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
Homemade Baumkuchen Cake
- Total Time: 60 minutes
- Yield: One medium cake
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.
38 thoughts on “The Sensational German “Baumkuchen” Cake”
This looks amazing. I had never heard of this cake before. I really enjoy layer cakes and, although this one seems to be time consuming, it looks like something that I could do. I think this is a great alternative to a coffee cake.
This looks so good. Honestly, though, I don’t know if I can make it without screwing up somewhere. The longer and more steps it takes to make something the more likely it is im going to miss something, or add a layer i shouldn’t or something else that meses it up. Luckily, I have just the person to give the recipe to! Thank you for this!
I love the fact that this recipe is also dairy free. From the dairy free point of view the dark chocolate is not a problem if you are careful with which chocolate you select and I don’t have to do the white chocolate as it is only decoration and reading it, it really does sound so, so simple, just time consuming like you said. I think I will be trying it when I celebrate ending my diet!
These are really really tasty. I remember having them in Germany and being fascinated by the rotating thing they use to make it over there. I never thought it was possible to make it at home, so thanks for proving me wrong, haha.
Everyone’s been on a German dessert kick around here. It always amazes me how little I know about certain dishes in other countries. ESPECIALLY cakes/pies/cookies/etc. Never had a sweet tooth that encouraged me to explore them.
I have done a lot of writing on sweet treats, that’s right. I’m happy to share some recipes that might be unknown in different countries, that’s an interesting thing. But I will be working on some savory dishes as well to keep the balance. 😉
I’ve seen these being made before now but didn’t realise there was actually a simple way to do it. All that you need is a little care and attention really so I’d try baking this when I knew that I wouldn’t be disturbed at all.
I was going to mention that it looks like the rings from inside a tree when I first saw the picture, but you noted it in the article. This looks so pretty. I’d be proud to serve something that looks so nice. I’d probably garnish it with some orange slices turned out.
I’ve never heard of this before, so it was really interesting to learn about it. I’m afraid mine wouldn’t turn out as lovely as the photos, but I might just have to do some experimenting.
I love cakes, but I’ve not seen this one before and will look out for it. As for trying to bake it, I think it would take a lot of practice, but maybe one day when I have time to do it a few times I’ll try. Meanwhile I will try a slice if see it in a bakery. The chocolate on the top makes it a winner for me.
Hmm..this got my curiosity sparked, yes, it sure does look difficult to make, yet looks delicious…and am 100% it is…i guess no pain, no gain huh? …if am going to bake this, i need to be completely psyched up…otherwise it’ll be another crestfallen face in the kitchen…i need my A game for this 😉
I know I would have never encountered this recipe if I had not visited this website. It looks beautiful and the ingredients are nice. The apricot jam really attracts Mr attention, it has flavor as well as a light sweetness. Then, together with the chocolate and the orange juice, it just seems like a tasty combination of flavors. just wonder if you continue to bake the cake layer by layer, how do you prevent the first layer from being overdone?
That’s such a beautiful cake! I can’t believe I’ve never seen this one before. One of my best friends is German, and her birthday is coming up. I’m thinking of making this Baumkuchen cake for her, as it’ll be sure to surprise her to eat such an expensive tart, even more so that it’s from her native country! (It’s also a fitting symbolism for her birthday, since this cake looks like the “age”-rings of a tree.) Although, I’m not sure if I’m capable of baking this, because I have just started to pursue baking as a hobby last year, and I feel like I’ll accidentally botch the layers of jam and dough, or the thicknesses of the layers would be uneven, showing a tree that perhaps had some sort of disfiguring accident in one of its years. Perhaps if I slather the chocolate all over the end result, it’ll make up for any of my mishaps 😉 In addition, I would also like to second aphil. Won’t the layers that have been in the pan longer be more prone to overcooking? Am I missing something? Thanks!
I think that would be a great birthday surprise 🙂
Concerning the overcooking, if you have a top-heat-only setting for you oven, that would be the best solution. Nonetheless I think it will be ok as well if you don’t. It never happened to me that the cake was overdone because you keep the layers for only a few minutes in the oven. But I have to admit that you have to be careful so that they won’t get too dark or hard. I can tell from personal experience that it always worked out fine and I hope it does for you too.
Thanks for responding, Nina! I don’t think I have a top-heat-setting (my oven, and entire kitchen, for that matter, is rather old, and still only heats from the bottom of the pan), but I think that if the layers aren’t in the oven for too long, that should be alright. I’ll be very careful. I’ve also read through a couple of your other recipes, and what do you know, my friend actually comes from the city of Turm in Germany, which is situated near the Black Forest, so I’m also thinking about either baking her the Black Forest cake or this Baumkuchen one. Which do you think is more appropriate for a small, casual birthday party among a couple of friends? The Black Forest cake seems to be more famous, but this one seems a bit more unique. I’m wavering between the two, although I’m pretty sure she’ll like either one…
That is really a difficult decision to make 😉 You could think about how much time you want to invest because the Black Forest cake needs more preparation time in advance. It would be more difficult to transport and may need some cooling because of the whipped cream. Although it looks impressive on the outside. However, the Baumkuchen would be a nice surprise too and you could decorate its top with some chocolate pattern or sugar writing. Either way I think your friend will enjoy it 🙂
That’s a good tip, to use a top heat only setting. I’m afraid my oven doesn’t have a low enough setting on the top heat coil. I wonder if it could still work if I just pulled out one rack and put the other in the lowest possible setting. I guess I could give it a try, but I’m not sure.
