Easy German Plum Cake With No Yeast (aka Zwetschgenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen)
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This easy German 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 even a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What You Need to Make This Traditional German Plum Cake Recipe
For the no yeast dough:
- Quark or Greek yogurt
- White sugar
- Canola oil
- Vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar)
- All purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Pinch of salt
For the plum and streusel topping:
- Ripe plums (If you can find fresh Italian plums, use those. If not, just use American plums or another type of European-style plums. I use what I find in my local grocery store and the cake always turns out great. It’s ok if you can’t use the same type of plum Germans would use!)
- Cream of wheat (optional)
- All purpose flour
- Cinnamon (optional)
- Cold unsalted butter
- Large bowls or stand mixer
- Mixing spoon
- Baking tray or sheet pan
- Silicone baking mat or parchment
- Paring knife
? 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 quick and easy 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, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. 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 wedges 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! If you’d like the plums to taste a little sweeter, sprinkle a little extra sugar on them now.
The final step is to prepare the 3rd layer: the crumbly 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, cold or at room temperature. 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 this popular cake with a cup of coffee for a tasty afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen!
How to Make Plum Cake: Easy Traditional German Plum Cake Recipe
Plum Cake FAQ
Can you make German Plum Cake without yeast?
Yes! You can make a quick and easy “Quark-oil-dough” (use Greek yogurt if you can’t get Quark). You don’t need any yeast to make this dough and it’s delicious, not to mention healthier with the added Quark or Greek yogurt. To make it, you simply add the dry ingredients to Quark or Greek yogurt, oil, and milk, and then mix it into a dough. You can use it right away – no need to let it rise.
When is plum season?
Generally from May through October. That said, I only tend to see them in my local grocery stores at the end of August.
Are there different versions of plum Kuchen?
Yes! As with all German recipes and popular cakes, there are many different versions. Some use Italian plums (Italian prune plums), others use American plums or a different type of plum. Some use a yeasted dough. Some are more like a plum crumble. Some are made in a round pan, others in a sheet pan. Some add cinnamon, others add lemon zest. Some are sweet, others more tart. All are delicious!
plum cakes are the main part of Christmas …and having this blog in this month is very useful thank you
I hope you enjoy this German plum cake!
How to use this recipe for high altitude?
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!
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.
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!
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?
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!
They’re not terribly juicy, so I’ll skip it. And I know everyone will love it! Thanks for your prompt reply.
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!
I hope you like it!
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.
Let me know how it turns out with the cream cheese!
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
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?
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!
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bread version! I did some searching and didn’t find any recipes that were specifically German but I did find this – https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Spiced-Plum-Bread-Allrecipes – maybe that’s at least similar?
You could also try my German Apple Cake recipe but use plums instead of apples – https://www.internationaldessertsblog.com/german-apfelkuchen-german-apple-custard-cake/ There are plum Kuchen versions that have a thicker cake base (like my apple cake) and no streusel topping. I hope one of these ideas will be similar to what your mom remembers!
My Dad’s German grandparents came to the US (Oregon) via the Volga River!
Thank you Cate. I’m on the hunt!
Let me know if you find it, I’m really curious about it now!
Do you use plain yogurt for the dough?
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.
It looks amazing ..right now it’s cooling but it seemed fairly easy to make with your easy to follow instructions….thanks for an amazing way to utilize a bunch of plums that were just sitting in my fridge….lol
Indeed, German Plum Cake is one of the best ways to use up plums! If you have more to use up, try my Plum Butter (Pflaumenmus) recipe. 🙂
This recipe shows the incorrect plums for an authentic German plum cake. You need Italian plums, which are oval and dark blue. They are firmer.
Yep! I use the plums I can find where I live.