As the birthplace of Beethoven and Kant, Germany has been a cultural hub for many centuries, and this rich diversity and character is seen reflected in German desserts and treats. From the sweet and spicy crunch of Apple Strudel to the world-famous Black Forest cake, you’re in for a treat!
What Makes German Desserts And Sweets So Special?
German bakeries and pastry shops are known for their creativity and attention to detail, with many recipes handed down from generation to generation. What makes German desserts so unique is the seasonal and annual ingredients used, from marzipan, nuts, and fruits: to high-quality chocolate, pumpernickel, and traditional spices.
German desserts and treats are also known for their fine craftsmanship, some of which can be seen on full display at Christmas markets featuring gingerbread biscuits and other seasonal delicacies. These goodies are a big part of German food and cuisine.
Most Famous German Dessert
Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)
The famous Black Forest cake (Schwarzwälder kirschtorte) is one of the most well-known German desserts, consisting of layers of chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream, and cherries steeped in kirsch brandy. Kirschwasser, a Black Forest cherry brandy, is used to soak the cherries, moisten the layers of chocolate sponge cake, and flavor the whipped cream.
Traditionally, the Black Forest cake may also feature a shortcrust pastry base that serves not only as a basis but also as a contrasting texture to the overall softness of the cake. Buttercream can be used in place of or in addition to whipped cream. Josef Keller (1887-1981) claimed to have developed Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in its current form in 1915 at the exclusive Café Agner in Bad Godesberg.
The finished cake is generously topped with fresh or candied cherries and extensively garnished with leftover whipped cream and chocolate shavings. This gives it the look everyone knows and has become one of the most iconic traditional German cakes.
Classic German Cakes
If you’ve never had lebkuchen, they’re soft gingerbread and widely loved when it comes to German desserts. Unlike traditional gingerbread cutouts, they are given a glossy finish in the form of an egg wash.
Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, candied orange or lemon peel, honey, and marzipan are some of the key components in Lebkuchen. To make the Lebkuchen exceptional, you mix in some flavorful spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom – which are also very common components found in many German cakes and treats.
Lebkuchen is a classic Christmas cookie that goes well with tea or coffee. As one of the signature German baked goods, it can often be found in shops all throughout the country.
Baumkuchen (Tree Cake)
Baumkuchen is a distinctive and eye-catching cake artistically crafted by broiling numerous thin layers of dough. A thick chocolate icing is added as the last component and complements the German cakes’ subtle almond taste. This is a gorgeous treat fit for any special event and one of the most popular German desserts to date.
The unique rings that develop in its slices mimic tree rings, giving the cake its German name, Baumkuchen, which translates directly to “tree cake” or “log cake.” Layers upon layers of caramelized cake batter with a touch of rum and marzipan flavor comprise the German Tree Cake.
Butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour are common ingredients for Baumkuchen. That said, this cake is also loved for its rich but simple ingredients. It’s a lovely work and one of the best German treats you don’t want to miss trying!
Zwetschgendatschi (German Plum Cake)
Zwetschgendatschi is a sheet cake or pie made with yeast dough or shortcrust dough thinly spread over a baking sheet or other baking mold and topped with pitted zwetschgen plums (also known as prune plums). It is popular as a summer treat and widely enjoyed above many other German desserts.
It is commonly served with Streusel (a crumbly combination of butter, sugar, and flour) when made using shortcrust dough, although the traditional recipe serves it plain with no toppings. There’s something special about the blend of sweet and acidic flavors in a plum cake that you won’t find in other German baked goods.
There are claims that the cake was invented in Augsburg where it is considered the city’s signature dish. It is said that it resembles the city’s coat of arms, and from this association, Augsburg is also nicknamed “Datschiburg”.
Germans enjoy a brief afternoon break in the form of a slice of cake with a cup of coffee. The 4 o´clock so-called coffee hour is a popular tradition in Germany that many people still celebrate, especially on Sundays, whether alone or with friends and family.
Donauwelle (Snow-White Cake)
Donauwellen, also known as Danube Cake, is a delicious dessert originally from Germany, where it gets its name from the Danube River (or Donau). To commemorate the origin of the name, a wave design is often formed on top of the chocolate glaze.
Often known as the Danube Wave, it is one of the most well-known German sweets! This classic sheet cake is popular in both Germany and Austria and is created with sour cherries, buttercream, cocoa, and chocolate.
If you’re looking for the perfect treat, this is one of the best German desserts to try! It’s also a tasty way for locals to commemorate Oktoberfest!
