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Easy German Plum Cake (aka Zwetschgenkuchen or Pflaumenkuchen)

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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 44 seconds
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes 44 seconds

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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Sammy

Tuesday 16th of February 2021

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

Cate, International Desserts Blog

Wednesday 17th of February 2021

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. :)

Courtney

Tuesday 29th of September 2020

Do you use plain yogurt for the dough?

Cate, International Desserts Blog

Tuesday 29th of September 2020

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.

Dottie Oliver

Friday 18th of September 2020

Thank you Cate. I’m on the hunt! D

Cate, International Desserts Blog

Saturday 19th of September 2020

Let me know if you find it, I'm really curious about it now!

Dottie Oliver

Thursday 17th of September 2020

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!

Cate, International Desserts Blog

Friday 18th of September 2020

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!

Robert Gillikin

Monday 24th of August 2020

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.

Cate, International Desserts Blog

Monday 24th of August 2020

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

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