Special Feature/Recent Bakes: Pastry in Germany (The Insanely Amazing Cake Buffet Edition)

As most of you know, I grew up in Germany. I’m going to generalize broadly and say that Germans are deeply, deeply serious about cake. 4PM coffee and cake is a tradition that’s an inch away from being sacred, and most of the Germans I know have pretty high cake standards. In my town and family in particular, any large celebration meant there would be a cake buffet. Everyone would  offer up their favorite confections, potluck style. The result was always glorious. Honestly, today’s entry may explain a few things about how I became the pastry-mad creature I am.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in Germany on vacation. The primary reason for the visit was to celebrate the half century anniversary of my grandparents’ marriage. This was a party that had been planned for a very long time, and it involved an appropriately amazing cake spread. What follows are photos and descriptions of all the amazing cakes on the anniversary buffet. I contributed a cake to the buffet as well, of course! You’ll see it in the buffet photos, but I’ll talk about it at the end of the entry.

First of all, dessert! My aunts and cousin made a series of single-serving dessert bowls, because dessert after lunch at 1PM is NOT the same as cake at 3PM, and we need to have both. Duh.

First we have the dessert prepared by my cousin. This dessert is typically referred to as “Quarkspeise” and was layered with berries and chocolate Müsli. For those who don’t know, quark is a cheese with a texture close to greek yogurt. It’s fresh, tangy and amazing. It’s used in savory foods, but in my opinion it really shines in desserts. It’s the key ingredient in German cheesecake, and when it’s sweetened (and often lightened with whipped cream) it becomes Quarkspeise. Müsli is sort of a catch-all term for cereal and granola. This dessert was completely delicious.

Next up we have another Quarkspeise, this time made by my aunt. It had an assortment of berries and a ton of sliced peaches. Very refreshing!

Finally, tiramisu made by another aunt! My aunt did not skimp on the booze, and I was so very glad.

When coffee time rolled around, the cake buffet was revealed.  In this photo, beginning from the top left, we have a sheet of Streuselkuchen (yeast dough with streusel topping), Schwimmbadtorte, Windbeuteltorte, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte/Black Forest Cake, and chocolate chip muffins. I’ll go into detail on most of those later.


In this photo, beginning top left again, we have Donauwelle, Maulwurfkuchen, Spiegeleikuchen, Bienenstich, Donauwelle again, Malakowtorte and Giotto Torte. Once again, more details to come!

And finally another Windbeutel Torte, Schwimmbad Torte, and my 3-tier cake.

Now for the detail shots. The top cake in the following photo is Windbeuteltorte, and I’ll just announce it as my favorite in the whole buffet right off the bat. My grandmother’s sister made it, and she is consistently an amazing baker. The base of the cake is composed of vanilla sponge cake, the center layer is a yogurt mousse with whole cream puffs inside(!), and the top layer is a berry mixture called “rote Grütze.” It’s basically whole berries cooked down to a jam-like consistency, and it’s totally delicious.

The bottom cake is Schwimmbad Torte, which is firmly in my top 3 list of favorite cakes. It’s composed of two layers of almond sponge cake, covered in meringue and slivered almonds and baked brown. Between the layers is a bunch of whipped cream with either gooseberry or mandarin orange filling. The below version was gooseberry filled, but another guest contributed one with the orange version as well!

Next up we have two classic Streuselkuchen. The top is a basic version with a yeast dough, streusel topping and almonds. The bottom is the same, but sans almonds and with apricots.

Next up we have Spiegeleikuchen (“Sunny side up egg cake”), Donauwelle, and Giotto cake. My grandmother made the Spiegeleikuchen, which consists of a shortbread base, quark cream, apricots and glaze. It’s scrumptious in addition to being a really cute concept. It really does look like eggs!

Below that you see the Donauwelle cake. This consists of layers of vanilla and chocolate cake, topped with cherries and buttercream. It’s finished off with a solid chocolate glaze, though another guest provided one with a neat yellow and brown topping you’ll see later.

