Easy German Plum Cake (aka Zwetschgenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen)

This easy plum cake is a popular dessert in Germany (it’s called Zwetschgenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen in German). Filled with fresh plums and topped with streusel, it’s the perfect summer treat. To make it extra delicious, serve with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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Do you like plums? Not being a fan of fresh plums myself, I balked at making German Plum Cake. For years. But it’s popular in Germany,so I finally decided to give it a try.

The result?

I loved it so much I made it twice in two weeks! It’s now one of my favorite traditional German cakes, and I make it at least once a summer when plums are in season.

Each bite of this easy German cake is a delicious combination of tender cake, melt-in-your-mouth sweet plum, and buttery streusel.

How to make it even better? Add a dollop of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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You can replace the plums with another stone fruit (like peaches) but I highly recommend using fresh plums. As they bake, they become soft and sweet and taste so good with the crunchy streusel. Plums really are perfect for this cake. 

Oh, and in case you want to look for it while traveling in Germany, plum cake in German is Zwetschgenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen (and cake in German is Kuchen). If plums are in season, it’ll be easy to find at bakeries and cafes all over Germany. Some versions are baked in a tray and are served in square slices, while others are baked in a round spring form pan.

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German plum cake is the perfect treat to bring to your next work potluck or family dinner. Or just enjoy a slice of this easy plum cake in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea. 

Fortunately, this plum cake is super easy to make! I had the entire cake prepared and in the oven in less than 10 minutes. Whip the cream while the cake is baking and you’ve got a delicious dessert in no time. 

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How to Make German Plum Cake

There are three layers in this cake: the bottom cake layer, the middle plum layer, and the top streusel layer.

The first step is to make the cake. Some German plum cake recipes use a yeast dough (like the version of yeast cake I use in my Bee Sting Cake) but I opted for the simpler Quark-oil-dough (Quark-Öl-Teig), or rather Greek yogurt-oil-dough, since I didn’t have any Quark on hand (if you want to be authentic, get my Quark recipe here). 

This cake dough (it’s definitely a dough rather than a batter) comes together quickly and, once baked, tastes delicious with the plums. It’s not a thick cake so it doesn’t overpower the plums and you get a nice ratio of cake to plums to streusel.

So, add Quark (or Greek yogurt), milk, sugar, oil, vanilla (you can use either vanilla sugar or vanilla extract), flour, baking powder, and salt to a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir until a dough forms. The dough will probably feel sticky and a bit wet.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead it a few times until it becomes smooth (or knead it right in the bowl if it’s big enough!). The flour added will make the dough less sticky. If the dough remains sticky, keep sprinkling flour onto the dough a little at a time.

Gently press the dough into a quarter sheet pan (that’s a 13 x 9 x 1 in pan – I use this USA pan) lined with either a Silpat mat or parchment paper. I’ve used both and they both work great.

It might initially look like there’s not enough dough for the pan. Just keep gently pressing the dough into the pan to spread it evenly. It will fit! Tip: dip your fingers in water before you press and spread the dough – that will prevent them from sticking.

I should say here that I always make my plum cake using a sheet pan (I do the same with my German Bienenstich cake) because that’s how I often at it in Germany. If you prefer a round plum cake, use a springform pan. 

At this point I like to sprinkle a little cream of wheat on the dough, but you can leave this out if you want.

The next step is to prepare the plums. After washing the plums, cut them in half, take out the pit, and then slice into 4-8 pieces (depending on the size of the plums).

Then place the plum slices in rows on the cake dough, skin side down. If you have enough plums you can place them so they overlap. The plums bake down so you really can’t have too many!

The final step is to prepare the 3rd layer: the streusel! Add the flour, sugar, vanilla sugar (optional), cinnamon (optional), and salt to a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir with a spoon or a whisk until combined.

Then add the butter and work it into the flour with your fingers.

Sprinkle the streusel over the plums. I’ve made the this cake with fewer streusel “chunks” (below, left) and with more (below, right). Both ways are good, so make it how you prefer.

Pop the cake into the oven and bake at 350F/177C for 45-55 minutes. Bake until the plums are bubbly and the streusel is golden brown. If the streusel browns before the plums are bubbly, place a sheet of foil over the streusel. I always set the timer for 40 minutes and check it every 5 or so minutes until it’s done.

Once the plum cake is finished baking, let it cool. Then cut into 12-15 portions.

You can eat this cake warm or cold. It’s delicious solo and even better with fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or my homemade no churn clotted cream ice cream). Enjoy!

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How to Make Plum Cake: Easy German Plum Cake Recipe

German Plum Cake

German Plum Cake

Yield: 12-15 portions
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Fresh sweet plums and butter streusel make this easy traditional German cake perfect for your next work potluck, family dinner or afternoon snack! 

Ingredients

CAKE DOUGH

  • 1/2 cup [120g] Quark or Greek yogurt
  • 3 TBSP milk
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 3 TBSP canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar)
  • 1 3/4 cups [220g] flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

FRUIT TOPPING

  • 2-3 lbs [1+ kilo] fresh plums
  • 1 TBSP cream of wheat (optional)

STREUSEL

  • 1 cup [120g] flour
  • 1/2 cup [70g] sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional) 
  • 1 TBSP vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 6 TBSP [100g] cold butter (diced)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F/177C.
  2. To make the dough, mix yogurt (or Quark), milk, sugar, oil, vanilla extract, flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. 
  3. Once dough forms a ball, turn onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a couple times until dough becomes smooth. Be careful, though, not to add too much flour or overwork the dough (if you do it may come out tough).
  4. Press dough into quarter sheet (12x9x1) baking roll pan lined with parchment. Sprinkle the cream of wheat over the dough (optional). 
  5. Cut plums in half and then each half into 2-4 slices (I cut smaller plums into 4 slices total, larger plums into 8). Arrange slices on the dough skin side down.
  6. To make the streusel topping, mix the flour, sugar and cinnamon together. Then rub the butter into the flour mixture. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the plums. 
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until crust and streusel are lightly browned. 
  8. Let cool and serve with fresh whipped cream or a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

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About Author

I love baking, traveling, and sharing delicious recipes for European Christmas Cookies! I used to live in Germany, have worked on 4 continents, and now enjoy baking and blogging from my adopted home in North Carolina, USA.

