Authentic German Baumkuchen

German Baumkuchen

What I love about the world today is how small it is. How easy it is to connect with people all over the globe. And despite the hate and separation and extremism we see and experience every day, that part makes me hopeful. It also makes me feel grateful for the friends I found all over the world, too. And every year I send Christmas packages to the US, to a very dear and cherished friend. And sometimes, when there is still enough space in the box, I put a German classic into those packages: authentic German Baumkuchen.

slice of authentic German Baumkuchen with fondant flower

However, I can only send the storebought variety. So when this dear friend finally came to visit four years ago, Baumkuchen was what I baked for him. It also happens to be one of my husband’s favourites. Now, while there has been quite a hype around Baumkuchen in the past years and while there are indeed several ways to make this specialty, I’ve often found that most recipes I saw on the internet weren’t quite authentic. The recipe I’m going to share is one tried and true version of the delicious cake with the many layers.

authentic German Baumkuchen

And since I promised last time that I wouldpost the recipe for the cake I used as the base for my velociraptor birthday party cake… here we go!

layers of a German Baumkuchen

Baumkuchen simply translates to “tree cake”, because of the “rings” that are created by baking the separate layers of the cake, not unlike the layers of a tree. Originally, the cake batter is poured over a rotating rod in front of a broiler to form the rings of your tree cake. Since few of us have that technology at home, the rings of homemade Baumkuchen will come as thin layers. But you need to know in advance: while an authentic German Baumkuchen impresses when it comes to both looks and taste, it’s a time-consuming, elaborate cake to bake. It will take at least two hours to make it and it will require your full attention so it won’t burn. But it will be worth it, I promise. And since it is sealed by a chocolate glaze once it’s cooled, you can easily make it one or even two days ahead.

authentic German Baumkuchen

This recipe uses metric measurements, because you will need the precise amounts of every ingredient. Please also note that this is a recipe containing a small amount of alcohol, so it’s not suitable for children or people who don’t or can’t consume alcohol.

authentic German Baumkuchen
ingredients:
  • 250g butter, softened
  • 250g sugar
  • one whole vanilla bean, scraped out
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 150g flour
  • 100g corn starch
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 100g marzipan
  • 3 drops of bitter almond flavoring essence or bitter almond extract (see instructions regarding the appropriate amount of bitter almond extract)
  • 4 tbsp rum (alternatively, you can use amaretto)

for the glaze:

  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 50g butter
  • this recipe requires two cake tins with the same diameter, an oven with a broiler setting, two large bowls and an electric mixer or stand mixer
authentic German Baumkuchen
instructions:

Heat the marzipan with the rum in a small bowl. You can use a microwave to do that, but make sure to heat it in short intervals so you won’t end up with burnt marzipan. Stir thoroughly in between until you have a thick, gooey mixture. Let cool to room temperature again.

Set your oven to broil and let it preheat.

Mix and sift the flower, cornstarch and baking powder.

Separate your eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until very stiff. In the second large bowl, mix the egg yolks, sugar, butter, the scraped vanilla and the bitter almond essence or extract. Beat the mixture on high speed using an electric mixer or stand mixer until it turns pale and fluffy. This might take a bit, so just keep going until you have the desired result. Stir in the softened rum-marzipan.

Baumkuchen cake batter

One spoonful at a time, add the mixture of flour, cornstarch and baking powder until everything is incorporated well. Fold in the egg whites until you have a very fluffy, light cake batter.

Now, your Baumkuchen-baking-adventure begins. If you need to pee, now’s the time do that, because from now on it will be unwise to leave the room for longer than a minute.

Spread about 3-4 tablespoons of your batter on the bottom of a greased springform or cake pan. The amount of tablespoons will depend on how big your cake tin or springform tin is. The layer should be so thin that you can almost see through it.

first layer of Baumkuchen

Bake the first layer for about 2 minutes under the broiler until it’s a lovely, deep golden brown on top. But you’ll have to watch your cake closely, because the layers are so thin that they burn quickly. You might have to remove your tin earlier or later than that, depending on your oven.

Depending on the temperature of the broiler in your oven, you might want to test the first layers of your Baumkuchen on one the lower racks. Because while you don’t want the layers to burn, you’ll also want to make sure that every layer is baked thoroughly, too. And if your cake layers remain pale, you can still move to a higher rack.

While one cake tin is in the oven, spread another very thin layer (again around 3-4 tablespoons depending on the size of your pans) on the bottom of your second cake tin.

Remove the first tin from the oven when the top is golden brown and it set aside to cool for a minute. In the meantime, bake tin number two.

layers of cake in cake tin

Now spread another 3-4 tablespoons of batter onto your first layer of tin number one. Maybe you’ll scrape off a bit of your first layer in the process, because it didn’t set entirely. It happens. It won’t be the end of the world, I promise. Again, spread a layer so thin you can almost see through it.

Baumkuchen layers

Once tin number two is done and the surface is golden brown, remove tin number two from the oven. Let cool while the second layer in tin number one is baking. Then repeat the process.

You will always have one tin in the oven and one tin outside. While one layer bakes in the oven, you spread one new layer on top of the other cake.

