Type Layer cake
Place of origin Germany
Main ingredients Flour, butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla
Variations Schichttorte, Trdelnik, Gâteau à la broche, Spettekaka
Cookbook: Baumkuchen  Media: Baumkuchen

Baumkuchen is a German variety of spit cake. It is a traditional pastry of many European countries throughout, and also a popular snack and dessert in Japan. The characteristic rings that when sliced resemble tree rings, and give the cake its German name, Baumkuchen, which literally translates to "tree cake".[1][2]

The characteristic cake layers resembling growth rings.


The origins of baumkuchen are a matter of controversy. One theory claims that baumkuchen has been created since at least the 19th century in Bayern however, the town itself likes to propagate this story.[3] Another line of thought suggests that this cake had its beginnings as a Hungarian wedding cake, that is, a derivative of the oldest Hungarian pastry kürtőskalács (chimney cake). Then, in Ein neues Kochbuch (lit. "A New Cookbook"), published in 1581, the first cookbook written for professional chefs by Marx Rumpolt, a recipe for baumkuchen is to be found.[4] Marx Rumpolt had previously worked as a chef in Hungary and Bohemia. In 1682, a rural medic working for Johann Sigismund Elsholtz prepared a similar dessert.

Aside from the above mentioned recent history, baumkuchen was already known in Ancient Greece and the latter Rome. The Roman conquerors brought the method for baking cakes on logs over an open fire to what is today Germany and its surroundings.[2][5]


Baking demonstration in Germany, here: application of the couverture chocolate.
Sękacz in Poland.
Gâteau à la broche, Market of Rodez, Aveyron, Midi-Pyrénées

This labor-intensive, and thus rather expensive specialty is made on a spit by evenly brushing on thin layers of batter, then rotating the spit over a heat source, traditionally a wood fire. Each layer is allowed to dry before another layer of batter is poured over the previous.[6] When the cake is removed and sliced, each layer is divided from the next by a golden line, resembling the growth rings on a crosscut tree. A typical baumkuchen is made up of 15 to 20 layers of batter.[5] What is more, the method involved in creating the baumkuchen allows the cakes to become quite large: skilled pastry chefs have been known to create cakes with 25 layers and weighing over 100 pounds.[6] When cooked on a spit, it is not uncommon for a finished baumkuchen to be 3 to 4 feet tall.[3]

Baumkuchen ingredients are typically butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour. Baking powder is not considered a traditional ingredient. The ratio of flour, butter and eggs is typically 1:1:2 respectively (i.e., 100 grams of flour, 100 grams of butter, and 200 grams of eggs). The recipe can be varied by adding other ingredients, such as ground nuts, honey, marzipan, nougat and rum or brandy, to the batter or filling.[2] Additionally, baumkuchen may be covered with sugar or chocolate glaze. With some recipes, the fully baked and cooled baumkuchen is first coated with marmalade or jam, and then covered with chocolate.


Baumkuchenspitzen, German for "tree cake tips", are miniature versions of baumkuchen that are created from the cake when it is cut in slices and then into pieces that are referred to as "Spitzen". These pieces are typically coated in chocolate and sold individually.


A simpler horizontally layered version of the cake is called a "Schichttorte". It is baked without a spit, which results in horizontal layers instead of circular rings. The Schichttorte is more like a conventional cake in shape and can be baked in a conventional home oven that has a broiler inside, whereas the traditional spit version requires special equipment normally not available in an average home. Compared to the spit variant, the Schichttorte's cross section is less reminiscent of tree rings.

Baumkuchen in Japan

Baumkuchen is one of the most popular pastries in Japan, where it is called baumukūhen (バウムクーヘン). It is a popular return present in Japan for wedding guests because of its typical ring shape.[7]

It was first introduced to Japan by the German Karl Joseph Wilhelm Juchheim. Juchheim was in the Chinese city of Tsingtao during World War I when Britain and Japan laid siege to Tsingtao. He and his wife were then interned at Okinawa.[8] Juchheim started making and selling the traditional confection at a German exhibition in Hiroshima in 1919. After the war, he chose to remain in Japan. Continued success allowed him to move to Yokohama and open a bakery, but its destruction in the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake caused him to move his operations to Kobe, where he stayed until the end of World War II. Some years later, his wife returned to help a Japanese company open a chain of bakeries under the Juchheim name that further helped spread baumkuchen's popularity in Japan.

Other regional variations

The Family of European Spitcakes


See also


  1. Sheraton, Mimi (23 November 2009). "Spit Cake". The New Yorker. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Stanley Cauvain and Linda Young (2001). Baking problems solved. Woodhead Pub Ltd, p. 261. ISBN 0849312213.
  3. 1 2 Mimi Sheraton (November 23, 2009) How to bake spit cake. The New Yorker. Retrieved on 2013-02-04.
  4. Alan Davidson and Tom Jaine (2006). The Oxford companion to food. Oxford University Press, USA, 2006. p. 805 ISBN 0192806815.
  5. 1 2 Baumkuchen (Pyramid cake).
  6. 1 2 Baumkuchen – the King of Cakes!. (2007-11-28). Retrieved on 2013-02-04.
  7. Anja Hankel (November 2009). "Loanwords in Japanese" (PDF). Awa Life. TOPIA. 232: 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-22.
  8. Origins of baumkuchen, cheap onsen trips and this week’s CM: Final Fantasy XIII | The Japan Times Online. (January 10, 2010). Retrieved on 2013-02-04.
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