German Plum Cake (Pflaumenkuchen)

It was a week after I baked my Polish Plum Cake, and the kids started asking for more.  I only had a handful of large plums remaining from our Costco stockpile–didn’t seem to be enough to bake another cake.  I was curious to see whether there is a German equivalent, given that Poland and Germany are neighbors and a lot of the cuisine overlaps.  Sure enough, there is an equivalent.

Just as in Polish cuisine, there are several different kinds of plum cakes, including one that uses yeast dough, and one, like the Polish Plum Cake, that uses a butter cake base.  I didn’t want to play around with finicky yeast, and it was running late in the day already, so I settled on a similar cake to the Polish Plum Cake.  There are some differences though.  In the German Plum Cake recipe below, less flour is used, the cake layer is thinner, there is more cinnamon and less plums (because I didn’t have more!), sour cream is used instead of milk, and almond extract is added to the batter in lieu of lemon zest.  What I liked most about this recipe is that I didn’t need a ton of plums!  [Since writing this post, I have worked on a more traditional yeast-based cake.  It’s the pinnacle of plum cakes!  Check out the ultimate plum cake recipe!]

Below is the recipe for my German Plum Cake.  Join me afterwards if you would like to see how I made the cake, step-by-step.

Print Recipe
German Plum Cake (Pflaumenkuchen)
2017 HollyTrail.com (adapted from recipe on epicurious.com citing Bon Appetit, October 1997)
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
squares
Ingredients
For the Cake
  • 1 1/2 pounds large plums (Italian, red, or black) [For red or black plums, use about 5-6.]
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3/4 stick of butter, or 3 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
For the Topping
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold (1/4 stick of butter, or one ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • additional ground cinnamon for dusting (optional)
  • confectioner's sugar for dusting
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
squares
Ingredients
For the Cake
  • 1 1/2 pounds large plums (Italian, red, or black) [For red or black plums, use about 5-6.]
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (3/4 stick of butter, or 3 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
For the Topping
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold (1/4 stick of butter, or one ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • additional ground cinnamon for dusting (optional)
  • confectioner's sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9 inch x 13 inch x 2 inch baking pan.
  2. Wash plums, cut in half, and remove pits. For each plum half, cut again in half or thirds (Italian plums) or cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, about 8 slices per half (red or black plums). Set aside.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  4. Using an electric mixer, cream 6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick of butter) with 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated. Mix in extracts. Mix in flour alternating with sour cream. Mix until just incorporated and smooth. Spoon into baking pan and spread evenly with offset spatula.
  5. Lightly insert plum slices vertically, skin side up, into the batter in even rows. (If using Italian plum halves, place plums skin-side down.) In a small bowl, mix the topping ingredients together (cinnamon, butter, and sugar). Evenly distribute topping over plums. Dust cake with cinnamon to taste (optional).
  6. Bake in oven for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioner's sugar. Cut into squares and serve.
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STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

I preheated the oven to 350°F before I got started with the cake. I also greased a 9 inch x 13 inch x 2 inch baking pan ahead of time.

I only had 4 large plums–though I needed at least 5–and cut them into relatively thin slices.  This turned out to be about 8 slices per half a plum.  Even though I was short one plum, I still managed to fill up the cake pan and the cake was delicious.  Note that if you are using Italian plums, then cut the plums in half or into quarters, depending on how many you have on hand.

I set the plum slices aside while I sifted the dry ingredients together.

I quickly mixed the batter ingredients together using an electric mixer.  I creamed 6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick of butter) with 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy.  I then added the eggs (2), one at a time, until well-incorporated. I mixed in vanilla and almond extracts.  The almond extract is key to the great flavor of the cake.  I then mixed in the flour mixture alternating with sour cream until smooth.   The batter was thick.

I spooned the batter into the baking pan and evened it out with an offset spatula.   I lightly pushed the plum slices into the batter, skin side up (sort of) and tried to keep the rows even.  [If I would have used Italian plum halves, I would have placed the plum halves on the batter, skin-side down.]  A sugar crumb topping is supposed to be sprinkled on top before baking.  But, of course, the butter I used was way too soft, so my sugar mixture was more like a moist paste.  Given that I didn’t have time to redo it, nor did I want to waste ingredients, I did my best to deal with the mistake.  I plopped the mixture over the plums and sprinkled the whole top of the cake with cinnamon.  This ended up working out just fine.

After baking the cake and letting it cool to room temperature, I dusted it with some confectioner’s sugar, and it was ready to be tasted.

The kiddos gobbled this cake up faster than the Polish version, even though it had less plums.  My guess is that the addition of almond extract is what pulled this cake out ahead.  While 4 large plums still resulted in a delicious cake, I had spaces in the dough that I wish I could have filled with plums, so the recipe below still recommends 5 to 6.  [But if you don’t have that many, don’t despair!]

We are heading into holiday season, so this cake recipe will have to go back into storage.  Until next year.

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