Baumkuchen (German Tree Cake)
Baumkuchen is a stunning almond-flavored cake with many paper-thin layers (mine has 11). It is traditionally made on a spit, but my version for home bakers can be done in the oven. It’s not a cake for beginners, but if you are up for a challenge, you will be wildly rewarded with the end result. The cake is gorgeous, moist, not too sweet, and the almond flavor pairs so well with the dark chocolate topping.
Rather than removing baked layers from the pan and stacking them, in this cake – as in the spit version – each layer is baked on top of the one before it. Using top heat only (from the broiler) and only short bursts of heat keeps the bottom layers from burning. If done correctly, each layer should be identical.
As with the Zimtsterne recipe on this site, I baked this recipe with German food blogger Lilly of Lilly’s German Bakery and she gets full credit for developing the recipe and teaching me how to bake it!
Baumkuchen gets its almond flavor from three different ingredients: marzipan, amaretto, and almond extract. The three combined create the perfect trifecta of almond goodness.
The layers get their lightness from the 6 eggs in the recipe. The egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks and folded in.
Use your favorite chocolate to top the cake. I used TCHO 66 percent baking discs. It’s important to temper the chocolate before using it so that the the cake will look shiny, not dull, when the chocolate cools. If you are new to tempering, read my tempering chocolate post for the easiest way to do this.
How It’s Made
Start by beating together butter and sugar. Then, mix in egg yolks, vanilla extract, and almond extract until frothy.
Break up the marzipan and heat it in a small pot on low heat with amaretto. Stir until smooth. (You can also do this in the microwave, but it is harder to monitor and you run the risk of burning the marzipan.)
Add the marzipan to the batter and stir until fully combined.
Mix flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together and add them to the batter a little bit at a time.
Then, gently fold in whipped egg whites. Make sure they have reached stiff peaks, meaning they look shiny and hold their shape when lifted with a whisk.
Now comes the complicated part – the baking! Turn on your broiler to 450 F. Line a 9″ springform pan with parchment (or grease well) and spread about 3 tablespoons of batter on it.
Place in the oven until it just starts to brown. You’ll want to keep a very close eye on it. In my oven, this took 100 seconds.
Spread the next layer of batter on top of the first one and return to the oven until that layer just starts to brown.
Repeat until all of the batter is used up. It should be about 11 layers.
Cool the cake to room temperature, then pour melted tempered chocolate over the top and down the sides of the cake.
Smooth and even it out with an offset spatula.
Expert Tips and FAQs
I can’t stress enough how important it is to watch the cake closely during the baking of each layer. If you lose track of time and forget about the cake in the oven at any point, the cake will end up looking unevenly colored.
If the marzipan isn’t fully melted or is overcooked to the point of burning, your batter may have lumps in it. If this is the case, push the batter through a sieve before using it.
Everyone’s oven is different. If it is done, pull it from the oven. Go by appearance, not by time.
Sure! A small springform will give you even more layers!
I ate this cake for a full week! I kept it on the counter in an airtight container. It still tasted great one week later!
You can heat it with a culinary torch on very low heat and then smooth it out.
- Zimtsterne (German Cinnamon Star Cookies)
- German Peppernut (Pfeffernusse) Cookies
- How to Make Almond Cream (Frangipane)
- Bakewell Tart with a Salted Honey Crust
Baumkuchen (German Tree Cake)
- 18 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature – this is the same as 1 cup + 2 tablespoons
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 6 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 4 ounces marzipan
- 3 tablespoons amaretto
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup cornstarch
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 7 1/2 ounces dark chocolate
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Mix in egg yolks, vanilla extract, and almond extract until frothy. Set aside.
- Break up the marzipan and heat it in a small pot on low heat with amaretto. Stir until smooth. (You can also do this in the microwave in short bursts, but it is harder to monitor and you run the risk of burning the marzipan.)
- Add melted marzipan to the batter and stir until full combined.
- Mix flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together and add to the batter a little bit at a time.
- Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. They should hold their shape when lifted with a whisk.
- Fold egg whites into batter.
- Turn on the broiler to 450 F and make sure to have a shelf in the middle position in the oven.
- Line a 9″ springform pan with parchment and spread about 3 tablespoons of batter over the parchment.
- Place in the oven until it just starts to brown. Keep a very close eye on it. In my oven, this took 100 seconds.
- Spread the next layer of batter on top of the first one and return to the oven until that layer just starts to brown.
- Repeat until all of the batter is used up. It should be about 11 layers.
- Cool the cake to room temperature and then remove it from the springform.
- Set an inverted bowl on top of a piece of parchment paper and place the cake on the bowl.
- Pour melted chocolate over the top and down the sides of the cake. Smooth and even it out with an offset spatula.
- Cool to room temperature then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.
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