Finally, Giotto cake. If you haven’t had Ferrero’s amazing Giotto candies, I’m truly sorry. They’re hard to findoutside of Europe, but in my opinion they’re extremely worth trying if you have a specialty shop nearby that carries them. Essentially they’re wafer balls filled with hazelnut cream and crusted with hazelnut bits. Giotto cake is composed of a hazelnut sponge cake topped with whipped cream and crushed Giotto. As a hazelnut lover, I am kind of in love with it.

For the next photo I’ll focus on the bottom two. The upper of the two is Bienenstich, a yeast cake topped with almonds and filled with German buttercream. Below that we have Malakowtorte, which is a bit difficult to describe. The base is a vanilla sponge, and the rest of the cake is composed of wine or juice-soaked ladyfingers set in a rum cream. This version also had toasted almonds.

Next up, Maulwurfkuchen! This cake’s name means “mole cake.” ‘Cause it looks like a mole hill. Get it? Eh? Mole hill?

Anyway, it’s delicious. This cake is made by hollowing out a layer of chocolate cake, filling it with banana slices and ungodly amounts of chocolate shaving speckled whipped cream, and then topping all that off with cake crumbs.

The bottom cake is the aforementioned variation of the Donauwelle.

I took a closeup of this Black Forest cake, because the amount of care put into it was extremely clear. Check out those little marzipan roses! It also happened to be totally delicious.

And finally, a closeup of the Windbeutel Torte, just because. Swoon. Would that you were not completely consumed days ago, Windbeutel Torte. I have good news, though… I got the recipe! This is going to be an entry, don’t you fret. I am ON IT.

Lastly, I’ll share my cake. Guys… planning the creation of a three tier cake from outside of the country is a pain. In an effort to make sure I’d have everything, I packed my bags to the brim with spatulas, piping tips, cake pans and even a heavy-duty turntable. The security folks at the airport were especially confused by that last one, let me tell you.

I chose to make a 3 tier (8″/6″/4″) Giotto cake, though the addition of rum and made-up-on-the-fly recipe made it very different from the one on the cake buffet. My cake layers were denser and contained more nuts, in addition to being brushed with a healthy dose of rum. The cream was made by taste… I basically made a ton of stabilized whipped cream and just added smashed up Giotto until it was dreamy. Done and done!

Here it is in the fridge, pre-stacking. A few notes of interest: I made that gumpaste flower topper in the US and carried that sucker through customs in my purse. You can believe I was nervous anytime my bag was jostled a bit too roughly. Thankfully, it made it to Germany without damage. Additionally, my plan to ice the cakes with sharp corners turned out to be, well… annoying. Why? I was using all fresh whipped cream. Whipped cream is a cruel mistress, far more stubborn than buttercream. Since I didn’t have a lot of time to fiddle, I iced it with rounded corners instead. I liked the result even more than the sharp-cornered variation, so hooray for that!

Here it is finished at the party venue.

As I mentioned, the flower topper was made of gumpaste. There’s a tiny foam sphere at the center to keep the situation from getting too heavy. The gold balls are little bits of marzipan rolled in gold powder, and for the 50 I just painted right on the cream with a food coloring/rum mix. The stringwork was done in a rum buttercream, because… whipped cream stringwork? I don’t hate myself enough to even go there.

The board is just a bunch of wax cake boards hot glued together and finished off with a ribbon… which is, in my opinion, the way to go with almost every cake under 30 or so lbs. Seriously, don’t buy those super overpriced cake drums, this version is cheaper and sturdier.

That’s it for the cake buffet rundown! In a couple of weeks I’ll have another Germany related entry about café and bakery offerings, so stay tuned!


  1. DecoJenn says:

    I love all the sweet and cake pics! ^-^ Thanks for sharing! The Black Forest cake is super cute, kawaii inspiration. :p And of course your cake takes the cake (hehe). The gold sprinkles and ribbon frosting are soooo elegant. Wonderful post as always. Take it easy. 🙂

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