Recipe: German Tree Cake (Baumtorte/Baumkuchen)

Serves 12

This is my favorite cake. All 20 layers of it. It has been since my mitten-wearing years. My mom used this intricately layered almond and chocolate cake as an activity for us kids – something to keep us busy on rainy mornings, when crayons had lost their interest. It is single-handedly responsible for my obsession with almond paste (and it’s sweeter counterpart, marzipan).

The original recipe might as well be called “the dance of dirty bowls.” I took a hacksaw to the method, removing five extra bowls. Your baby soft hands will thank you. The best part? No cake goodness was harmed in the streamlining of this recipe.

NOTE: You need two days to make this cake because the cake needs to chill in the fridge overnight.


All ingredients should be room temperature

1 1/2 cups almond paste, tightly packed (12 oz)
6 Tbsp half & half
1 1/2 sticks butter (12 tbsp), softened
1 cup sugar
10 eggs, separated (put the whites in a bowl big enough to whip them up to stiff peaks)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup cornstarch

10 0z jar apricot jam
1 cup slivered almonds, coarsely chopped.

For the chocolate glaze:

3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp rum, preferably dark
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
3 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips


Any recipe that includes almond paste has my heart. Fun fact: I always have almond paste on hand; it keeps indefinitely in an air tight container in the fridge. For years, even.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste with half and half, one tablespoon at a time. It will resemble mashed potatoes when you’re done.

Next, beat in softened butter until fluffy, scraping the bowl to make sure its all mixed in.

I dare you not to sneak one (or fifteen) tastes of this batter.

Next, beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides. Ponder the square root of 48. Sneak another taste of the batter.

Next, incorporate the happy balls of sunshine, one at a time.

Don’t forget to splash in the vanilla. You can never have too much vanilla. Be sure to dab a little on your wrists and behind your ears.

Next, sift in the flour and cornstarch in thirds. Beat until well incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed.

Next, beat the egg whites until they make stiff peaks, but aren’t dry. This is where it’s nice to own a hand mixer, since the standing mixer has your other ingredients in it.

Let’s play a game. What do you see in these egg whites? I see a ram’s head.

Once you’re done day dreaming, fold the egg whites into the batter until it looks and tastes like an almond paste cloud.

How to bake the cake:

Now for the fun part. Get your broiling shoes on.

Turn on the broiler and let it warm up for a few minutes. Meanwhile, grease and line a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper. Use more butter than I did, or your paper will curl.

Next, spread 1/4 cup of batter in the bottom of the pan.

Broil this layer until deep golden brown.

Then, add another 1/4 cup batter. Spread it out with a brush and broil, as before.

NOTE: Get your layers browner than pictured below or the layers won’t be distinct. If you look at my final cake pictures, you’ll see I eventually went darker with the layers. The highest ones show up much better than the ones at the very bottom of the cake.

After repeating this step a few times, spread a layer with a bit of apricot jam. Continue making a few layers of cake to every layer of jam, until half the jam is used up.

Be sure to push the batter evenly around so the cake remains flat. Doming cakes are forbidden. You can correct as you go.

Refrigerate over night.

The next day: bedazzle the cake

Spread the top and sides of cake with the remaining half of apricot jam. Set in refrigerator while making chocolate glaze.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add corn syrup (if you have a non corn syrup glaze recipe, I’d be interested in seeing it)…

…vanilla extract and rum. Dark rum is better but I didn’t have any. Simmer a few minutes to let the ingredients mingle.

Remove from heat and toss in the chocolate chips. Be sure to replace any casualties that get lost in your mouth along the way. Cover five minutes, or until the chocolate is completely softened.

Stir the glaze until glossy and pour evenly over top and sides of cake. The sides can be ugly – they’ll get covered with almonds. Hurrah for that!

Press crushed almonds over the sides and outer edge of cake. Refrigerate to set the glaze.

Slice… and serve with a giant smile. You did it!

Enjoy on a rainy day, with a cup of hot tea, a garden view and some dreamy piano music. I like it best straight from the refrigerator, with a chilly nip to it, although you could eat it room temperature, too.

This is a dense, rich cake. Small slices are recommended but not required.

Enjoy this, your very own fairy tale… with a view of another, German one.

Castle Hohenzollern. Photo from between 1890 and 1905, by Photoglob AG, Zürich, Switzerland or Detroit Publishing Company, Detroit, Michigan.

Castle Hohenzollern. Photo from between 1890 and 1905, by Photoglob AG, Zürich, Switzerland or Detroit Publishing Company, Detroit, Michigan.

