Now that I have been in Bonn for a little over two months, I think it’s about time to dedicate a blog post entirely to food. Ooh, this will be so much fun! As most of you know, I have quite the sweet tooth, and love cakes, pastries, and essentially all desserts! Germany, land of afternoon Kaffee and Kuchen (cake) and bread-lover’s paradise, is therefore quite the tempting wonderland for me. In particular, as I love to try new things, Germany’s offering of 600 main types of breads, 1,200 different types of pastries and rolls produced in the plentiful bakeries 17,000 dedicated bakeries and another 10,000 in-shop bakeries (wimbergers.com/german-bread) provides plenty of variety to keep me intrigued. I hope you guys enjoy this post as much as I know I will!
Following the recommendations of several articles and blog posts, I have now tried a number of the supposed best and most typical German bakery items and desserts, as well as items I came across and decided to try of my own accord!
First up (and the shortest category of the list): savory! Germany has plenty of wonderful cheese to go with its bread, and I often enjoy this pairing during a breakfast of Brötchen and fixings on weekend mornings with my housemates. But beyond your usual cold-cut cheese with bread, here you can also find Käsebrötchen – basically little bread rolls with cheese baked on top. Some bakeries’ Käsebrötchen have loads of cheese, some are lighter, and I opted for the latter option. The light layer of toasted, crispy cheese made this bread roll quite delectable, and all in all it was a nice snack – not too light, but not too rich or overfilling, either. That said, this was a nice one to enjoy, but not something I think I necessarily need to try again.
Better, in my opinion, than the Käsebrötchen, and a nice, slightly more substantial lunch-type option, is the ham and cheese croissant! I know these exist in the U.S., but I’m not sure I’ve had one there, and either way I feel fairly confident the one I had (from Mauel Bakery) is better than most in the U.S. Yes, it’s true, I can’t know for sure, but that mouthwatering croissant, light, fluffy, and filled with warm ham and delicious gooey German cheese, was one of the better things I’ve eaten in a while, so I have a hard time imagining many other croissants surpassing that standard!
Another great savory pastry is the classic Brezel, or German pretzel. Especially spread with a generous layer of butter (a great recommendation from my roommates), these are a delicious snack or accompaniment to any meal!
Next category (this one will be more extensive): Sweet pastries!
- Nussecke: Delicious triangular shortbread cookies, garnished with a layer of apricot jam and a caramelized hazelnut topping. I definitely plan to try these again!
- Berliner: A light, fluffy donut, covered in powdered sugar and filled with some kind of jam! Very good, but not all that different, I would argue, from some American donuts.
- Schokokuss: Basically a giant chocolate-covered marshmallow! I got this because it was cheap and I had no clue what it was – tasty, but not incredible, and I, personally, think S’mores are a better way to eat marshmallows.
- Canelé: These are actually a French pastry, but they were made by my German roommate and consumed in Germany, so I’m including them on this list! With a caramelized crust and a soft, custardy center, these were a true joy to eat. If I end up in France I will definitely have to hunt these down!
- Puddingbrezel/Puddingteilchen: A Danish-like pastry filled with vanilla custard, I think these are cute to look at, but I didn’t like it as well as I expected to. A bit cloying, even for me who loves sweets, I think this would be perhaps a better treat to try a small piece of when sharing with friends, than to enjoy in entirety on one’s own.
- Rosinenschnecke: a spiral pastry lightly frosted and embellished with raisins, this looks a bit like a cinnamon roll, but personally I think I would take a cinnamon roll over trying this again – good, but not incredible.
- Milchbrötchen mit Schokolade: a kids’ favorite, these lightly sweet rolls (Milchbrötchen) are a nice snack, and can be found with additions of chocolate pieces or raisins. My chocolate version was quite delicious!
- Nussgenuss (direct translation is something like “nut joy”): a double-spiral pastry with some kind of nutty filling and sweet white icing, this was tasty, kind of like a nutty danish. I think I personally prefer croissants and some other pastries to the more danish-like ones, but if you’re a fan of those you would probably like this!