Tillie’s Ginger Crumb Cake
Streuselkuchen, also known as crumb cake, is a yeast dough cake topped with a sweet crumb topping known as streusel. Sugar, butter, and wheat are the primary ingredients in the crumbs.
There are many variations of the cake which include fillings such as fruit (usually of a sour flavor, such as apples, gooseberries, sour cherries, or rhubarb), poppy seeds, or crème, as well as a shortening-based crust.
The Streuselkuchen is usually baked on a baking sheet and sliced into rectangular pieces. It should be flat, with crumbs covering around half of its height.
The traditional German dessert calls for yeast dough, but a shortcrust is also an option. A layer of puff pastry at the bottom transforms it into a prasselkuchen. When it comes to German cakes, you have to try this fantastic sweet treat!
Käsekuchen (German Cheesecake)
Quark cheese (a soft, creamy, spreadable cheese that has been around for millennia) is used to make German cheesecake. Quark is a healthier and more protein-rich alternative to cream cheese, but it’s difficult to get outside of Europe. If you are making it yourself outside of the continent, consider using full-fat Greek yogurt or pureed cottage cheese.
It makes a fantastic sweet treat and is a traditional German dessert most often enjoyed during the summer seasons. It is frequently served with a cup of coffee in Germany.
In Roman times (about 200 BC), there also existed something very similar to the Käsekuchen. It wasn’t until the 17th century that Käsekuchen became popular in Germany.
You may also mix in some mandarin oranges, which are a common addition to cheesecake and other German desserts. However, unlike in North America, German cheesecake is not frequently topped with extra fruit before serving. A fine coating of powdered sugar serves as the classic “cherry on top.”
Delicious German Pastries
Schnecken (Sticky German Cinnamon Buns)
“Schnecken” literally translated from German, means “snail”. But not to worry. This traditional German dessert does not have any snails in it. It was named because it resembles the spirals of a snail’s shell.
It’s the equivalent of a cinnamon roll which is commonly served in the afternoon ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ (coffee and cake). There are different kinds of this German pastry, depending on what kind of filling they have – like poppy seeds, ground almonds or hazelnuts, and raisins as examples.
Imagine a cinnamon bun, but much stickier, puffier, and drenched in caramel goodness. There are a few things that match these German desserts!
Made with simple ingredients like Maple syrup, pecan, light corn syrup, fresh yeast, and bread flour, this is a classic pull-apart bun. However, its ultra-caramelized golden brown corners are out of this world! Served warm or hot, the best way to level up these delightful German treats is with chocolate mousse or vanilla ice cream.
Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
Although many people believe that apple strudel is part of the original German desserts, it is an Austrian delicacy from Vienna.
The first recipe for apple strudel, dated 1697, was penned in a Viennese cookbook and is now housed in the Vienna Town Hall Library. But it’s been part of the traditional German pastries for a long time and can be found throughout the country.
It is commonly called Apfelstrudel in German, but it is also called “Strudel de Maç” (Apple Strudel) or “Folheado de Maç” (Apple Puff) in Portuguese. Layers of flaky pastry wrap a spiced apple, raisin, and walnut filling in this lovely German pastry.
Served warm and dusted with icing sugar, it’s best complemented by a dollop of crème fraîche, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream (fraiche is prepared entirely from heavy cream, which has 36 to 40% butterfat). Strudel also goes well with homemade custard.
Kaiserschmarrn (Shredded Pancakes With Fruit Compote)
The Austrian dish Kaiserschmarrn (Scrambled Pancake) is a much-loved traditional German dessert equally famous in Germany and more specifically, Bavaria! It is a delicious fluffy pancake cooked with rum-soaked raisins caramelized and served covered with powdered sugar, applesauce, and preserves.
According to folklore, when hunting in the Salzkammergut vacation region, Emperor Franz Joseph I was presented with a Holzfällerschmarrn (a “woodcutter Schmarrn”). It was enhanced in his honor with milk, raisins, and eggs. So the traditional Holzfällerschmarrn became the now-known Kaiserschmarrn.
Also known as emperor’s mess, it’s made with simple ingredients like flour, sugar, milk, eggs, rum, butter, powdered sugar, and your favorite jam or compote Because the ingredients are so simple, the higher the quality, the better your kaiserschmarrn pancake will taste.
Windbeutel (Cream Puffs)
Profiteroles, also known as Windbeutel in German, are a German specialty. The origins of the German pastry and its name, profiterole, are unknown. Caterina de Medici, the wife of Henry II of France, was thought to have introduced it to France by bringing many dishes from Tuscany, including choux pastry and Profiterole.