21 Comments

  • shivangi
    December 18, 2018 at 11:11 am

    plum cakes are the main part of Christmas …and having this blog in this month is very useful thank you

    Reply
    • Cate
      December 24, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      I hope you enjoy this German plum cake!

      Reply
  • Jean Ingram
    March 4, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    How to use this recipe for high altitude?

    Reply
    • Cate
      March 5, 2019 at 4:37 pm

      Good question! I’ve almost always lived at sea level so I had to look it up. 🙂 Here’s an article I found that gives lots of tips for baking at various altitudes (since I don’t know the specific altitude you’re at) – http://dish.allrecipes.com/high-altitude-cake-baking/ For this type of cake, I’d follow these tips (to avoid a dry cake when baking at high altitude):

      – Don’t overbeat the eggs. Overbeating adds too much air to the cake.
      – Raise the baking temperature slightly; the faster cooking time will keep the recipe from rising too much. At elevations over 3,500 feet, the oven temperature for batters and doughs should be about 25 degrees F higher than the temperature used at sea level.
      – Decrease the amount of baking powder slightly; this also prevents the recipe from rising too much.

      Let me know how it turns out!

      Reply
  • Teresa
    August 22, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    I think there is an error in this recipe. 3/4 tbsp sugar for the streusel topping was not sufficient to sweeten this dessert. I used tree-ripened plums harvested at their peak sweetness and when baked this was just as sour as a plate of lemons. I wanted to follow the recipe exactly the first time, but if I ever make it again, the streusel topping needs 3/4 CUP of sugar instead of tablespoon.

    Reply
    • Cate
      August 22, 2019 at 7:51 pm

      Oof, yes, that should be 3/4 cup sugar! Thanks for letting me know, I just fixed the typo. I hope you were able to sweeten up the cake with a sprinkle of sugar or topping it with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

      Reply
  • MaryJo
    September 4, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    This sounds wonderful and it would be perfect for an event that I’m attending tomorrow. Can you suggest an alternative to Cream of Wheat? Perhaps all-purpose flour or cornstarch?

    Reply
    • Cate
      September 4, 2019 at 5:56 pm

      If your plums are really, really juicy, you could sprinkle a little corn starch on them but if they’re not overly juicy, I’d just leave out the Cream of Wheat altogether. I hope you enjoy the cake!

      Reply
      • MaryJo
        September 4, 2019 at 8:32 pm

        They’re not terribly juicy, so I’ll skip it. And I know everyone will love it! Thanks for your prompt reply.
        MJ

        Reply
  • Peter Calvin
    August 22, 2020 at 6:31 am

    Tried a plum cake a few days back but it never turned out how i expected. Was searching for some recipe for a good plum cake and landed right here. This time i would follow the instructions properly and hope it turns out good. Anyways, thanks for sharing the recipe. Cheers!

    Reply
  • Robert Gillikin
    August 24, 2020 at 3:55 am

    Kate, I am 1/2 German on moms side, my Grandma used to make, what I can only describe as a plum pizza. It would be on a cookie sheet, with plums, cream cheese and the crumble. I am making your cake, but have added a 1/2 of a package of cream cheese, placed randomly around the plums with the crumble on top. I hope it turns out. I’ll let you know.

    Reply
    • Cate, International Desserts Blog
      August 24, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      Let me know how it turns out with the cream cheese!

      Reply
      • Robert Gillikin
        September 30, 2020 at 11:08 pm

        It turned out pretty well, but the creame cheese didn’t melt as well as I had hoped, but everyone enjoyed it just the same. I am trying again and see it I can replicate grandma’s plum dessert. She also did one with blueberries

        Reply
        • Cate, International Desserts Blog
          October 1, 2020 at 6:37 pm

          Thanks for coming back and letting me know how it worked! Here are a couple ideas for next time: Quark sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla (that’s in a lot of German pastries so it might work – I have a homemade Quark recipe on the IDB if you want to make it from scratch) or try a custard type topping like in my German Apple Cream Cake (https://www.internationaldessertsblog.com/german-apfelkuchen-german-apple-custard-cake/). If your grandmother did a version with blueberries it makes me think it might have been a custard type top layer like in my apple cake. Good luck – it’s fun trying all the variations, isn’t it?

          Reply
  • Dottie Oliver
    September 17, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Cate,
    I’m looking for the bread version of this. My 96 year old all German mom has been talking plum Kuche all summer. I had a recipe but cannot find it. Her folks came through Canada from the Volga River area in the late 1800s early 1900. They had 13 children out of 15 live births. There are 6 of them left ranging from 99 years old down to 79. I hope you have this recipe in the bread version. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Dottie Oliver
    September 18, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you Cate. I’m on the hunt!
    D

    Reply
  • Courtney
    September 29, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Do you use plain yogurt for the dough?

    Reply
    • Cate, International Desserts Blog
      September 29, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      I use Greek yogurt (or Quark). Plain yogurt has too much liquid in it. You *might* be able to use plain yogurt if you strain it for several hours – but I haven’t tried that so I don’t know for sure if it would work.

      Reply

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