- Rhabarbertaler: also somewhat danish like, this pastry has a sweet dough base, and then is topped with a rhubarb filling and streusel. Quite good – like I said, I’m not the biggest danish fan, but I do really like rhubarb.
- Mandelhörnchen: Highly recommended! This delicious pastry is spotted at almost any bakery you come across, and is worth trying! A bit like an almond croissant, but minus the croissant, and with more emphasis on the almonds, this pastry is made of a dense, fragrantly almond-y paste/dough, which is then covered in sliced almonds and tipped with chocolate. This pastry was a true delight for this almond-lover!
- Marzipan Croissant: Another definite recommendation for those who like almonds and/or marzipan (though, really, how can you like one and not the other?), this delicious, fluffy croissant is filled with a scrumptious marzipan paste, making for an exquisite treat. A little heavy on the sweet, but absolutely worth it, this pastry might best be enjoyed with a glass of water to dilute the blood sugar.
- Marmorkuchen (mini): Marble cake! I thought about classifying this with the cakes later, but felt it fit better here – especially because what I got was an adorable, mini Marmorkuchen bundt cake! Marble cake is quite commonly found here in Germany, and tasted to me much like the marble cakes I’ve had in the U.S. – delicious! Personally, I think eating it in a mini version especially enhances the experience.
- Stollen: Traditionally eaten at Christmas time, this bread is already in the stores! (While I sometimes find the holiday advertisements a bit ridiculous in the U.S. – e.g. Halloween products advertised starting from the end of August/early September – I think Christmas comes especially early here, because Thanksgiving doesn’t exist distract until mid-November. Thus, stores already have wide selections of all kinds of Christmas goodies!). A fruitcake-like bread (but don’t let that comparison deter you! I don’t like fruitcake, but I do like this!) coated with powdered sugar and filled with nuts, spices, and dried or candied fruit, this is not too sweet, but quite delicious. The version I had included a filling of marzipan for an even more delectable treat!
- Lebkuchen: Another Christmas goody – the famous German gingerbread! These can be found year-round in some places (like Marburg, where the picture below was taken), but are especially abundant now, as we near Christmastime. Different, and often softer, than the gingerbread I have had in the U.S. these are a wonderful, subtly-spiced treat.
And, last but not least, German cakes! German cakes really are rather different from those in the U.S., with a much bigger emphasis on cream and fruit components than is generally found in the U.S. I have yet, for example, to see anything like a sheet cake or a traditional yellow/devil’s food birthday cake here. Generally speaking, I would say there are two main kinds of German cakes: those made with a yeasted dough, like streuselkuchen, and those involving some significant cream/dairy-based component. There are, of course some exceptions to these categories – e.g. I’m not exactly sure how one would categorize Apfelkuchen (apple cake) – but many German cakes could be classified according to those criteria.
I have tried both bakery-made and homemade yeasted cakes here! One of the bakery-made versions was a piece of Mohnstrudelkuchen, a streusel cake made with a poppyseed filling. Poppyseeds are quite popular in baked goods here, and they made for a tasty, but not overly-sweet cake filling. The homemade version was a plum streusel cake I made for a work brunch! This was quite good, in my opinion, and most of my coworkers thought so, too! In addition to my homemade one, I have tried two purchased versions of plum cake (it’s quite popular here) – one with streusel, and one without. I preferred the streusel version, but definitely enjoyed both. These make a nice breakfast (or brunch, as the one I made was for!) cake, as they aren’t too sweet.
I tend to be dairy-sensitive, but in Germany so far I have been kind of ignoring that fact, both because I don’t want to limit myself with the things I can try, but also because I had heard previously from some friends that German dairy products hadn’t affected them in the same way as Americans products had. In any case, this means I have gone ahead and tried a number of the more cream-based German cakes! (From my own experience, I would definitely say that I think I have fewer issues with German dairy products, but I think I still am dairy-sensitive, as several stomachaches, post-consumption of some of the following cakes, could attest.)
On nearly every list of recommended German cakes to try, you will find two items in common: Bienenstich and Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.
