Originally posted March 27, 2015. Revised and updated November 24, 2016.Jump to the Recipe
If you want to bake something special, German Baumkuchen should be your first choice. Astonish and indulge your guests with this unusual cake!
Preparing this delicious dessert definitely requires some effort and patience. At first glance, it might look a bit complicated. But don’t worry, it’s not that difficult to make (just time consuming).
The result is absolutely worth it because it not only tastes great, but also looks fantastic on the table, and on the plate.
German for “tree cake,” Baumkuchen is sometimes also known as pyramid cake, or spit cake. Baking it requires a special procedure in which each layer of dough is baked one after another, with a layer of jam in between.
It is important to wait until the previous layer is completely cooked to achieve the unique structure. As trees have rings to indicate their age, this cake has tree-like baked layers.
The earliest German recipe for this cake dates back to 1450, when it was a popular wedding pastry for wealthy people to serve. Now it’s your turn to bake this historic treat!
This confection has been called the king of cakes, because it is rather complicated and tedious to make. In the past as well as today in German commercial bakeries, the batter is usually baked in layers on a long skewer or spit that is constantly turned in front of a large horizontal oven.
It seems safe to say most of us aren’t going to be able to install that kind of mechanism in our kitchens at home.
For this reason, the cake has become an expensive delicacy that is predominantly sold in pastry shops and bakeries. Especially around Christmastime, Baumkuchen is a popular and beloved gift to enjoy with loved ones.
This recipe offers a simple solution that will allow you to bake it yourself at home, in either a 10-inch springform pan (like I used) or a bundt pan.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep Equipment and Ingredients
First, preheat the oven and grease your pan. Then measure all of your ingredients, so you will have everything ready to go.
If you purchased an apricot jam that isn’t smooth, scoop it into your blender or food processor and blend until smooth and uniform. You can follow this step by putting your jelly through a fine mesh strainer or chinois, if you like. You’re looking for more of an apricot glaze to top your cake then a spread with bits of fruit in it.
Step 2 – Mix Wet Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl using a balloon whisk or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until they are thick and creamy. This should take a few minutes.
Add the oil and orange juice, and continue whisking until thoroughly combined.
Step 3 – Add Dry Ingredients
Stir in the flour and baking powder until combined, starting at a slow speed if you’re using an electric mixer to avoid covering your kitchen with flour!
At this point, you also want to turn your oven down slightly.
Step 4 – Spread First Layer
Now it’s time to make your first cake layer. Spread about four tablespoons of the batter into the bottom of your prepared pan, all the way to the edges.
Bake this for about five minutes, keeping an eye on your pan so the first thin coating doesn’t burn. An oven with a window and a light definitely comes in handy for this!
Step 5 – Add Second Layer
Remove the pan from the oven, and place on a baking sheet or cooling rack, being careful not to knock the base of the springform pan out of its outer ring. Spread on your second layer of batter, spooning another four tablespoons into the middle of the pan, and spreading in an even layer out to the edges of the ring.
Back in the oven it goes, for another five minutes or so.
Step 6 – Layer Jam and Batter, and Continue Baking
After removing the pan from the oven this time, you’re going to do something a little different. Spread about three tablespoons of smooth apricot jam onto the cake.
Follow this layer with two more batter layers, baking after each addition, and then another layer of jam.
Keep layering in this way until you’ve used up all your batter, ending with a final cake layer. You should have enough jam left over for one final layer of glaze after baking.
Just to clarify, batter should be added right on top of the jam layer, with no need for baking in between.
Step 7 – Cool, and Coat with Chocolate
Cool completely on a wire rack, then carefully remove from the springform pan. Spread your remaining jam over the cake.
Then melt your chocolate in a double boiler on the stove, or in a heatproof dish in the microwave, stirring occasionally until completely melted.
Pour the melted chocolate over the cake, and spread in an even layer. Then place in the refrigerator to cool, until the chocolate coating has hardened.
If you like, you can add another layer of decoration with melted white chocolate.
When you’re ready to serve, it can be helpful to use a hot knife. Just run it under hot water before slicing, work slowly to avoid cracking the chocolate layer, and clean the knife between slices to get a clean cut.
Don’t go Baking Up the Wrong Tree!
While it’s true that the patience required to make such a special cake isn’t for everyone, the results are well worth the effort, and you can look forward to sharing this scrumptious dessert with guests who are sure to be surprised.
Whether you’re celebrating fall or the winter holidays, or it’s just a regular Sunday at home, this German treat is sure to provide a sweet ending to any meal.
Have you tried this cake before? Did you run into any issues when you made your own at home? Let us know in the comments!
Photo of commercial oven courtesy of Wikipedia. Uncredited photos by Nina-Kristen Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.