The term “Windbeutel” literally translates to “wind bag” in German, referring to the pastry’s light and airy nature. Windbeutel is created from choux pastry, a dough that is cooked on the stove before baking in the oven. The dough is prepared of flour, water, butter, and eggs and is piped (shaped through a piping bag) into the shape of a ball onto a baking pan.
The Windbeutel is frequently filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream after it has been baked. Fruit or other toppings are sometimes added as well.
Windbeutel is frequently offered as a dessert or as a sweet snack. These marvelous and simple little German desserts can be found at bakeries and cafés throughout Germany and Europe.
Sweets In Germany
Schokoküsse (Chocolate Marshmallow Treats)
Schokoküsse was created in Denmark in the 19th century and was later made and supplied in Montreal by Viau as early as 1901. They were fashioned into marshmallow meringue and covered in dark chocolate on a thin, wafer-like biscuit. These lovely and famous German desserts are a much-adored treat!
Chocolate-coated marshmallow treats, also known as chocolate teacakes, are chocolate-coated marshmallow sweets that consist of a biscuit foundation covered with a marshmallow-like filling and then coated in a hard shell of chocolate. It is also known as “chocolate kiss” in Germany, and the name marshmallow is occasionally used to describe it.
Whether it’s a birthday or a summer get-together, these delicious German sweets are a must! They come in a variety of sizes and colors, but they all have the same amazing fluffy, airy quality.
Gebrannte Mandeln (Candied Almonds)
Clement Lassagne, the chef to César Gabriel de Choiseul (French Duke of Praslin), chose to blend almonds with caramel in 1636. That was the origin and we have never looked back since. The popularity of this combination has grown to become one of the most simple and tastiest sweets in Germany.
Made from fresh almonds, sugars, and fragrant spices like cinnamon, this is one of the most famous German desserts and is a staple feature at Christmas markets and festivals across the country.
Haselnussmakronen (Hazelnut Macarons)
Macaroons are a popular and traditional Christmas treat in Germany. They’re not only tasty, moist, and chewy, but they’re also really simple to make. These are relatively cost-effective German desserts, and thus, are loved across the country.
Making macarons is an excellent way to use up any leftover egg whites, as the adorable shells are prepared with simple egg whites, crushed hazelnuts, cinnamon, and sugar. These traditional German desserts are cooked on wafers and are a popular Christmas dessert and snack. If you’re looking for a gluten and dairy-free treat, the macaroon is your hero!
Spaghettieis (Ice Cream Shaped Like Spaghetti)
Dario Fontanella invented Spaghettieis, one of the most unique German desserts, in Mannheim, Germany, in the late 1960s. Fontanella recalls presenting his inventive concoction to children, who suddenly started sobbing because they wanted ice cream rather than a plate of spaghetti.
Spaghettieis, or spaghetti ice cream, is a type of German ice cream that is shaped like a plate of spaghetti. Vanilla ice cream is shaped through a modified Spätzle press or potato ricer to give it the appearance of spaghetti. The whipped cream freezes a little under the ice cream and forms a crackly crust, which some people love!
To make this sundae even more intricate, add chocolate “meatballs.” In a spaghetti and meatballs sundae, you may use handmade truffles or malted milk balls to fill this function. To simulate Italian bread, serve with shortbread, white chocolate chip, or sugar cookies. It’s one of the desserts in Germany that look unusual but taste marvelous.
Zwetschgenknoedel (Potato And Plum Dumpling)
Plum dumplings are said to have originated in Eastern Europe, although they are popular in southern Germany, Austria, and Central Europe as well.
Originally fried, these savory-sweet German desserts are now boiled and covered in buttered crumbs, occasionally with crushed nuts added. The dumplings can be created using yeast dough, quark dough (a type of fresh cheese from Germany), or boiled potato dough.
Plum dumplings are commonly served as a light, sweet dinner on their own, or as a side dish to a soup course for a more substantial supper. They are also frequently offered as a dessert or snack and can be an alternative to cakes during the afternoon coffee hour.
Potato and Plum Dumplings are also popular sweets in Germany that you can find during harvest festivities in the region, such as Oktoberfest and Erntedankfest (German Thanksgiving).
Berliner / Pfannkuchen (Jam-Filled Doughnut)
Known worldwide as a Berliner, this delightful German dessert is a typical jelly doughnut but with no center hole, made from sweet yeast dough cooked in lard or cooking oil. It is then filled with jam and dusted with powdered or regular sugar.