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  1. That is so cool that the layers are made by broiling the cake. I thought the cake was cut into that many layers! I’ll have to send this recipe to my sister, since she is the cake baking master of my family, and she can bake it for me.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, see what your sister thinks :) It’s a bit of work, but I do the dishes between broiling sessions. 40 seconds at time lol.

  2. Susan Michael says:


    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thank you, Susan… It’s so fun to serve at a dinner party – people generally gasp a little when you cut into it and they see all the layers.

  3. Wow…that IS gorgeous! Love your pictures, too! So, so pretty!

  4. I love your funny asides (let’s play a game – what do you see; pondering odd math and sneaking more batter…) This is what makes your writing so accessible to even non-foodies! You know, if you eat batter and dough before it’s a real thing, it doesn’t have all the calories of the real thing, right? And just a thought, but I think, because we’re in Germany, that the domed cake should be verbotten! That cake looks so good!

  5. via.bake at 350… I’m. Absolutely in awe of.this beautiful. Cake. Wish you were make it for me

  6. Oh Sasha THANK YOU!!!! I had not understood what you were talking about. I had this cake just once (at the Aachen Christmas Market), I did not know its name and had no clue about the magic ingredient (I thought it just had almonds). It looked like a giant kebab, and I did not think it would work making it at home. So yes, really , form the bottom of my heart, thank you.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Oh good! Yes, this is the “at home” version – not the machine made kind. I’m sure it’s not exactly the same, but it’s ever so fun.

  7. I had never heard of this cake (lived in Germany) but like you, I absolutely LOVE marzipan and just seeing the layers made me dream… of the summer holidays when I’ll have the time to try it. I could even bring some to my sis for her wedding in England – she is an absolute fan of marzipan too. So thank you !

    • Sasha Martin says:

      This cake is a brick – solid and decadent – and would make a lovely gift. I could see it selling in a bakery for over $60, especially because you can get so many slices out of it. Heck, it would even make a great wedding cake or groom’s cake. Gorgeous. Your sister will be thrilled!

  8. I absolutely adore marzipan, in fact we had a cat named Marzipan (no, I’m not kidding – we lost her almost two years ago, and I still miss her dearly). My favorite breakfast food is almond croissants with lots of yummy almond past nestled between the buttery goodness.

    I love almonds period. And this looks amazing. I will have to try making it at some point.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      What a sweet name for a kitty cat. It’s hard to lose a pet – they are so loving, even when we aren’t in a great mood. (I have two cats). Anyway, if you’re a fan of almonds, you’ll love this.

  9. I am going to have to branch out of my comfort zone and try to make this some time. It looks incredible and delicious! Anything covered in chocolate has no chance to be bad, right?!

  10. This is the best cake in the whole world…it is soooo good…and a small piece goes a long way….We used to eat it for breakfast lunch and supper until gone….

  11. this is fantastic!! I’m going to attempt to make it for mothers day :) i can just see my mom and grandma’s faces when I cut into it! :P

    I was also intrigued enough to do a bit of reading on the origins of this cake…who knew you could bake a cake on a spit?! the creativity of some people is just mind-blowing.

  12. This looks wonderful and fun. But, I am a little confused on the layers of jam inside the cake. Is this how it goes?
    Spread jam on a broiled layer. Then spread more batter on top of jam and broil. Or, do you broil the jam before more batter goes on top of it?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hi Marla,

      Thank you :) As for the jam – the first is correct: Spread jam on a broiled layer. Then spread more batter on top of jam and broil.

      Some people even use more jam – it all depends how noticeable you want it to be.

  13. Wow! Found you via Sweetapolita & Bake @ 350 on Twitter. This is beautiful and sounds sooo good! I’m not a big apricot fan though would any flavor jam work here…raspberry maybe?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thank you Anna. You can definitely use raspberry – I think it would be delicious. Cherry goes well with almonds, too. Let me know how it goes.

  14. for a non-corn-syrup glaze, google art smith’s 14 layer cake. it is more of a thin ganache, and rich, but no corn syrup.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Perfect, thank you Jenn. I’ll try this out next time I make a cake (sooner than later, since all our birthdays are in the summer around here :) )

  15. wow what an amazing cake so pretty

  16. Why not use ganache for the glaze?

  17. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for over a month, so I’m going to make it for my mom’s birthday next week. Any idea whether almond paste would work in place of marzipan? Also, since I have to order it online, any guess about how many ounces/ lbs is equal to 1 1/2 cups? I don’t want to order too much, I’ll end up eating it all.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I just called my mom to ask her about all this. She’s the expert – and was the one who gave me my seemingly lifetime supply of the goods. When I spoke to her she actually said almond paste is preferred – and is what she always uses – since it is more affordable and has a stronger almond flavor. I’ve updated the recipe with this notation.

