The equivalent to the English Teatime is the German tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) – between 3 and 4 pm millions of Germans stop for a coffee break – helps them to get through the rest of the day. On working days it usually is a quick coffee and a simple crumb cake or flan (called Teilchen), but on weekends it gets celebrated with layer cakes and the traditional buttercream torte. If you have an appointment at 3 or 4 pm on a weekend, it includes coffee and cake for sure, the only questions is where: at home, which means you are expected to bake, or in a café, which offers a wide range of cakes and you buy it by the piece. (app. 3 euro) You often see elderly, nicely styled Ladies sitting in a café and chat, but also the young folks love their afternoon cake.
Cafes in Germany in general offer breakfast in the morning and Kaffee und Kuchen in the afternoon, some are specialized in layer cakes and torte, all handmade and delicious – in fact, for a coffee appointment, Germans choose the location for the quality of the cake, like you would choose a restaurant for the food. Popular cafes are known for their specialty, which usually is a local cake, like the Schwarzwälder Kirsch Torte in the black forest region or the Franzbrötchen in Hamburg. Like always, there is a huge difference in taste and price between a chain bakery and the traditional Konditorei, even though the cake may look fantastic in both cases.
Since I have a sweet tooth, I’m a real expert in cake/torte and I definitely taste if the layers were frozen instead of fresh baked, if the cream contains some additives to keep it in shape for a longer period, if they added artificial flavor instead of the real thing or if they were generous with sugar to sweeten it up in order to disguise the lack in taste.
I guess I could become a professional cake tester! When I travel around in Germany and get to a town in the afternoon hours, I look for the central Café/Konditorei, usually close to the market square in a historic building, old fashioned and back in times. This is the place where I go first and have a coffee and cake. With a little luck, I meet locals and can ask them about good, local restaurants and get some recommendations for the area.
Cake guide for Germany
Called Berliner all over Germany, only in Berlin it’s called Krapfen. The traditional filling is red jam, but nowadays you also get it with chocolate or vanilla filling (not my cup of tea). Traditionally served for New Year’s Eve and Carneval
The famed Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Cake in English, is a layer cake of biscuit, cherry schnapps, cherries, chocolate and heavy whipped cream. It has calories for a full meal and is a piece of art itself, supposed to be eaten within the next hours. The chocolate biscuit has to be fresh, the cherry schnaps of good quality to just underline the cherries and ideally the chocolate crumbles on the outside are freshly grated.
Even though Käsekuchen means Cheesecake in English, you will find that the German Käsekuchen is a completely different thing. The main ingredients are Quark (fresh cheese) and eggs, this mixture gets baked on a fresh baked butter dough. It’s by far not as sweet as the American version!
The Strudel has been a staple around southern Germany since the mid-15th century. The making is definitely left for advanced bakers – a womans reputation of “baking the best Strudel” is something in a Bavarian village! The filling (apple or nuts) has to be soft and sweet, the puff pastry crunchy and thin and the whole cake oven-warm, you can add vanilla sauce or ice cream.
At home where you find orchards and seasonal limited to fall – you get plum cake from the very end of August to mid October and it definitely has to be topped with whipped cream. Good quality plum cake is made of fresh yeast dough, has lots of plums to make it juicy, is seasoned with a touch of cinnamon and comes right from the oven, so that the whipped cream immediately starts to melt when you put it on top.
Dampfnudeln are a regional specialty in Bavaria and even though the recipe sounds more than simple – sweet yeast dough – it makes a huge difference where you get it. The texture has to be soft and fluffy, the taste buttery and slightly sweet, ideally you eat it right from the oven. There are filled versions available, also the combination with vanilla sauce, but if you want the real thing, taste it pure!
Goethe loved it – Frankfurter Kranz is a heavy layer cake, made of biscuit, buttercream and cracknel. Like the name implies, it is the common cake in the area Frankfurt, but you find it all over Germany
Belongs to the sheet cakes and often contains seasonal fruits like apples or apricots, the name giving streusel have to be buttery and sweet. In northern Germany it’s called Butterkuchen and the streusel might be substituted by almonds or sugar and butter