Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Recipe: Zwetschgendatschi

I don't plan to turn this into a cooking blog, but in my September 27 post I promised the recipe for this tongue breaker of a cake: Zwetschgendatschi (click here for pronunciation), because it is one of the things that means fall to me. Plus I have no compunction about including recipes in my writing, so why not my blog?

First I'm sure you're wondering what the hell this is. As some of you might know from my writing, I grew up in Bavaria, i.e. Southern Germany, and Zwetschgendatschi is a cake you will find served everywhere there in the fall, when the necessary prune plums are ripe.

"Zwetschge" means prune plum, but the origin of "Datschi" is unclear. I like the explanation that it comes from the Bavarian dialect word "datschen," which means "to press flat." This seems fitting as this cake is made of yeast dough that is spread out flat on a baking sheet and covered with a layer of prune plums, then sprinkled with streusel. The streusel are, however, a bone of contention: Many bake it without that topping, but for me it's not complete without the streusel, and whenever I'm in Munich this time of year I hunt through the bakeries to find one with streusel.

This past week I found prune plumes at our local farmers market, so I bought them with the goal of making Zwetschgendatschi, and this weekend my daughter and I set about baking it. This was a team project because it was high time that I taught her how to make yeast dough. Following is the recipe with some how-to photos.

For the yeast dough:

4 cups flour
1 packet dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar
dash of salt
1 cup milk
1stick butter (unsalted)
1 egg
grated rind of one lemon (important for flavor!)

Warm the milk until it's lukewarm, sprinkle in the yeast, 1 tsp. sugar and 1 tsp. flour. Let this rise in a warm place (I heat my oven to 100F) for about 20 minutes until the top is frothy. In the meantime, cut 1/2 inch off the butter and place that on a baking sheet (You will need one with a rim.) for greasing, melt the rest of the butter. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl along with the lemon rind, then add the milk mixture, egg and melted butter. Work through the mixture with the kneading hooks of your handmixer until a solid ball of dough forms. Knead that with your hands for a few minutes, then place it back into the bowl and let it rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare 2 pounds of prune plums: Wash, pat dry, then slice open on one side to remove the stone, then make two more incisions to flatten the prune into a fourfold, keeping the skin intact.

Next, prepare the streusel:

2 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter (unsalted)

Mix flour and sugar, then add melted butter using the kneading hooks of your hand mixer. This should result in coarse crumbs:

When the yeast dough has about doubled in size, scoop it out of the bowl with your hands and knead it through one more time before spreading it out on the greased baking sheet. This will take some pressing and pulling as the dough will be elastic and prone to "jumb back."

Next, place the prunes on the dough in layered rows, with one fourfold prune overlapping another, as if you were laying shingles on a roof.

Then sprinkle the streusel over the prunes. We actually made a cake that was half Streuselkuchen, i.e. one half was only covered with streusel because my sons are not fond of the prune taste. For that half we mixed some raisins and chopped almonds into the streusel.

Then the whole cake is baked for 30 minutes at 350F. Below is what the final product looked like. In my husband's opinion it tastes best fresh out of the oven, with a dollop of whipped cream, and that afternoon cup of coffee (see first photo).


  1. I'm not sure I can find prune plums here (I've never heard of them). Can you make it with other fruit, perhaps an apricot in the summer? I loved your essay about cooking with Oma. We all have memories of our grandmother's kitchen.

  2. For some reason my fork won't go through the computer screen. Darn it! That looks good!

  3. Loved the pictures that accompany this recipe. There should be no questions left for anyone who wants to try it. Sounds like a perfect treat to go with a cup of hot coffee.

  4. Oh I loved the way you not only told us step by step how to make it- but you also included the photographs!!! My hubby would LOVE this- and I also want to know if any other fruit would work with this recipe or is it only prune plums?

  5. Annette! Did you take all the pictures? If so, I must say you really are a talented photographer! Und der Zwetschgendatschi? Hat bestimmt saulecker geschmeckt! Was haben die Kinder gesagt? Habt ihr mir ein Stueckchen uebrig gelassen ....?

  6. Hi, Annette! You've combined all three of my very favorite things in this one post: food, language and excellent writing. ;-)
    I absolutely want to make this recipe as soon as I'm home from our time in Costa Rica.

  7. Julie & Anjuli - I've only seen this type of cake made with apples and apricots. You can't make it with just any fruit because the yeast dough is rather soft and juicier fruit will render the whole thing soggy. Even with the prunes you have to eat it fresh.

    Kelly - glad you "liked" it!

    Nancy - indeed, has to be enjoyed with that hot cup of coffee!

    Barbara - Ja, die Bilder habe ich alle gemacht. Der Zwetschgendatschi war tatsaechlich lecker, und die Kinder meinten: Gar nicht mal schlecht. Sie moegen den Streuselkuchen immer noch lieber.

    Lisa - If you do try it, let me know how it turns out! Hope you had a nice time in Costa Rica.

  8. Hi Annette - I'm so glad to have found your blog. My friend who grew up in Germany just asked me to make her this cake (I still can't pronounce it!) - how lucky I am to have found such great step-by-step instructions. Thanks!

    1. Hi koshercamembert - how nice to receive your comment almost a year after I ran this post. You reminded me that it is indeed almost time again to make Zwetschgendatschi! I hope making it works out for you and your friend!

  9. Loved the Zwetschgadatschi recipe. I remember it both with and without streusel, the streusel probably originally comes from the Northern Pflaumenkuchen, where it is obligatory. It was always my understanding that adding streusel, or even just sugar for that matter, prior to baking will draw out the juice and make it soggy.

    1. Barbara, I'm happy you found my recipe. The sugar definitely draws out the juice, the streusel less so, but it's a cake that's only good for a day or two. After that it does get soggy. That's the downside of baking with fruit.

  10. Very excited to find this recipe with photos! Friends are travelling through Germany and had a version of zwetchgadatschi in Singen. The pictures the sent on their blog showed individual 6" x 4" pastries (purchased in a bakery.) I like your cookie sheet sized approach much better! I am going to make it for my wife as a surprise this weekend. I hope I can find plums!

    1. steelerandstartrek - I'm so glad that my recipe and photos are helpful to you! Thanks for letting me know. I hope the cake turns out well for you. I'm still on the hunt for decent prune plums this year. Hopefully tomorrow's farmer's market will have some.