The yeast dough, known as Pfannkuchen in Berlin, is rich in eggs, milk, and butter. It is shaped into a ball, deep-fried in lard, and then filled with jam to create this traditional German pastry.
During the funfair season (which begins on November 11th), bakeries will be heaped high with various sorts of donuts, usually filled with jam but also with vanilla cream, chocolate, or even eggnog – and you can be sure to find these marvelous German treats!
They are great for snacking and makes for a good filler while you hop around the famous German landmarks.
German Desserts – Cookies
Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)
The German Weihnachtsplätzchen tradition dates back to the Middle Ages when the cookies were first prepared by monks. Although the exact origins of these star biscuits are unknown, the first recorded reference to them goes back to the 16th century. Cinnamon was a scarce and costly substance at the time, so these traditional German desserts were a delicacy until modern times.
These “cinnamon star” biscuits are almost completely made of ground nuts, usually almonds but also hazelnuts. They’re a southern German specialty that’s naturally gluten and dairy free, with a pristine white firm icing produced from sugar and egg white.
Star-shaped cookies have been associated with the Christmas tradition for a long time. They are available in a variety of sizes, colors, and flavors. Only stars can be found in authentic Zimtsterne cookies. This is the distinguishing feature of these German treats, which have been used as Christmas tree decorations for decades.
Vanillekipferl (Vanilla Crescents)
Vanillekipferl is a typical Christmas dessert originally from Vienna, Austria. They are well-known in Europe and are frequently sold in coffee shops. These much-loved German desserts claimed to have been made in the shape of a Turkish crescent moon to commemorate the triumph over the Turks in 1683.
Vanilla Crescent Cookies are classic German Christmas treats that are sprinkled with vanilla sugar and baked with crushed nuts. They’re soft and nutty, and they melt in your mouth. At Christmas, almost every grandmother in Germany prepares Vanillekipferl.
However, these cookies be enjoyed around the year as well! They simply require a few ingredients and may be stored for weeks.
Ingwerplätzchen (German Ginger Cookies)
Ginger cookies, or Ingwerplätzchen, have a long history in German desserts. and can be found in other parts of Europe. They are said to have originated during the Middle Ages when spices such as ginger and cinnamon were highly prized and used for both medicinal and culinary purposes.
Ginger cookies are a popular festive delicacy in Germany, especially during the holidays. They’re typically shaped into festive shapes like stars, hearts, and Christmas trees, and they’re occasionally covered with icing or other ornaments.
A ginger biscuit or gingersnap is a ginger-flavored cookie that is widely loved and famous in the world of German desserts because it’s both simple and delicious. Powdered ginger with several additional spices, most typically cinnamon, molasses, and clove, are used to give it that iconic flavor.
Spitzbuben (Linzer Cookies)
Spitzbuben is a relatively new addition to German sweets. They are originally made in Switzerland and have been introduced in the 20th century. But like most food we see today, they merge and change. Germany has made their version of this Swiss cookie, which is now known and loved in the country.
Spitzbuben is considered one of the classic, more modern German desserts. It is made into a buttery almond shortbread biscuit that sandwiches a delicious jam in the center. The cookies are completed with powdered sugar sprinkling and are popular all year, but especially around Christmas.
Their bright white powdered sugar contrasts well with the typical raspberry filling peeping through, making them easily identifiable.
Pfeffernüsse (Peppernuts Cookies)
Pfeffernusse, also known as ‘pepernoten’ or peppernuts, originated from Central Europe as far back as 1750. These sharp treats draw their flavor from nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves and are classic German desserts that are especially enjoyed during the holidays.
Pfeffernusse, translates directly to “pepper nuts”, due to their circular, round shape and perhaps a rather peculiar use of black pepper in the cookie dough.
Every year on December 23, National Pfeffernusse Day is commemorated. It is also a seasonal delight that has long been a feature of Yuletide celebrations such as St. Nicholas Day and Christmas. This is an opportunity to make your own version of this simple German treat and share it with friends and family! The ingredients are rather commonly available.
Nussecken (Nut Triangles)
Nussecken, also known as German Nut Corners, are typical German desserts that may be found all year! They are popular in traditional German Christmas markets and may have originated in Franken, Bamberg, or Nürnberg.
These crunchy German baked goods are made with a buttery shortbread foundation, sweet apricot jam, sticky hazelnuts, and an incredible chocolate coating. They’re a year-round delicacy to savor and a great thrill to share with family or friends. It’s not Christmas without a platter full of delectable cookies and bars!
