This plum cake is a German classic for "kaffee und kuchen" ie coffee time. It's easy to make and really lets the juicy, sweet-tart plum flavor shine.
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Germany and Austria were countries I visited often as a child. Most of the time we more traveled through Germany to get to Austria, if I'm honest. But we did spend a bit of time in a few areas. Then as a student, I lived in Eastern Germany for a semester as well.
All of the various visits gave me an appreciation of Germanic cuisine. Yes, many of the mains are porky and/or hearty, like Sauerbraten and Spaetzle. Desserts too, sometimes, like Dampfnudel. However it's worth remembering may dishes come from the need for farmers to pile on the calories.
One part I particularly enjoyed as a student was going to get coffee or a mug of Gluhwein to warm up on a cold day. As Christmas neared, the cafe often put a small slice of Stollen on the side. But even before then, I could sometimes be tempted by the various cakes on offer.
Germany's cake style
While I am not a huge sweet tooth on the whole, I did grow to enjoy many German desserts/treats. I think it helped cinnamon is a popular flavoring, which I love.
While not an absolute rule, the "kaffee mit kuchen" tradition may involve a simpler cake like apricot cake during the week and something more elaborate, like a Black Forest cake, at the weekend. This cake is probably more of the midweek style, but I for one think it's still something special.
Variations in German plum cake
This cake goes by a few different names (Pflaumekuchen, Zwetschgenkuchen) depending on where you are, and has some variations in how you make it as well. Some have streusel on top, others don't and the base varies.
While you can make this with more of a shortbread base, I went for the yeasted cake base that I remember and loved. Don't be scared by the fact that it's a yeast dough - it comes together very easily, doesn't need much kneading and only a short rise time.
What kind of plums are best?
While it might be tempting to go for those big, juicy sweet plums that you find in summer (which are great for plum jam or a plum crumble though!), for this I'd actually go for something different. Here, you are more looking for a slight complexity of flavor and the smaller, more tart plums tend to be better. Not to mention, they fit a bit more easily in the dish and hold their form better once cooked.
So I'd opt for relatively small plums, maybe damsons if they are available. I've seen suggestions of using "prune" plums as well. I had a small variety but it wasn't actually named. They should be ripe but not overly so. It's nice to have some juice come from them, but you also don't want the base soaked.
Whatever plums you choose, you want to cram them in tightly to get as much wonderful flavor as possible. Slightly offset from one row to the next works well.
Depending on how sweet or tart the plums are, you can add a little extra sugar over the plums. Do this before you add the streusel rather than before the dough is left to rest/rise. If you leave it on a while, it can make the plums release juice and moisten the base.
You don't have to make the streusel layer (and some versions don't), but for me it's a must. First, it adds a lovely texture to top it all off, but also there is a hint of cinnamon in there which just works perfectly with everything else.
If you decide not to add the streusel, then at least sprinkle a little cinnamon and sugar on top to get a little of the classic flavors.
If you have any of this left, it will keep a day or two at room temperature in a sealed container. You can re-heat it, but if you do so in the microwave the streusel will melt. I'd say it's optional - when fresh, I like this warm but go either way the next day.
For me this German plum cake brings back delicious memories, but the whole family (who don't have that) loved it as well. It's easy to make and a wonderful way to enjoy a fruit that can be under-used. Give it a try and you'll be sure to agree.
Try these other tasty treats perfect with a cup of tea or coffee:
- Swedish cardamon buns
- Polish gingerbread cake/honey spice cake (piernik)
- Coconut mango scones
- French pear cake
- Sour cream mocha cake
- Plus get more snack recipes, both sweet and savory, and German recipes in the archives.
German plum cake (Pflaumenkuchen)
For the base
- 175 g all purpose flour plain flour
- 30 g sugar
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 45 g unsalted butter
- 60 ml milk (I used whole and recommend that but part/semi-skimmed also ok)
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For plum layer
- 400 g plums small and pos more tart eg damsons/Italian prune plums
- ½ tablespoon sugar (optional, or increase if tart plums)
- 48 g all purpose flour plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 22 g unsalted butter
- 33 g sugar I suggest ½ of this raw or demerara, rest regular
For base and plums (1hr ahead)
- Lightly butter an 8x8 inch (20x20cm) baking dish or tin. Mix together the dry ingredients for the base - flour, sugar, yeast and salt - in a medium bowl.
- Put the butter and milk into a small microwavable dish and warm in 15 second intervals to gently warm the milk and melt the butter. The butter should be just melting and the milk lukewarm. Add this mixture (left to cool first, if too warm), the egg yolk and the vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix all together.