Bienenstich, or bee sting cake, is one of the cakes that does not fit perfectly into the categories I created. Made with a yeast dough for the base, it boasts a thick layer of buttercream/custard filling, and is then topped with a layer of crushed, caramelized almonds. Quite delicious, but a bit difficult to eat without destroying the cake (if you eat it right side up), as the top is crispier than the soft middle. Turning the cake over solved that problem for me!
And of course, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Cake. This is a cake I had heard of before as being German, and which actually is quite common in Germany – unlike, for example, German Chocolate cakes, which I have seen precisely zero of since arriving in Bonn. I enjoyed this one at the lovely Café Sahneweiß, and it was delicious as expected! It had a nice delicate touch of liqueur, a rich cherry flavor, and plenty of creamy deliciousness!
Other cakes I have tried include the following:
- Frankfurter Kranz: Another typical German cream-heavy cake, this rich multi-layered sponge cake is filled with buttercream and jam, and then topped with more buttercream and a caramel-y brittle. I found it good, but also not incredible – it has a fairly mild flavor, overall.
- Donauwelle (Danube wave): Chocolate and vanilla marble cake topped with buttercream, cherries, and chocolate. I found this tasty, but a littttle heavy on the cream (see photo!).
- Prinzregentorte: A delicious series of alternating layers of sponge cake and chocolate buttercream, topped with a thin layer of apricot jam and dark chocolate, this one is definitely recommended! I couldn’t quite taste the apricot, but this cake had a great flavor, with some subtle hits of hazelnuts in the chocolate buttercream that I very much enjoyed.
- Herrentorte: Similar to the Prinzregentorte, this cake features alternating layers of cake and wine cream, and is also iced with dark chocolate. This was quite good, and with the dark chocolate coating, is especially appropriate for those who aren’t quite as big on super-sweet cakes.
- Sachertorte: A traditional Viennese treat, this chocolate cake is topped with apricot jam and then coated in dark chocolate. Delicious, and similar to the Herrentorte, not overly sweet!
- Gooseberry Meringue Cake: recommended and purchased for me by a German, I would consider this a fairly authentic German choice! A thin layer of cake with tart berries, and topped by a heap of delicious meringue, I was a big fan of this choice! As a bonus, the meringue is nice and creamy, but without the stomachache and other encumbrances that sometimes come along with dairy-based forms of cream!
- Käsekuchen: I tried this at a cafe, because it is what the lady recommended when I asked for “typish Deutsche Kuchen.” Including raisins, too, this was quite tasty.
- Käsekuchen (homemade): For my housemate’s brthday, I tried my hand at an authentic Käsekuchen made with quark! Somewhat similar to cottage cheese but also quite different, quark produces a cheesecake fairly different from what we are used to in the U.S. Not quite as smooth as cream cheese-based American cheesecakes, quark has a more distinct flavor, and makes for a much lighter cheesecake. While I still wouldn’t recommend over-indulging, I think one would feel much less ill after a large slice or two of quark cheesecake than one generally would after the same amount of American cheesecake.
- Fruity Hazelnut Cream Cake: This belongs in the realm of things-I-came-across-and-decided-to-try as opposed to things-I-looked-up-and-tried-to-find, and thus I have no clue what exactly this cake is made up of or named. But it was quite delicious! And with its gelatinous fruity topping over a cream filling, this seems to be a fairly typical German cake, based on what I have seen in the various cafes/bakeries/boulangeries/confiseries I have visited. Also delicious! This one had what I believe was hazelnut cream, and was quite tasty.
I know, I know – you’re thinking, “How long has she been here? That’s enough pastries to last a lifetime!” And while I would disagree, that that is definitely not enough pastries for one lifetime, I do think with the initial honeymoon phase of excitement about all the new things to try mostly over, I may pull back a bit and focus more on healthier options for my body and my wallet. But I certainly plan to find plenty more things to try, too! If anyone has suggestions of things I have missed and should try, I would be most receptive to hearing them! And now this post is sadly coming to an end – but with all that thinking and talking about pastries, I think I might just need to go find one!