Stollen is Germany’s Christmas cake and this version is made with dried plums, lemon zest & spice. It’s wonderfully moist & delicious – the perfect seasonal treat.
Stollen is for me something that brings back lots of delicious memories. I am pretty sure I mentioned before that I spent a year half in Germany, half in Russia when I was a student as part of my degree, with the idea being to better learn the language and culture of each place. Both were interesting and largely enjoyable experiences. I didn’t necessarily make things easy on myself as I went to relatively small towns that at least at that point still had their challenges living there (in Germany I was in the East that was still building a more functional infrastructure post-reunification; in Russia I was in the rural South).
I was in Germany over Christmas-time which was a lovely time to be there. The Christmas markets were so pretty and it felt a much less commercial celebration than what is more typical in the UK or US (although there were still gifts on sale, they were mainly things like hand carved toys and decorations). Plus, there was stollen. I had already had stollen, Germany’s Christmas cake, before then but having freshly made versions was obviously much better. Even better, the fact most cafes gave you a slice each time you bought a coffee or mug of mulled wine was a dream for a poor student. Or at least ones like me who were stollen fans.
Learning about German Christmas baking
Our teacher at the university did one session all about German Christmas baking and shared a number of recipes for cookies (like the hazelnut ones I shared before) and a couple of versions of stollen. I am not sure quite how I never got round to trying one of the stollen recipes before now, especially when I saw how good this dried plum stollen sounded. This version is only a slight adaptation of the original our teacher described. And the result is every bit as delicious as any stollen I had while I was there. Gently spiced and fruity, it’s a real taste of Christmas to me. I always liked stollen with marzipan in the middle so I made some to add in the center as you’ll see, but you can miss this out if you are less of a fan.
Variations on stollen
Many versions of stollen have a combination of raisins and candied peel in them but I really liked the sound of this dried plum (or prune, as we’d call them in the UK) version which also includes lemon zest, cardamon and a higher proportion of quark. Quark, if you are unfamiliar with it, is very common in German baking and is a kind of cottage cheese but a little different from those kinds you may be more familiar with.
I admit I was surprised to find quark in one of my local supermarkets and know that may be a local thing (as it is a Vermont producer). I was all ready to try what I’d found as an alternative suggestion of 9 parts ricotta and 1 part sour cream. If you can find it, great, if not try that as an alternative or any other substitute you know and let me know how it works out as I have yet to try!
How it’s made
Making stollen is much like making any other fruit cake, apart from the final moulding part. You just mix together the dry ingredients, add the wet and the fruit and nuts and combine. The dough is then flattened out and folded over to make the typical stollen shape, with marzipan in the middle if you are using. Once it has baked and cooled, you brush it with melted butter and scatter with confectioners sugar. It looks like a little dusting of snow. Don’t be tempted to skip this, it really finishes off the cake. I appreciate it’s less healthy but it is almost Christmas…
A taste of Christmas for any occasion
Since the theme for this month’s Foodie Extravaganza is fruit cake, it seemed only fair to share one that has so many delicious memories for me. This version of stollen is both pretty easy to make and delicious. The smells are fantastic as it bakes and the flavor as you eat it is every bit as good. The cardamon and lemon give it a lovely aromatic flavor without being overpowering. Meanwhile, the texture is so soft, moist and pillowy from the quark. While it’s a wonderful Christmas-time treat, it would be just as good any other time of year. So get baking, and enjoy.
Dried plum stollen (German Christmas cake)
Germany's Christmas cake is a delicious combination of dried fruit in a gently spiced cake.
For the marzipan
- 1/2 cup almond meal 60g ground almonds
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar 55g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp egg white approx 1/2 of one egg white
For the stollen
- 2 3/4 oz dried plums 75g (prunes), pitted
- 1 egg
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour 250g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamon I tend to crack open a few pods and grind the seeds in pestle and mortar
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 lemon zest
- 8 oz quark 225g, 1 tub or replace with ricotta with a little sour cream (approx 9:1)
- 2 oz unsalted butter 55g, 1/2 stick, just melted
- 1/2 tbsp milk
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts 30g
To top/for dusting
- 1 tbsp butter approx
- 1 tbsp confectioners sugar approx
Preheat oven to 300F/150C and line a good-sized baking sheet.
If including marzipan, mix together the almond meal, confectioners sugar and egg white and bring it together in a ball. Knead slightly and form into a short log, around 1in/2.5cm thick.
For the stollen itself, first chop the dried plums into small pieces, each plum into roughly 4-6 pieces.
Lightly whisk the egg and saffron together in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar, cardamon, nutmeg and lemon zest. Watch with the lemon zest in particular that it is well distributed as it can clump together.
Add the egg mixture, quark, butter, milk, walnuts and chopped dried plums. Then mix until well combined but try not to overmix.
Next, lightly flour a work surface and turn the mixture out. Flatten it out into a circle around 1in/2.5cm thick. Lay the marzipan log in the middle, if using, and fold one side over the top. If not using marzipan, still fold the dough over to the other side, stopping a bit short of the edge. Gently use the back of your fingers to seal the top and bottom layers - it should end up slightly domed rather than very thick to the edge.
Place on a lined baking sheet with plenty of room for it to spread and bake for 60-70 min until gently golden around the outside and a skewer comes out clean. If you have used marzipan, then don't test in the middle but a bit to the side as the marzipan will probably make it tricky to tell.
Allow to cool on a baking rack.
Once cool, brush the outside with melted butter to give it a light coating then sprinkle with confectioners sugar by rubbing it through a sieve to ensure nice and fine. Serve in slices.
Try these other festive treats:
Take a look at all the other fruit cake-inspired recipes being shared today. This month’s host is Laura of Baking in Pyjamas (who is hosting on her birthday – happy birthday!):
- Aussie Boiled Fruitcake by Food Lust People Love
- Brandied Apricot-Ginger Fruitcake by Cherishing a Sweet Life
- Chocolate Fruit Cake by Baking in Pyjamas
- Cinnamon Apple Cake by Fearlessly Creative Mammas
- Dried Plum Stollen by Caroline’s Cooking
- Festive Kid Friendly Fruitcake Muffins by A Day in the Life on a Farm
- Fruit (Pan)cakes by Sew You Think You Can Cook
- Irish Spiced Fruitcake by Making Miracles
- Lemon Berries Bundt Cake by Cookin and Craftin
Foodie Extravaganza is where we celebrate obscure food holidays or cook and bake together with the same ingredient or theme each month. This month Laura invited bloggers to come up with their favourite Christmas Fruit Cake as December is national Fruit Cake month. We hope you all enjoy our favorite festive fruit cakes this month and come back to see what we bring for you next month.
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