Souvenir from Germany – cake by the yard

One thing I always loved about bakeries in Germany is the cakes they sold “am Meter” – by the yard. This is only a slight exaggeration. It might not have been a whole yard of cake, but the trays were huge and customers would have to say how big a piece they wanted to take home. It could be anywhere from a small sliver for one person to a big dessert for a whole family.

What I also love about German cakes is that,m although they might not be the prettiest of cakes, they are extremely tasty in a rustic, homemade kind of way. This is in stark contrast to French pâtisserie, which displays fabulously elaborate, dainty little creations with sculpted chocolate, spun sugar and physalis, but that in my opinion only rarely live up to their promises taste-wise. 

A lot of those cakes by the yard would be yeast-based dough with different toppings, sometimes just sugar and butter flakes, sometimes cinnamon, flaked almonds, or Zwetschgen, those tart pointy, bluish-purple plums that go so well with whipped cream. Yum! Some were generically dubbed “Butterkuchen” – butter cake.

My mother was really good at making yeast dough. She always told me that it took her quite a few years to get to the infallible stage, so I don’t beat myself up about not always getting the texture exactly right. I still have time to become infallible 😉 Yeast dough also needs time to rise and proof, so the following recipe is a quick alternative to yummy German Butterkuchen.

What you need for the dough:

1 cup of liquid cream

1 cup of sugar

1 bag of vanilla sugar

4 eggs

1 lemon zest (finely grated)

2 cups of flour

2 level teaspoons of baking powder

1 pinch of salt

What you need for the topping:

125g butter

1 cup of sugar

1 bag of vanilla sugar

4 tablespoons of milk

and a choice of nuts or flavourings:

200g of sliced blanched almonds (my usual)


200g of a mix of toasted pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds


nuts with cinnamon

or… (I recently thought about treating it like a lemon-drizzle cake, or soaking it in coffee and rhum with walnut toppings. I’ll let you know how it goes.)

What to do:

  • Mix all the ingredients for the dough with a whisk or an electric beater until well combined and smooth
  • Spread on a large, paper-lined baking tray
  • In an oven-proof dish (for example, Pyrex), combine all the ingredients for the topping
  • Put the dough in the middle of the oven and bake at 190C for 15 minutes
  • AT THE SAME TIME, place the oven-proof dish in the BOTTOM of the oven while the dough bakes
  • After 15 minutes, take everything out of the oven and spread the topping onto the partially-baked dough
  • Bake for another 20-25 minutes until the topping is crispy and golden.
  • Let cool before cutting the cake into squares or triangles


 This is a perfect cake to take along for pot-luck dinners, picnics, school fairs, etc., because you can bring a whole trayful and it’s easy to eat with your fingers.

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