I think I’ll do it the other way, and just watch it carefully, but this tip might just be perfect for someone else. Thanks.
I think it could work if you pull out one rack and try it that way.
I have made the experience that ovens can be so different when it comes to heating settings. When I bake a cake at my parents’ home, I have to change the timing for some recipes. That can be tricky sometimes.
But if you keep an eye on the layers you should be fine either way.
I truly appreciate the sharing of unique German baked goodies. It’s totally refreshing to know a little something from another country. This makes one more curious about the country. In this recipe, I love the layering. But like the others here, I might mess up if I try this one!
The simplicity of how the cake turns out is just amazing to me. By simplicity, I meant the cake’s appearance doesn’t suggest the complicated process behind it. Ah, just love, love how it looks and am sure so does the taste.
Keep those German-baked goodies coming! Thank you for your generosity in sharing the unique ones. That is truly much appreciated.
Thank you, I still have some ideas in my mind.
Actually, you can’t really do something wrong when you bake this cake: When you stay near the oven and watch the pastry, you can react immediately when each layer seems ready and take it out. You should definitely give it a try, I’m sure it will turn out just fine 🙂
I thought from the look of it that baking this cake would be a very complicated process, but upon reading the recipe, it absolutely sounds doable. I think this might be the perfect cake for me, since I’m often up and down quite a bit anyway, and so popping over to the oven to add a little more ingredients to the already baking cake wouldn’t be a hassle at all. I love how rich and complicated it looks, and think I will give this recipe a try once I get the ingredients.
This Baumkuchen tart is simply beautiful! I have never seen anything like it. It looks so delicate and tasty, I just have to try it. The process certainly looks long, but if you’re making it with friends, the process should go a lot faster. Thank you very much for the recipe. It definitely a must try!
The cake looks delicious! I’ve never seen it before. It looks extremely beautiful. It’s too hard to make for me, though. Gonna show it to my Grandma, though!
Wonderful, it’d be interesting to know if your Grandma knows a similar recipe. I hope she can prepare it for you and you both can enjoy this delicious and fancy treat together. 🙂
Since my mom is German she taught me how to bake all kind of German cakes but not this kind.
I have bought Baumkuchen at the German stores before but never knew the recipe for it.
Making it yourself is definitely more fun and delicious.
That’s great! I’m sure you’ve learnt to make some amazing cakes. You really have to try this out – although store-bought versions mean less effort and they look so perfect, making it yourself is indeed fun, and interesting to see how the cake is being put together one layer after another 🙂
I haven’t heard of this cake before reading this post, but it looks really peculiar, almost artistic… so beautiful! I can completely understand why you said that you need to be patient in order to get this cake done, I’m extremely distracted so I guess that it won’t be a good idea for me to make. But I guess that it would be good to keep this recipe around there just in case of a special occasion, I’m sure that it will worth it at the end of the day.
The patience is definitely going to pay off 😉 But, on the other hand, during daily routine, there is sometimes not much time left for it. So I think it’s a great idea to keep it for some special party (or else) coming up. I hope you enjoy trying it out in the future!
Yup, I am so making this and very soon. It is beautiful and my friend keeps telling me I should make every cake many layers, this one is awesome!!
Want to make this cake for a Christmas party but just wondering about the measurements. The recipe as written says it serves 4. Do you have to change the servings/measurements for the 10 inch spring form pan. I would think that pan would serve at least 12?
Nina (the author) is currently on pregnancy/child care leave, but you are right. The servings have got to be off…11 ounces of flour is roughly 2 3/4 cups (4 1/4 ounces of All-Purpose flour to the cup). I’d agree that 12 smallish pieces (as shown in the photos) would be about right.
Thanks for getting back to me. I am more concerned if I have to change the servings (by the 4 servings it allows you to change the number which changes all the measurements/numbers of the ingredients) to accommodate the 10 inch pan. Or will the 4 servings make the cake as pictured (it may as each layer only calls for 4 tablespoons of batter which is a 1/4 cup and that could make about 6 cake layers with 3/4 cup of flour) Pat
Do you by chance have the nutritional values? Looking for carb count. Seems like it would be low, which is great for diabetics! The cake us so delicious! My son-in-law made it – it’s fantastic! Not overly sweet.
Glad you enjoyed the cake! Approximate nutritional values have been added to the recipe. Though this cake does contain less granulated sugar than other dessert recipes, it is made with refined flour and sugar, as well as fruit juice and jam, all of which contribute to the total carb count.
I used to buy this at the local bakery when stationed in Germany. So glad to have found a recipe!
We make a similar cake called Hungarian Dobos Torte, a thin seven layer sponge cake. We use the Apricot Jam on the layers and a chocolate coating with a crystallized caramel on top. I bake the layers on the back side of a 8”pan, one at a time. It’s very similar except for the rings.
Great recipe! I found that in my oven , cooking each layer at 6 mins is perfect and adding an extra 80 seconds (1 min 20 sec) for the layer on the jam is also very beneficial! Very delicious cake recipe, Thankyou for sharing!
Made this over the weekend. It turned out brilliantly and tastes just like the ones we used to buy when stationed overseas. Thanks!
I just made this and it tastes great! Definitely not what I expected (mine doesn’t look nearly as professional) but it still is wonderful. Would definitely recommend.