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, and traditional versions are considered to be a variety of 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. Though it isn’t baked on a rotating spit, the end result will have a similar effect to the classic recipe.
Just keep in mind that the design of the bundt pan should be simple, without too many crevices, to make sure that you can spread the batter easily and evenly. The design used for our cream cake recipe, though beautiful, will be too difficult of a design to spread the batter.Print
The “Baumkuchen” cake is a specialty pastry relatively unknown outside of Germany. Preparing it takes a unique process by which each layer of batter is baked one after another with thin layers of jam added in between. This homemade version uses a slightly different process from conventional bakeries, but it’s just as good!
- 9 oz apricot jam, smooth or blended and strained (a generous 3/4 cup)
- 4 large eggs
- 4 oz granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
- 7 fl oz vegetable oil (7/8 cup)
- 7 fl oz orange juice (7/8 cup)
- 11 oz all purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 oz baking powder (about 1 Tbsp)
- 7 oz dark chocolate, chips or rough chopped (about 1 1/8 cups)
- 3 oz white chocolate, chips or rough chopped (about 1/2 cup) (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Grease the ring and base of a 10-inch springform pan.
- Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy. Add oil and orange juice and stir until combined thoroughly.
- Quickly mix in the flour and baking powder until just combined. Turn the oven down to 400°F (200°C, top heat only, if available).
- Spread about 4 tablespoons of cake batter on the bottom of the baking pan to cover completely in a thin layer. Bake in the lower part of the oven for approx 5-8 minutes, or until light brown. (Keep an eye on it! The first thin layer can burn quickly.)
- Take the cake out of the oven and spoon another 4 tablespoons of batter into the pan, spreading it in an even layer over the first layer. Bake again for 5-8 minutes.
- Spread 3 tablespoons of apricot jam on top of the second layer.
- Keep baking layers one on top of the other in the same order. Every third layer should be apricot jam. The last layer should be batter.
- After baking the last layer, let the cake cool completely on a wire rack. Remove from the pan.
- Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler. Spread another layer of apricot jam on the cake, then pour the chocolate on top and spread to coat.
- Melt the white chocolate and drizzle in decorative patterns over the dark chocolate, if desired. Or decorate the cake as shown, with leaf-shaped chocolates. These can be made in a candy mold, using melted dark or milk chocolate.
- Refrigerate until firm, then slice and serve.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 55 minutes
- Category: Cake
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: German
Keywords: German, baumkuchen, cake, chocolate
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 passing it through a fine mesh strainer or chinois, if you like. You’re looking for more of an apricot glaze to top your cake with than a spread with bits of fruit in it.
Step 2 – Mix Wet Ingredients
In a large mixing bowl using a balloon whisk or in the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, 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.
Place the pan in the oven to bake for about five minutes, and keep 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 of 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, the batter should be added right on top of the jam layer, with no need for baking in between! Spread gently, to avoid mixing the uncooked batter with the jam too much.
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.
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 drizzled on top. Or, use homemade molded chocolates like I’ve used here. Get creative!
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 each time.
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!
And if cakes are your thing, then check out some of our other tasty creations:
- Cinnamon Apple Tart Cake: A Gorgeous Two-in-One Fall Dessert!
- Vanilla Caramel Cake: Giving a Classic Dessert a Very Sweet Uplift
- Enjoy Tropical Bliss with a Slice of Macadamia Nut Coconut Cake
Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu. Photo of commercial oven courtesy of Wikipedia. Originally published on March 27, 2015. Last updated: December 27, 2019 at 22:30 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
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.