Recipe: Zwetschgenkuchen / Pflaumenkuchen (German Sugarplum Streusel Cake)

This entry wasn’t planned, but I happened to find some gorgeous sugarplums on sale at my local market and just couldn’t resist sharing this recipe with you all.

This is a very traditional German dessert. It sends my mind right back home every time I taste it. A family friend of ours had a sugarplum tree, and once a year or so we were allowed to gather armfuls of plums that my grandmother would bake into cakes. To say it’s nostalgic is an understatement.

This is a genuinely easy recipe, to boot. Despite needing a couple of hours for the yeast dough to rise, the actual work time is under half an hour. I’ll add one important note, though: while you can use other sorts of plums for this cake, I’ll say honestly that it’s just not right flavor-wise without sugarplums. If you do wish to use a different fruit, I recommend apricots.

Zwetschgenkuchen / Pflaumenkuchen
Sugarplum Streusel Cake


Base Dough
200g (1 2/3 cup) flour
80ml (1/3 cup) warm milk
4g (just over 1 tsp) dry yeast
30g (2 tbsp) butter, melted
1 egg
50g (1/4 cup) sugar

8g (1.5 tsp) corn starch

600g (~1 1/4 lbs) or 9-10 large fresh sugarplums

150g (1 1/4 cup) flour
65g (1/3  cup) sugar
80g (1/3 cup) butter
1 vanilla bean, scraped OR 1 tsp strong vanilla extract

1. In a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook, combine all the base dough ingredients except for the corn starch. Mix until the dough comes together, then let the dough hook knead on low speed for an additional 5 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Allow to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until nearly doubled in size.
2. Combine the streusel ingredients in a bowl and knead them together by hand until they form coarse, large crumbs. Set aside. Wash and halve the sugar plums, being sure to remove the seed at the center and the stems. Set aside.
3. Preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F and grease a 9″ pie tin or springform pan. Punch down the risen dough and give it a quick knead. Now use a rolling pin to roll it into a roughly 10″ circle. Place the circle of dough into your pie pan. Using a sieve, dust the top of the dough with corn starch (this will absorb the plum juice and keep the cake from becoming soggy).
4. Arrange your halved plums on top of the dough, then spread the streusel on top of the plums. Allow the cake to rise again in a warm place for 20 minutes. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the streusel are lightly browned and the yeast dough cooked through. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting. May be served warm or cold.

This cake pairs fabulously with coffee or tea. It’s best served with a dollop of whipped cream or warmed with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

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