Other Popular German Desserts
Rote Grütze (Red Berry Pudding)
Rote Grütze is mostly found in northern Germany, mainly in Schleswig-Holstein. It is also rather common across Europe – and is one of the most loved traditional desserts from Germany.
Rote Grütze is a berry custard created by simmering a variety of berries with sugar, including raspberries, cherries, and strawberries. It is then thickened with cornflour or potato starch. The mixture is cooled and solidified before serving warm or cold with vanilla sauce.
You can top this delectable treat with whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream for the ultimate indulgence. It’s an unforgettably delicious and simple German dessert dish that’s the right balance of sweet and sour.
Blushing Maid (Trifle Raspberry Dessert)
Errötendes Mädchen (Blushing Maiden) is an old-fashioned dish from northern Germany. These much-loved traditional German desserts feature the classic pumpernickel bread.
There are various varieties of what may be termed a German form of trifle. If you don’t have pumpernickel bread, you may use any other dark stale bread that’s robust and slightly sweet. Kirsch or Chambord is commonly used for the raspberry schnaps, which is what makes these desserts in Germany so beautifully tasteful.
This delectable delicacy contains raspberries, whipped cream, yogurt, chocolate, sugar, and vanilla. You may even combine some of the components in this recipe to make your own.
Eiskaffee (German Cold Coffee Dessert Drink)
Eiskaffee, the type of iced coffee sold in Germany, is more than just coffee served over ice cubes. It’s considered a German dessert because it contains coffee, ice cream, and whipped cream.
If you want a sweet and tasty treat that is also a drink, and you enjoy the caffeine hit, then an ice cream coffee is for you! This drink, made with cold coffee and scoops of vanilla ice cream, is a popular German treat that is enjoyed as a summer favorite for locals.
While you are exploring all the impressive castles in Germany, take a break and enjoy a cup of Eiskaffee for refreshment.
Dampfnudeln (Steamed Sweet Dumplings)
These delightful German desserts can be traced back to the 16th century, during Germany’s 30-year war. Food was limited in the country at the time, and a challenging circumstance compelled a baker to devise the Dampfnudel recipe.
These traditional German cakes, or dumplings, are created with yeast dough and cooked to perfection. They can be either savory or sweet – and the name is derived from the words “Dampf” (steam) and “Knödel” (noodle).
Sweet Dampfnudeln is great with homemade vanilla sauce, fruit compote, or a white wine-based sauce akin to vanilla sauce.
Zitronenrolle (Lemon Roll)
In Germany, they are known as Bisquitrolle, which translates to sponge roll. These are a sort of rolling sponge cake filled with whipped cream, jam, or frosting and are named for the filling that is used.
While it may not be one of the most standout German desserts, it is well-loved and can be found throughout the country. Once baked to perfection, you can serve this delightfully zesty sweet treat with tea or coffee during the famous ‘German Coffee Break’.
Griesbrei (Semolina Pudding)
Semolina custard has been consumed in Europe since the Roman era. Apicius’ recipe book (about the 4th century AD) mentions a semolina porridge prepared from farina combined with almonds, raisins, and raisin wine.
This fantastic traditional German dessert is made of coarsely ground durum wheat that is mostly used to make couscous, pasta, and sweet puddings. The term semolina is also used to describe coarse millings of different wheat types, as well as other grains (such as rice or maize).
Semolina custard can be served warm or cold as a dessert, light meal, or breakfast in Germany. This custard may be made with either water or milk, but milk yields a better flavor, texture, and appearance. The best part about this dessert in Germany is that you can top it any way you like – fresh fruit, jam, cinnamon, and sugar are all popular additions!
Berliner Luft (Meringue And Cream Dessert)
There are a few interesting names associated with this dessert, including Schwimmbadtorte which means Swimming pool cake, Himmelstorte which means Heavens cake, and Blitz torte meaning Lightning cake.
Whatever you name it, the cake is delicious: delicate and airy, packed with fluffy cream and fruits. It feels like you’re eating a soft cloud when you take the first bite.
Berliner Luft is one of the most popular German desserts with an airy, mousse-like texture. It’s made with beaten egg, sugar, gelatin, lemon, and, in this case, white wine, and it’s always served with raspberry sauce. If you’re exploring German cakes and treats, be sure to include this masterpiece!
Exploring German Desserts And Sweets In Germany
Many often overlook the unusual, delicious, and varied world of German desserts and sweets. However, when you start diving into the different German chocolates and cakes, the beautiful combinations of tarts and trifles and cakes, you might just find your favorite sweet treat and after-dinner dessert!