German Plum Cake – Pflaumenkuchen / Zwetschgenkuchen

A beloved cake in Germany that eloquently spans the gap between summer and autumn. This cake is made in three layers - a light, flavorful spongecake base is the foundation for fresh Italian plums and a crumbly, buttery streusel with just a hint of cinnamon.

This German delicacy is what we would easily call a tart. It is known in Germany, however, as “kuchen” or cake.

This cake is comprised of three layers. The first layer is a light and delicately flavored sponge cake. The second layer is comprised of fresh plums. The third layer is a gorgeous, crumbly, buttery, cookie-like streusel topping, lightly flavored with cinnamon.

The pictures and brief overview of the recipe (below) is what I like to think of as a “story book” presentation. The full, detailed, printable recipe is below.

The preferred plums for this cake are what we would call “Damask” plums. They are also known as Italian plums and or prune plums. The are distinct from regular plums by their yellow, dense flesh and oval shape. Here in Germany, these type of plums are called “zwetschgen”. The round type of plums (common plums – red or black plums) are called “pflaume”.

The ingredients for the sponge cake base are butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and lemon zest.

I use my heavy-duty stand mixer to combine these ingredients, but you can mix it by hand or use a hand mixer.

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Spoon batter into a nine-inch springform pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for about twenty minutes.

You do not need to wait for the cake base to cool before you line it with the fresh, quartered plums.

The streusel topping is made by mixing flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon by hand. It will be crumbly in texture.

Before baking again, sprinkle streusel over the plums. I make an effort to press plenty of streusel into the gap between the plums and the edge of the pan.

Bake at 400°F for 30-40 minutes. This higher heat will crisp the streusel and cook the plums into a jammy, syrupy texture.

I recommend letting the cake cool completely before you release it from the springform pan, but it’s not completely necessary. Especially if you want to try it right away! It might not slice perfectly, but it is excellent warm.

Thanks so much,

Shannon Vavich

German Plum Cake – Pflaumenkuchen/Zwetschgenkuchen

Shannon Vavich
A beloved cake in Germany that eloquently spans the gap between summer and autumn. This cake is made in three layers – a light, flavorful spongecake base is the foundation for fresh Italian plums and a crumbly, buttery streusel with just a hint of cinnamon.
5 from 1 vote

Equipment

  • 9 – inch springform pan lined with parchment paper.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 dozen Plums, pitted and cut into fourths Italian plums/prune plums are preferable

Cake Base

  • 2/3 cup butter, softened softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • pinch salt

Streusel Topping

  • 3/4 cup flour – add more flour if you want a more "crumbly" streusel.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened softened

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  • Line the springform pan with a circular piece of parchment paper. Make sure the parchment paper is higher than the pan

Sponge Cake Base

  • Cream the butter and sugar together using a mixer or by hand.
  • Add the eggs.
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and the salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and blend gently.
  • Add the vanilla and the lemon zest.
  • Spoon the batter into the parchment-lined springform pan. Smooth batter out with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Please keep an eye on this. If it looks done, it's done. Right now I have a German oven and it's possible that my cooking times won't match up to an American oven. I'd be grateful for any feedback you have!

Streusel topping

  • While your cake is baking, assemble the streusel topping. In a medium bowl, combine the softened butter, flour and sugar.
  • Using your hands, smoosh all the ingredients together, turning the mixture over to incorporate the flour on the bottom of the bowl. Keep working with your hands until you have a very clumpy mixture.
  • Add the cinnamon and keep mixing. Set aside.

Arranging the plums/topping with streusel

  • After your cake has baked, arrange the plums on top of it. It does not have to be cooled.
  • Starting at the outer edge of the cake, arrange the plums – skin side out in a circle. Fill the cake in by continuing to arrange the plums in smaller concentric circles.
  • When your plums have been arranged, sprinkle the streusel over the plums. Be sure to add streusel to the gap between the outer wall of plums and the springform pan sides. This will ensure you have a sturdy edge to your German Plum Cake.
  • Bake your (now) completed cake again at 400°F for 30-40 minutes. You will know when it's perfectly done when you can see that the plums have become syrupy and the streusel topping is golden brown and crispy.
    Please keep an eye on this. If it looks done, it's done. Right now I have a German oven and it's possible that my cooking times won't match up to an American oven. I'd be grateful for any feedback you have!
  • I recommend letting your cake cool completely before releasing it from the springform pan.
  • If you'd like to cut away the parchment paper for appearance sake, just run a very sharp knife around the edge of the cake, slicing the visible parchment paper away from the cake.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

About

Shannon Vavich has been working in the food industry since 1999 as a cake designer, pastry chef, recipe writer, caterer and cooking teacher. Originally a musician by education - she's also a classical vocalist. She is a military spouse of 26 years. Because of her husband's military career she has lived around the world and studied culinary arts in Morocco, England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan, New Orleans, Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Boston and more. She currently lives in a small Medieval-era village in Baden-Württemberg, Germany with her husband and children. Shannon's two oldest children serve in the Marine Corps and the Air Force, respectively. She recently adopted a little rescue dog - a former street dog from Bursa, Turkey - and named her Nutmeg. Shannon and Nutmeg enjoy walks through the German countryside, creating seasonal dishes in her studio, and early bedtimes.