Repeat the process until you have no more batter left. Let both cakes cool on a cooling rack.

two Baumkuchen cakes without glaze

While your cakes are cooling down, melt the butter and chocolate in a bain marie and stir well. Don’t overheat.

Baumkuchen rings close up

Stack your cakes on the cooling rack. Then pour the chocolate glaze over your cake. Make sure to cover the top and sides entirely to seal the cake.

Let the glaze cool and decorate your cake. You can use everything from confectioner’s sugar dusted on a stencil to fondant flowers, chocolate ornaments or dinosaurs. Or just leave it as it is. Most Baumkuchen cakes don’t last very long in our kitchen, anyway.

fondant flowers on Baumkuchen

If you tried the recipe and enjoyed it, I’d be happy to hear about it! And if you like what you see here, don’t forget to subscribe and leave comments!

Note: Most recipes will tell you to use one tin. And you can do that. But it will take much longer than this method. By using two tins, you will end up with two smaller cakes that you can stack. And you will be much faster by working simultaneously with two tins.

authentic German Baumkuchen
German Baumkuchen
fondant flowers on chocolate cake
German Baumkuchen

Velociraptor Birthday Party Cake

And just like that… over three months have passed since I last posted here. It wasn’t planned. Because life sometimes has other plans. The last quarter has been pretty insane and unpredictable, and for many reasons. A rollercoaster of emotions and hell at work. It was supposed to be a quiet year. And I have noticed that I say this more often than I should. But when times are difficult, it’s all the more important to reflect on the precious things in life. To take the time to appreciate the people who are always there for you and who never fail to make you smile. Your friends and family, whether it be your chosen or biological family. And what better way to do that than surprising them with a birthday cake! This one was made for my wonderful husband, who loves tanks and dinosaurs. So, of course, for his very special birthday party this year, he got a velociraptor birthday party cake!

velociraptor birthday party cake
birthday table with velociraptor birthday party cake

This isn’t a recipe for the cake itself – although it will follow, because it’s a German classic and one of my husband’s favourites. It’s a quick and simple instruction for a quick and simple way to decorate a birthday cake for your favourite dinosaur lover. (And the best thing is: you are never too old to love dinosaurs!)

toy dinosaur on chocolate cake

I mean, look at that smile. What a charmer!

velociraptor birthday party cake
material & ingredients
  • 1 birthday cake of your choice with your favourite chocolate frosting
  • 1/2 cup of crushed Graham crackers or crushed sweet biscuits
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate frosting
  • 40-50 wafer rolls (depending on the size of your cake)
  • 1 or 2 toy velociraptors (or other dinosaurs) that fit the size of your cake
  • 3-5 fake/plastic succulents

and for the tiny dinosaur party hat (optional):

  • scrapbook paper or wrapping paper with a pattern of your choice
  • one tiny pompom
  • 2-3 inches/ 5-8 cm of yarn (optional)
  • a round glass or tin with a diameter of about two inches (5 cm)
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • glue
velociraptor birthday party cake
instructions

Cut your wafer rolls into different lengths using a sharp knife. Depending on the size and height of a cake, the smallest pieces should be about one inch (2,5 cm) long, the longest about 1 to 2 inches (2,5f to 5 cm) longer than your cake is tall. Apply a thin layer of chocolate frosting to the back of each wafer roll to make them stick to your cake. Now press them gently against the side of your cake, creating a wave-like pattern, starting with the shortest ones, then gradually using the longer ones and ending with the short ones again. (Just look at the pictures, you’ll get the gist.) This will be your “fence” for the dangerous dinosaurs.

birthday table with velociraptor party cake

Use your crushed Graham Crackers or sweet biscuits to create a small mound of “sand” on top of your cake. (Use a food processor on pulse or the classic ziploc-bag-and-rolling-pin method to crush your crackers. You don’t want to grind them into a powder, so leave a few chunky bits inside.)

slice of cake with succulent

Clean and dry your toy velociraptor (or velociraptors) and fake succulents. Place the dinosaur (or dinosaurs) onto the cake first, preferably in the centre. Then arrange the fake succulents around them. This will be your prehistoric vegetation.

velociraptor birthday party cake

If you don’t want to give your dinosaur a funny party hat, you’re already done here! Simple, isn’t it?

dinosaur birthday cake on a table

But everything is better with party hats, right? And a velociraptor birthday party cake just wouldn’t be complete without them.

velociraptor birthday party cake with succulents
the party hat

To make the party hat, use the tin or glass to draw a circle on the back of the paper. Now cut along the line and cut the circle in halves. Use one half to roll into a cone. Your paper will overlap quite a bit, but that’s fine. Because like this, you can determine how wide or narrow your cone will be. Every dinosaur head is different, after all. Glue the cone together, then glue your little pompom on top of it. Now glue the ends of the yarn to opposite ends of the inside of the party hat to match the width of your velociraptor’s head. Or just glue it directly on top of your dinosaur. Works just as well and is faster.

Now you’re done!

velociraptor birthday party cake

Told you, it’s quick and simple and you don’t need crazy cake decorating skills or fondant knowledge to make a cake that will impress and bring a smile to the faces of the people who make you smile.

velociraptor birthday party cake with succulents
raptor birthday cake
German Baumkuchen