has doubled.
  3. Roll out on a floured work surface (you should end up with a large rectangle).
  4. Spread evenly with pesto.
  5. Scatter the chopped, dried and drained tomatoes, the diced shallot and the grated Emmenthal evenly on top of the pesto.
  6. Season generously with pepper and salt.
  7. With the help of a bench scraper, roll up the dough and cut it in the middle save 5cm (2in) at the top and bottom edge) and twist it around itself.
  8. Prepare a backing sheet or large pizza pan and line it with parchment paper dusted with a little flour.
  9. Shape the dough into a wreath, tucking the ends under and transfer to the prepared baking sheet or pan.
  10. Loosely cover the wreath and place it in a warm spot while you pre-heat your oven to 180°C (356°F).
  11. Fill an oven-proof bowl with hot water and carefully place it at the bottom of the oven (to create steam). Then bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
  12. To cool, slide the baking sheet/pan onto a cooling rack.

Brotkranz mit Pesto, Tomaten und Käse


Für den Teig

  • 500 g Dinkelmehl Type 630 (alternativ: Weizenmehl Type 550), plus extra für die Arbeitsfläche
  • ½ TL feines Meersalz
  • 2 TL Zucker
  • 1 Ei (M), Bio- oder Freilandhaltung
  • 200ml Wasser (lauwarm)
  • 100ml Milch (3.5%), lauwarm
  • 21g frische Hefe oder 1 Pkg. Trockenhefe
  • ½ Bund Petersilie, gewaschen, gut getrocknet und klein gehackt (man kann auch andere Kräuter nehmen)

Für die Füllung

  • 100g Pesto (ich nehme gerne ein selbstgemachtes Rucola-Basilkum Pesto)
  • 1 Schalotte (oder eine kleine milde Zwiebel), fein geschnitten
  • 100g Tomaten (getrocknet, in Öl eingelegt), klein geschnitten
  • 125 g Emmentaler, gerieben (man kann auch einen anderen Käse nehmen)
  • frisch gemahlener schwarzer Pfeffer, Salz


  1. Alle Zutaten zu einem glatten Teig verkneten.
  2. Diesen zugedeckt an einem warmen Ort für 1 bis 1 ½ Stunden gehen lassen oder bis das Volumen verdoppelt ist.
  3. Auf einer bemehlten Arbeitsfläche fingerdick ausrollen.
  4. Gleichmäßig mit Pesto bestreichen.
  5. Dann die klein geschnittenen Tomaten und die Schalotte und den Emmentaler gleichmässig auf dem Teig verteilen.
  6. Grosszügig mit Pfeffer und Salz würzen.
  7. Den Teig einrollen und in der Mitte durchschneiden (dabei je fünf Zentimeter am oberen und unteren Rand aussparen) und eindrehen.
  8. Zu einem Kranz formen.
  9. Ein Back-oder Pizzablch mit Backpapier auslegen, leicht mehlieren, dann den Brotkranz darauf plazieren, lose abdecken und an einem warmen Ort gehen lassen. In der Zwischenzeit den Ofen auf 180°C vorheizen. 
  10. Eine ofenfeste Schüssel mit heissem Wasser füllen und auf den Boden des Ofens stellen. Das Brot im vorgeheizten Backofen für 45 bis 50 Minuten backen. 

For more bready inspiration, pls take a look at:

  • Irish Brown Soda Bread for St Patrick's Day (Sodabrot zum St. Patrick's Day) (HERE)
  • Tuesdays with Dorie - Semolina Bread (HERE)
  • Nigel Slater´s Lazy Loaf (HERE)
  • Back-of-the-Card Wild Herb Bread with Daisy Butter (HERE)

For some Grissini (Italian Breadsticks) inspiration, you can have a look at my:

  • Grissini with Garden Herbs, Parmesan & Tomato Paste (Grissinis mit Rosmarin, Parmesan & Tomatenpüree) (HERE)
  • Grissini with Red Onion Skins (Grissini mit roten Zwiebelschalen) (HERE)