Table of Contents
- Our Favorite German Desserts and Pastries
- 1. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)
- 2. Apfelstrudel (Apple Streudel)
- 3. Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)
- 4. Spaghettieis (Spaghetti Ice Cream Sundae)
- 5. Streuselkuchen (Crumb Cake)
- 6. Dampfnudeln mit Vanillesauce (Steamed Dumplings with Vanilla Sauce)
- 7. Franzbrötchen
- 8. Knödel (Dumplings)
- 9. Lebkuchen
- 10. Krapfen (Berliner Donuts)
- 11. Kaiserschmarrn (Shredded Pancakes)
- 12. Mandelhörnchen (Almond Horns)
- 13. Stollen
- German Candy
- 16. Heiße Schokolade (Hot Chocolate)
German desserts tantalize the senses with their comforting textures and familiar flavors. Read on to discover 16 German sweet treats that we simply can’t resist.
But what about German desserts?
Overshadowed by savory German specialties as well as by desserts in nearby countries like Austria, France and Italy, many desserts in Germany live under the radar. As it turns out, Germany has a cadre of delectable desserts and pastries that rival those in its neighboring countries.
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Our Favorite German Desserts and Pastries
We never thought of Germany as a dessert destination. However, after more than a half dozen visits to Deutschland, we’re now smitten with the country’s sweet treats.
While many of the best German desserts are cakes, some desserts are fruity and others are pastries. The country even has a spaghetti ice cream dessert called Spaghettieis which doesn’t actually involve pasta. Then there are German candies that we’re happy to eat when we’re craving chocolate or chewy gummies.
After satisfying our sweet tooth cravings in German cities like Baden-Baden, Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Munich and Nuremberg, these our our picks for the best desserts in Germany and the ones you shouldn’t miss:
1. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)
While some people venture to Germany’s Black Forest to live out a Grimm fairytale fantasy or buy a cuckoo clock, dessert lovers hike into the hills for cake. And not just any cake. The Black Forest (i.e. Schwarzwald) inspired the creation of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte more commonly known as Black Forest Cake or Black Forest Gateaux.
No fairy tale villain, this cake channels good over evil with intensely chocolate cake, fresh cherries, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The addition of kirsch (cherry liqueur) is the literal cherry on top of this iconic German dessert.
Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of either chocolate or cherries. Instead, order a slice of apple cake or plum cake. Better yet, try a slice of Bienenstich-Kuchen (i.e. Bee Sting Cake) filled with custard and topped with honey and almonds.
2. Apfelstrudel (Apple Streudel)
Apfelstrudel is an Austrian dessert that feels like it should be a German dessert. We’re apparently not alone with this feeling since Apfelstrudel is popular all over Germany but especially in Bavaria. This popularity qualifies this position as a top German dessert.
To make Apfelstrudel, bakers fill layered pastry with sweet apple filling. With hints of cinnamon, Apfelstrudel is an ideal dessert to eat after dishes like Schnitzel and Sauerbraten. Toppings like vanilla sauce and whipped cream elevate Apfelstrudel to legendary status.
3. Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)
Although Bienenstich Kuchen literally translates to bee sting cake, eating this oddly named cake doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, eating Bienenstich Kuchen is a tasty experience that we highly recommend.
Bienenstich Kuchen has a honey-almond topping which may be the reason for its odd name. Or the tasty cake may have gotten its name from legendary 15th century bakers who allegedly used beehives as weapons. Either way, the cream-filled yeast layer cake is a tasty treat that Germans love to eat. When we’re in Germany, we love to eat it too.
4. Spaghettieis (Spaghetti Ice Cream Sundae)
Trust the Germans to transform spaghetti into a dessert but that’s exactly what they do at ice cream parlors across the country. The dessert is called Spaghettieis but, while it looks like spaghetti, it’s essentially an ice cream sundae.
An Italian immigrant invented Spaghettieis in Mannheim more than 50 years ago when he made ice cream ‘noodles’ with a spätzle press, placed them on top of whipped cream and topped the dish with strawberry sauce and white chocolate shavings.
Resembling a plate of spaghetti but tasting like an ice cream sundae, this dessert is both wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the most popular desserts in Germany.
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5. Streuselkuchen (Crumb Cake)
Streuselkuchen translates to crumb cake, but don’t confuse it with the Entenmann’s version that many Americans (including us) grew up eating. Germany’s version is way better. And why not? The concept of topping cake with a crumbly top (i.e. streusel) began in Silesia when the region was part of Germany. It’s now part of Poland.
German bakers typically fill Streuselkuchen with fruits like apples and sour cherries. The buttery cake pairs well with coffee – hence why it’s sometimes referred to as coffee cake.
6. Dampfnudeln mit Vanillesauce (Steamed Dumplings with Vanilla Sauce)
Dampfnudeln mit Vanillesauce sounds more exotic than steamed dumplings with vanilla sauce. However, unlike Shakespeare’s roses, this German dessert tastes divine no matter what you call it.
While these steamed, yeasty dumplings can be either sweet or savory, adding vanilla sauce makes Dampfnudeln sweet. Frying them in butter makes them crispy and adding fruit jam makes them healthy. Well, we like to think of them as healthy but we also like to think that we’re tall. Maybe one day…
Hamburg’s Franzbrötchen reminds us of a French croissant. It also reminds us of a Finnish Korvapuusti. Perhaps it was inspired by both. Or neither.