- Knead the dough gently for a minute or two - it should be soft but not wet so add a little more flour if too wet, or milk if it seems to crumble from being dry. Then, press the dough into the buttered baking dish. Press it right to the corners, flat across the bottom then slightly up at the edges.
- Cut the plums in half, along the bit that looks like a seam, then remove the stone. Cut each plum half in half. Arrange the plum quarters over the base as tightly as you can, ideally in rows, cut side up. Leave the dish at warm room temperature to let the dough rise slightly for approximately 1 hour (don't worry if it doesn't obviously change much).
Adding streusel and baking
- As the rest time is about done, preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Sprinkle the ½tbsp of sugar over the plums, if using.
- Rub together the flour, cinnamon, butter and sugar for the streusel then sprinkle it evenly over the plums.
- Bake the cake for approximately 30 -35 minutes, until the top is gently starting to brown and you can see the plums have softened underneath. Let the cake rest for around 10 minutes before cutting into slices. Works well as it is, both warm or at room temperature, as well as with cream.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
Try these other brunch ideas:
- Einspänner (Viennese Coffee with Whipped Cream) by Tara's Multicultural Table
- Strawberry Rhubarb Mimosas by Kate's Recipe Box
Breads & Pastries Recipes
- Biscuit Ebelskiver by A Kitchen Hoor's Adventures
- Bourbon Pecan French Toast Casserole by Love & Confections
- Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins by Family Around the Table
- Homemade Cream Cheese Danish by Big Bears Wife
- Soft Summer Herb Bread Knots by Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Blueberries and Cream Galette by The Spiffy Cookie
- Chocolate Raspberry Crumb Bars by Sweet Beginnings
- Cookies and Cream Macarons by April Golightly
Can I use rehydrated prunes for this recipe? I'm attempting this when plums are out of season.
To me, dried fruits (even rehydrated) tend to have a different flavor, and so while it may well still be tasty, it certainly won't be the same. I'd suggest using drained, canned plums would be a better bet. And while I have never seen frozen plums to buy, for future reference you could try freezing some when in season.
This is wonderful Kuchen. I used Italian plums which are only available in South Texas for a couple of weeks. Thought I bought enough but not enough for this recipe -so, I did what cooks everywhere have been doing for hundreds of years - I improvised. Half of the cake with plums - the other half with blueberries. I used the streusel on both.
All I can say is that they were both delicious and not a single piece was left uneaten! I’ll be bringing this to my events often.
Thanks for publishing !!
I'm glad to hear you enjoyed, and blueberry sounds delicious too (and great improvising!)
I am German but can’t cook nor bake ( but I can follow a great recipe) but have high expectations when it comes to my food. When I read the recipe it wasn’t looking very promising but I needed to use some plums that were overripe and was tired looking any further. So- bottom line- GREAT recipe- such DELICIOUS cake. The form of 9x 9 was to small for me so I multiplied the ingredients by 2.5 and filled a whole baking sheet. I also cut the plums slices thinner and pushed them like shingles. 5 stars. I printed it and the recipe went into my folder of favorites. Well done!!!! Thank you!!!,
So glad to hear you enjoyed it! And yes multiplying up is always great if you are looking for a larger cake.
I made this yesterday and it came out great! I used a springform pan, it looks so fancy and tastes delicious with coffee 🙂
So glad to hear you enjoyed! It's definitely one of my favorites - and yes, perfect with coffee.
I love plums and I am always looking for new ways to enjoy them. This cake looks delicious.
Thanks, I hope you enjoy it - it's certainly one we really enjoy (both the plum fans and less-big fans!)
This looks absolutely delightful! What a lovely use for prunes...absolutely delicious and one I must try soon!
Thanks, it is such a favorite and yes a great way to use some prune plums.
Hi, an egg yolk is mentioned in the directions, but isn't listed under ingredients. Is it necessary? Thanks
Oops, thank you for spotting I somehow cut that out originally - now updated. You could get away without adding it, but it does help to make the dough slightly easier to work with (it may crumble more easily without) and richer.
I adore plum season and plum desserts. Your cake looks gorgeous and sounds amazingly delicious. I cannot wait to give it a try! Let me catch the plum season! 🙂
Plums are definitely a favorite here, and this is a delicious way to enjoy some. Enjoy!
How long does it need to sit in the warm environment?
Apologies, that detail seems to have been missed/deleted at some point so I have just updated - it should be left around an hour. Hope you enjoy!
My mother is from Munich, and their version just has the sugar and cinnamon topping. Also they us Italian plums, the ones that come out in mid August into September. I would always for that time of year to have fresh kuchen. I'm her later years she would travel to Munich every fall, and I would eat plum cake as much as I could.
I can imagine that must have been wonderful! Yes I have heard of using Italian plums as well and know some versions skip the streusel part - lots of variations, but all good I think!