Baumkuchen (German Tree Cake): A Labor of Love

by Karen on Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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As a food blogger, I'm constantly bombarded by food recipes and photos at an attention-deficit inducing rate.  This has resulted in probably the largest, most disorderly bookmark folder known to man, and most of which I'll probably never get to given the limitations of the human stomach.  So, when I make it a priority to cook something I've seen floating around on the world wide web, it is special. I first saw this cake on fellow globetrotter Sasha's blog, Global Table Adventure.

This gorgeous German cake consists of many separately baked layers, when cut resembles the rings of an old tree.  Traditionally, the cake is made on a spit with each new layer added (or batter painted on) when the previous layer is cooked by the heat surrounding the spit.  A typical baumkuchen will have up to 15 to 20 layers so it takes quite some time and patience to construct this cake (this is not for the amateur or impatient baker– there, that's my disclaimer).  Because most households don't come equipped with a baumkuchen spit, a home version of the German tree cake has been developed called the, schichttorte. This uses a typical oven broiler to cook each layer in the typical cake form.  Although you loose the appearance of tree rings, you'll still have the beautiful cross section layers in each slice.

I will again warn you this requires an incredible amount of patience because each 2 millimeter layer needs to be browned before the next layer of batter is spread on.  However, I found it to be the perfect winter weekend project– there was something meditative about the repeated action of brushing the batter and jam.  My suggestion is to just turn off the heater, crank up the broiler and put on your favorite album.  Okay maybe more like 2 albums.

Despite all the work, this cake is very much worth the effort.  It's beautiful, delicate, and most importantly tastes incredible.  Here's Sasha's family recipe and I hope these photos inspire you to make your own!



Belinda @zomppa January 4, 2012 at 5:44 am

That is no easy cake to frost and layer – impressive and simply inviting!

Lan January 4, 2012 at 8:17 am

a cake like this is exactly what is needed on a cold winter’s weekend day. the repetitive nature of the layers, and then frosting it, makes for a satisfying project and the grand finale of actually tucking into it next to a fire? sublime.

Karen January 23, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Glad you share my thoughts on this! Love cozy winter days like this

Deana January 4, 2012 at 10:22 am


Hogger & Co. January 4, 2012 at 10:34 am

So happy to have found your blog! This is some major food porn, yo.

Karen January 23, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Thanks so much and welcome!

Sasha (Global Table Adventure) January 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

You did a *beautiful* job – so wonderful… it’s not only great for cold winter’s days.. but also a great time-eating activity to do with kids (that’s what my mom did with us)… thank you so much 🙂

la domestique January 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Love this post! It’s great to see you take the time to make something like this, and you’ve done a beautiful job of it. I do find comfort in recipes that require this kind of effort, it’s a pleasure if you give yourself plenty of time to get lost in the task. You’ve inspired me!

LeeLee January 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Looks delicious and what a fun challenge to make. Impressive.

LEAH January 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Wow! Such beautiful photos of a beautiful cake! My bf’s bday is coming up so I think I’m going to have to make this for him.

Btw, I tagged you in this post if you’re up for it –


Karen January 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Hope you do– let us know how it turns out 🙂

Sylvia @ My Lovely Bites January 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Just woken up, in a fairly gray day for being summer, and this is what I set my eyes on first thing in the morning: it’s gonna be a wonderful day! 🙂

Nisrine M. January 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Wow, your German cake is beautifully layered and delicious.

A happy, healthy New Year to you!



Hannah January 5, 2012 at 1:00 am

Looks amazing!

I’d never heard of these before I moved to Japan, where for some reason (aside from deliciousness) they’re hugely popular and can be found in the usual cute cellophane in every convenience store. Cue a couple of extra kilos on the hips…

Karen January 23, 2012 at 11:12 pm

But completely worth those kilos. Interesting fact about its popularity in Japan! Wish it was just as popular here in the States…

deana@lostpastremembered January 5, 2012 at 6:41 am

Amazing cake… although the idea of painting on the layers is something one could imagine only the Germans could come up with!!! You did an unbelievable job. It reminds me of one of the cakes my German gram used to make that I loved… blitztorte… layers and custard and meringue… sinfully good. Who says Germans can’t cook!

