Stollen is Germany's Christmas cake and this authentic version is made with prunes, lemon zest & cardamon. It's wonderfully aromatic, moist & delicious - the perfect seasonal treat. And bonus: it's easy to make.
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Stollen is for me something that brings back lots of delicious memories. I travelled to Austria and Germany relatively often as a child for vacations, but then had the opportunity to live in Germany for a semester when I was a student as well.
I didn't necessarily make things easy on myself as I went to a relatively small town that at that point still had some challenges - I was in the East that was still building a more functional infrastructure post-reunification. That said, it was still nothing compared to my semester in the South of Russia, but that's one for another post.
German Christmas traditions
I was in Germany over Christmas-time which was a lovely time to be there. Every town has a Christmas market, packed with handmade wooden decorations as well as other gifts and food items. German Christmas celebrations felt much less of a 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, candles and handmade cookies.
Plus, there was stollen.
I had already had stollen, Germany's Christmas cake, before then but having freshly made versions was obviously much better. And as a student, I was all too pleased to discover that most cafes gave you a slice each time you bought a coffee or mug of mulled wine. 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 German hazelnut Christmas cookies and German ginger cookies, ingwerplätchen) and a couple of versions of stollen.
I am not sure quite how I never got round to trying one of the stollen recipes for years, 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, traditional German stollen is a real taste of Christmas to me.
Is stollen the same as fruit cake?
While stollen shares some of the same ingredients, especially those versions made with candied peel, stollen is really more of a bread with fruit in it than a fruit cake. It is typically less sweet, less dense and less rich. But don't worry, it's one tasty treat (and to many, myself included, possibly better).
Variations on stollen
There are two main types of stollen: with or without marzipan in the middle. Personally, I always liked the marzipan core so it was a must for me in this.
Marzipan is actually very easy to make so I made some for this, as I describe below. If you prefer, you can miss this out if you are less of a fan.
Many versions of stollen have a combination of raisins and candied peel in them. However I really liked the sound of this prune/dried plum version that our teacher gave us the recipe for. It also includes lemon zest, cardamon and a higher proportion of quark, and the aromatic flavor is simply wonderful.
What is 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 the ricotta/sour cream mix as an alternative (or any other substitute you know) and let me know how it works out as I have yet to try!
How to make stollen
Making stollen is much like making any other fruit cake or non-yeast bread. The only bit that's a little different is adding the marzipan and the final moulding part.
See how it comes together in the short video!
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. Don't worry that it seems a bit high - it will kind of "melt" as it cooks.
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, after all.
Given that it's otherwise not that sweet, it's also a lovely way to balance out everything else.
A taste of Christmas for any occasion
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, this plum stollen would be just as good any other time of year. So find your excuse, get baking, and enjoy.
Try some more traditional Christmas baking:
- Panettone (Italian Christmas bread)
- Brunkager (Danish spiced cookies)
- Kolachy cookies
- Basler brunsli - Swiss chocolate almond cookies
- Plus get more ideas in the Holiday recipes archives.
Traditional German stollen with prunes
For the marzipan
- ½ cup almond meal 60g ground almonds
- ½ cup confectioners sugar 55g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp egg white approx ½ of one egg white
For the stollen
- 2 ¾ oz dried plums 75g (prunes), pitted
- 1 egg
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour 250g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup sugar 100g (optional - see notes)
- ¼ tsp ground cardamon I tend to crack open a few pods and grind the seeds in pestle and mortar
- ½ 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, ½ stick, just melted
- ½ tbsp milk
- ¼ 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.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Take a look at these other fruit cake-inspired recipes:
- Aussie Boiled Fruitcake by Food Lust People Love
- Brandied Apricot-Ginger Fruitcake by Cherishing a Sweet Life
- 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
This post was originally posted in December 2015 and has been updated, primarily with new photos and video as well as additional information.