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Zuckerkuchen (German Sugar Cake)

Sometimes the simplest things are the best and this German sugar cake has a sweet sugar atop a yeasted “cake” underneath. It’s a traditional treat in many places in Germany in part because you can adapt it to suit any taste.

Since the dough is minimally flavored you can jazz it up with some lemon or orange zest, or add some anise extract to the dough. Even though it’s called a cake the dough is much more like bread dough than what we call cakes in the US. But, that doesn’t change the fact that this is the quintessential sweet treat in many areas of Germany. In some places it’s called “joy-and-sorrow-cake” since it’s served at both weddings and funerals. It’s sometimes also called “butterkuchen” for the generous heaps of butter on top and plenty of butter in the dough, too.

Zuckerkuchen (German Sugar Cake)

The base layer is a simple yeast dough that’s enriched with milk. After you’ve let it rise twice then you press it into a 9″x13″ pan.

Zuckerkuchen (German Sugar Cake)

The topping is a rich mixture of sugar and butter which is placed over the characteristic holes that you poke in the dough before the topping is applied. To add some more flavor you can add cinnamon or other spices to the sugar if you like.

Zuckerkuchen (German Sugar Cake)

For a change of color on top I added a dash of sugar in the raw after the topping went on. You can also use regular sugar or for a less sweet option leave this extra sugar out entirely. Some folks like to sprinkle sliced almonds on top, too.

Zuckerkuchen (German Sugar Cake)

However you make this cake your own it will be delicious, comforting, and an uncomplicated love-at-first-bite dessert. It’s the perfect cake to just make you feel good. Plus the texture is firmer than American cakes, so you can hold it with your hands, no plate required.

Makes 16 sqaures

1h 50m prep time

30m cook time

4.7
Rated 4.7 out of 5
Rated by 12 reviewers

Allergens: Milk, Wheat, Gluten, Eggs

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For the dough:
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm (not hot) milk
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 9 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
For the topping:
  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar for decoration
Preparation
  1. Combine milk with yeast, 3 tablespoons flour, and sugar. Allow to rest until frothy and doubled in size, about 15-20 minutes. Combine yeast mixture with remaining flour, vanilla extract, egg, salt, butter, and oil. Once dough has formed knead for 4 minutes.
  2. Place dough in large bowl greased with 1 teaspoon oil and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for 1 hour. Dough should double in size.
  3. Grease a 9"x13" baking dish with remaining oil. Turn out dough into pan and press into corners to level out. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Oil the end of a wooden spoon. Make 16 holes in dough with spoon end, evenly spaced.
  5. Combine butter and granulated sugar in bowl. Place a spoonful of mixture over each hole. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Cut into squares to serve.

Recipe adapted from Einfache Rezepte.