Either way, we fell for Franzbrötchen during our first trip to Hamburg and fell for it again during our second visit. The sweet pastry makes a great little breakfast or afternoon treat. It’s even better when paired with coffee.
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8. Knödel (Dumplings)
Similar to Dampfnudeln, German Knödel can be either sweet or savory. We like to eat them both ways. We especially liked eating the sweet version we ate in Hamburg with roasted plum, vanilla sauce and sliced almonds. We literally scraped the plate clean – the dessert was that good.
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Despite its kitschy appearance and similarity to gingerbread, Germany’s Lebkuchen is a traditional German treat that dates back to the 13th century when monks first baked them. Baking is no longer a necessity as modern Germans can buy heart-shaped Lebkuchen at Christmas markets as well as at Oktoberfest and other festivals.
It’s probably better to buy Lebkuchen at a German Christmas market or at a festival like Oktoberfest than to make the sweet treat at home. The Lebkuchen recipe has an extensive laundry list of ingredients that includes eggs, flour, honey, sugar, nuts, candied orange and lemon peel as well as exotic spices like anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and mace.
Be aware that there’s a tradeoff for this shortcut. While homemade Lebkuchen is soft in texture, the commercial version is harder and crunchier. We’re okay with the tradeoff when bakers add colorful designs to their Lebkuchen creations.
10. Krapfen (Berliner Donuts)
While JFK wasn’t claiming to be a donut when he famously stated “Ich bin ein Berliner,” we can understand any potential confusion on the matter. After all, Germany’s Krapfen are called Berliner Donuts outside of their home country.
Similar to jelly donuts eaten around the world, Krapfen are yeasty pastries filled with jam, fried in oil and sprinkled with powdered sugar. You can eat one for breakfast with coffee or as an afternoon snack.
11. Kaiserschmarrn (Shredded Pancakes)
While most countries eat pancakes for breakfast or lunch, Germans shred puffy pancakes, caramelize them and serve the resulting ‘mess’ for dessert. They also add extra bits like raisins and powdered sugar as well as sides like applesauce and jam.
We’re not being rude when we call this dish a mess. Named after an Austrian kaiser who clearly liked the dessert as much as we do, Kaiserschmarrn loosely translates to Kaiser’s Mess. The messy dessert is especially popular in Bavaria and can be found each autumn at Munich’s Oktoberfest.
12. Mandelhörnchen (Almond Horns)
Mandelhörnchen have a lot going on. Not only are the horseshoe-shaped pastries coated with almond flakes and dipped in chocolate, but they also have marzipan centers.
The marzipan center was a sweet surprise since we were expecting the Mandelhörnchen to be crunchy like Mandelbrot. Instead, we found the Mandelhörn to be as chewy as it was delightful. We literally devoured the tasty almond pastry in two minutes and were tempted to buy another.
Germany’s Stollen has stolen our hearts.
It’s not that the simple Christmas bread studded with candied fruits and nuts is particularly unique. But, as we discovered in Baden-Baden, versions baked with mandel (i.e. almonds) and marzipan hit our breakfast sweet spot. Plus, its top layer of powdered sugar doesn’t hurt Stollen’s cause.
We weren’t the first to discover Stollen’s charms – its history dates back to the 16th century when Stollen was more of savory bread than a dessert. It quickly became popular in German cities like Dresden, a town famous for hosting Europe’s oldest Christmas market as well as an annual Stollen festival in December.
Many people don’t realize that Germany is a candy country, rivaling countries like Switzerland and Italy in terms of its candy selection. We don’t say this lightly since we’re candy fans who often buy chocolate bars and fruity confections both at home and when we travel.
When we’re in Germany, these are the candies that most tickle our tastebuds:
14. Chocolate Bars
Move over France and Switzerland. While Valrhona and Lindt are divine, Germany produces enough chocolate types and varieties to keep us from ever getting bored. As a bonus, German candies are delightfully different from our favorite American candies.
Top German chocolate brands include Duplo and Milka as well as our personal favorite, Ritter, which has been producing chocolate in Germany for over a century. The opposite of old-school, Ritter produces more than three dozen square-shaped ‘sport’ bar varieties, each sold in a colorful snap-open package.
Our favorite Ritter Sport bar flavors are milk chocolate (Mindi), dark chocolate (Daryl) and cornflakes (both of us). We’d add corn tortilla chips to this short list but that unique chocolate bar flavor is challenging to find outside of Germany.
15. Haribo Gummies
Haribo started a global gummy craze with its goldbärren (golden bears) but the German candy produces many more varieties of soft, chewy candy. Other gummi options include fruit salad, dinosaurs and happy cola bottles. We’re not exactly sure why these bottles are happy but they make us happy so there’s that.
Founder Hans Riegel didn’t invent the gelatin-based candy concept but he was likely the first to make gummies shaped like bears. Though Haribo has since gone global, Riegel’s creation is still a local favorite throughout Germany with no end in sight.
16. Heiße Schokolade (Hot Chocolate)
Heiße Schokolade is Germany’s version of hot chocolate. Not to be confused with Trinkschokolade made with powdered chocolate, Heiße Schokolade, made with actual chocolate, is the real deal and worth the calories.
To be clear, Germans didn’t invent hot chocolate. That honor goes to the Mayans. However, drinking Germany’s Heiße Schokolade topped with whipped cream on a cold winter day is nothing short of heavenly.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.