Baumkuchen – “Tree Cake”

Baumkuchen with chocolate and vanilla glaze.

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Yield: one 9-inch Baumkuchen cake

Recipe inspired by:
Better Homes & Gardens: Test Kitchen Favorites


Authentic German baumkuchen is widely regarded as the ultimate or king of cakes. This cake, translated into English as “Tree Cake” gets its name from the series of vertical thin layers of cake resembling rings on a tree. Baumkuchen is a sweet, very lightly textured cake that is not weighed down with heavy fillings and frosting.

As cool as this cake is, it is virtually impossible to bake in a home kitchen. The pictures below show how traditional baumkuchen is made as well as how it looks in its natural environment.

traditional baumkuchen
Unlike most cakes, baumkuchen is baked on a spit. To do this, trained bakers “paint” the cake batter onto the spit and allow it to fully cook before painting on another coat of batter. The final result is a stunningly light cake with 17+ vertical rings of cake…looking a lot like a slice of wood cut from a tree. If you have a rotisserie at home, you could probably fashion a spit to make your own authentic baumkuchen. Since most people don’t have one of these, I chose to go with a “schichttorte.”

Schichttorte is a common variation of baumkuchen which is totally possible to make in a home kitchen and what we typically find in the United States. The primary difference between baumkuchen and schichttorte is the schichttorte has horizontal layers instead of the vertical rings of cake found in baumkuchen. My version of this cake boasts a light texture with a slightly citrus flavor. It is a little effort to put together but definitely worth the effort if you want to impress company or friends.


10 egg whites
10 egg yolks
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Chocolate Glaze
1-1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons boiling water

Vanilla Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk

Step-by-step Directions with Pictures:

9-inch cake pan sprayed with nonstick spray.

Making the Baumkuchen 1. Separate eggs. Allow egg whites and yolks to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Egg yolks beaten until light yellow in color.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with an electric mixer on high speed (medium-high if using a stand mixer) for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Set aside.

Beaten butter with sugar.

3. In an extra large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. gradually add the 3/4 cup sugar, lemon peel and vanilla.

Pouring eggs into butter batter.

4. Pour egg yolks into butter mixture and beat well on medium speed.

Whisked dry ingredients.

5. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until blended.

Egg whites beaten until stiff.

6. Thoroughly wash beaters so all oils from butter and egg yolks are washed off. IN the large mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Folding in egg whites.

7. Use a rubber spatula to fold egg whites into egg yolk mixture.

Pouring batter into prepared pan.

8. Pour 1/3-cup of batter in the bottom of the prepared pan.

Spreading cake batter in pan.

9. Use a knife or offset spatula to evenly spread batter across bottom of pan. Place pan under broiler 5-inches from heat and broil for 1-2 minutes; or until lightly browned. Do not overbake or overbrown. remove from broiler.

Pouring additional batter in pan.

10. Spread another 1/3-cup of batter on top of the first layer. Broil as before and repeat spreading/baking process to make about 17 layers.

Baked cake cooling on a rack.

11. Cool cake for 10 minutes then loosen cake and remove sides of pan; allow to sit on a wire rack and completely cool. Cut cake into 12 wedges. Place wedges on a wire rack lined with wax paper.

Melting chocolate in saucepan.

Preparing the Chocolate Glaze 12. Prepare chocolate glaze. Melt 1-1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter over low heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat.

Mixing chocolate glaze.

13. Stir in 1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 2-3 tablespoons of boiling water to make a thin glaze.

Drizzling chocolate glaze on cake slices.

14. Use a mixing spoon or whisk to drizzle chocolate glaze over cake slices.

Drizzling vanilla glaze on cake slices.

15. Prepare the vanilla glaze. Combine 2 cups sifted powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add enough milk (2-3 tablespoons) to make a thin glaze. Use a mixing spoon or whisk to drizzle glaze on top of chocolate glaze. Store baumkuchen in covered containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Baker’s Tips:

  • For added visual effect, you could switch the order of glazes and put the vanilla glaze on the bottom layer. Once drizzled with vanilla glaze, top with the chocolate glaze.

21 thoughts on “Baumkuchen – “Tree Cake”

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  5. instead of lemon zest I used orange zest and its incredibly delicious. The recipe seemed intimidating at first but the pictures and clear instructions made it very easy. i would recommend this to anyone, its a keeper and great for crazy german family members!

    • I bet orange zest would also be good! The recipe sounds intimidating but it isn’t too difficult once you get started. Last week, my family was raving about how cool it looks and commenting how it must’ve taken forever!

    • I just tried the recipe for the first time, and I went the orange zest route as well. Turned out absolutely delicious, and it’s just the kind of cake I like: not too sweet but delightfully light.
      I also cut the recipe in half, which baked perfectly in a loaf pan. So much fun!

    • That is great to hear! I’m glad it worked out for you. I can see how baking in a loaf pan would be nice because you could easily slice it like a pound cake.

  6. this is absolutely a ” I made this because I love you.” recipe. What a details cake and a great blog post!
    I call the bowl!! :D

  7. I actually had to look up the original baumkuchen so I could see how it was done. WOW. I’m so glad you showed us a version that could be made at home! Thanks so much.

  8. I love baumkuchen! I used to buy it in a German pastry shop in Madrid… I never had a clue of how it was made, I feel like trying now! Thanks!

  9. That’s so interesting how there is actually a cake that is baked on a stake!I’ve never had a cake like this before. It looks gerat!

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