Karen January 23, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Oh my goodness– layers of custard and meringues??? googling it now…

Jessica January 6, 2012 at 2:23 am

That looks incredible, I don’t think I can go back to plain sponge now…

Ivonne January 7, 2012 at 11:26 am

Wow. A thing of absolute beauty! Nothing makes me happier than baking, especially when it’s baking that takes into consideration the vast array of baking traditions around the world. Delicious!

Brian @ A Thought For Food January 12, 2012 at 9:36 pm

I want this cake in my belly! It just looks fabulous!

rebecca January 16, 2012 at 7:34 pm

wow love it great job

s January 19, 2012 at 10:31 am

happy new year, lovely. what a gorgeous cake. so delicate and yet so rich. i am like you, i have a crazy bookmarks folder, too- and twitter is the culprit! x s

Yan January 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

There is a similar-looking layer cake in South East Asia countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is called Kueh Lapis. There’s ground cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom in the batter so the cake bakes up like a gingerbread cake.

Karen January 23, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Thanks for sharing! I love learning about all these variations of a similar concept– makes the world feel a little smaller 🙂

sarah the baker yoon January 23, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I absolutely love your blog!!! What an awesome friendship/partnership of exploring the world of FOOD together. And your recipes and photos all look PERFECT. This cake looks especially laborious.. thanks for sharing it with us!

Karen January 23, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Thanks for the kind words Sarah and welcome. We’re glad you’re enjoying it!

Melissa January 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Beautiful pictures. One of these thin layer cakes has been on my baking wish list for a while, just haven’t had the time yet. Maybe someday 🙂 I’ll add this one to my very long and disorganized bookmarks list too.

Jules January 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

OMG, I’m soo excited you have posted a recipe for this cake. I am obsessed with the baumkuchen and the only place I could find them was when I travelled to Japan as they are too obsessed with them there. My obsession with them is so embarassing that I would have to formulate reasons to separate from my husband while we were in Japan so I could secretly and piggishly indulge in them more than I would have liked to admit. Thank god for all the walking as I would have ended up as round as a baumkuchen. Anyway, no more sneaking around, I can make these at home. WOOP!
By the way love your blog and your photos, gorgeous!

Karen February 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thank you Jules– I had no idea when I made this that they were so popular in Japan! Good luck with the cake!

Joyti January 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Wow, that tree cake sounds and looks incredible.
And I love your photographs, so pretty, and they convey a sense of peace and comfort.
(p.s. Hope the semester is going well for you so far)

Caroline February 3, 2012 at 10:59 pm

Just stumbled on your site via someone else’s recommendation. I love the concept of your blog and this cake looks so beautiful and tempting. It’s quite similar to the Indian Bebinca cake in construction (which I adore with a vengeance!) so I will definitely give this a bash. Need to get rid of the kids first! A quiet morning at school ,would be the perfect time! Thanks for sharing 😉

Andi Arbeit February 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

As a german, I have to add that the origins and the perfection of this Tree-Cake lies in Poland. I can’t remember exactly the name but it was a small village and when producing the cake, they roll it on a skewer to make very thin layers.

Creative Photo Albums February 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm

15-20 layers sounds exhausting to me. But I guess it’s worth all the effort at the end. I can’t wait to grab a bite of this.

BR February 14, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Hey, there’s a traditional Malay cake, called the Kuih Lapis, which bears similarity to the German tree cake in terms of appearance and the process of making it. Taste wise, there might be a difference. Here’s a picture of it:

How interesting to have found out that there’s a similar albeit unique cake in the other side of the continent!:D

Kelsey April 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm

holy smokes, karen. this is stunning.

Karen April 14, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Thanks so much! it was a labor of love.

Sarah May 19, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Wow, impressive to say the least.

Heather July 24, 2012 at 6:59 pm

We are opening a shop to offer these in the United States. It is the Japanese version of the Tree Cake. I would be happy to send samples once we open.

Very best

Mon Petit Chou November 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

Just stumbled on this blog. I love it.

This is absolutely gorgeous. Can’t wait to try it.


ti (matimuk) December 3, 2012 at 1:18 am

I love “Baumkuchen”´s my favourite Christmas-cake.. 🙂

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