      As for the ounces to cups – we actually worked this one out… You’ll only need 8 oz per cup – it seems as though the cans have oz by volume, not by weight… if that makes sense. So you’ll want to buy 12 oz. I’ve also added this notation to the recipe. If you have leftovers, you can always eat spoonfuls of it with your morning coffee – that’s what mom does.

      I’m so excited you are making the cake. Please do let me know how it goes – and take a picture (you could share it on our fanpage, even). It stores really well in the fridge, so if you can stand to look at it for an extra day, you could start it 3 days before you need it (keeping in mind it takes 2 days to make).

      Good luck! Feel free to ask me any questions you might have – I’m very often “plugged in.” Happy birthday to your mom!


      • Looks wonderful. One question–when do you remove the springform sides–before chilling overnight or after you remove the cake from the refrigerator the next day?

  18. WOW! First, the old pictures = adorable. Second, I’ve never ever worked with almond paste (or eaten it, as far as I know) …. gonna have to change that. Third = wow!

  19. Dear Sasha, I googled baumtorte while reading Natasha Solomon’s Mr Rosenblum’s List, and by great luck opened your URL. I have to affirm that you are, indubitably, a nut. What’s more, a nut after my own style. This is, unless there be any doubt, a description of high commendation in Australia. From having a somewhat ephemeral interest in finding out what such a cake actually is, through sifting :) through your wonderful photographic description of assembling it, laughing aloud at your humour, and following your piano music button to another delightful discovery, I must now make this cake. I may be the only male who has commented. I am also a pianist as well as the home cook. And rather long winded. Many thanks.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Malcolm – what a WONDERFUL message to receive on this blustery Sunday. Thank YOU for making me laugh and I do hope you try the cake. It is my favorite so far (although I do LOVE the Guinness Chocolate Cake from Ireland as well – it’s a quicker fix so I make it more often). As for being the only male, it only takes one for more to get the courage to follow suit. ;) Thanks again, Sasha

  20. Virginia Lin says:

    I came across a 1981 Cuisine recipe similar to this, broiling the layers in a springform pan instead of painting on a round pole to bake in front of a fire to produce a round, tree-like slice. Have been making it ever since! I’ve experimented with it over the years, and to cut back on cost have found 2 – 3T+ of Almond Extract can replace the Almond Paste. I paint the pureed Almond Preserves on every second layer. When an old boyfriend from the 60’s contacted me in 1994, 26 years later, I added 1/2 more of the ingredients to produce a 26-LAYER Baumtorte! He was amazed! And is still in my life! ;~)

  21. Was looking for new desserts to try and want to try this one. But I had two questions. First my broiler has low, medium, and high. What setting do I use? And secondly, about how long does it take to cook each layer? Thanks for your blog.y daughter and I love baking and enjoy reading it and getting new ideas. And I enjoy learning about the different countries.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      You are going to love it, Loribeth! My broiler doesn’t have those settings, so I’m not sure. The time will vary, but it will always look the same when done – slightly browned, just like a cooked crepe. The browning is what makes each layer distinct when you slice it. Check it every 30 seconds or so to see how it’s doing. That’ll give you an idea for yours — just keep in mind that, as the layers get taller (thus closer to the broiler), they actually cooker quicker and quicker. Good luck!

  22. When i first saw the recipe, i thought it looked beautiful and even if it seemed rather long in preparation, was decided to give it a try… not only was it much easier and faster than i imagined, the layers turning brown faster each time, and by the time i’d finished straightening up the kitchen from the preparation the cooking was done. The hardest part was waiting until evening to put on the glaze and then give it a taste ( i made it in the morning for that night). To be totally honest… it was highly worth the wait!! My kids and husband absolutely loved it, even my mother in law who doesn’t care for almond paste truly enjoyed as she took a 2nd piece and broke her diet. My 5 year old has asked for this cake for her birthday so in 2 days i get to start again. I give it a thumbs up and recommend to all, not only is it delicous but its also beautiful with all the layers!

  23. What can you use instead of the corn syrup in the icing?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’ve since learned that you can probably get away with leaving it out – (google basic chocolate ganache recipes, their almost the same without that one ingredient) the syrup adds a glossy sheen is all. Good luck!

  24. SOOOOO excited to make this cake yesterday… The broiling part definitely took a lot longer than I expected. I ended up probably around 25 layers with batter leftover… Did I make the layers too thin?

  25. Just made it today–started anyway. So far so good. Our family is going to try a modified version of eat around the globe. Thanks for the inspiration.

  26. Oh goodness, this looks so yummy. And beautiful. I share in your swooning over almond paste. So good *takes a moment*

    I’m looking so forward to trying this!

  27. Hello Sasha, This is a great sounding receipe and Iam keen to try it but being Australian wondered if you could tell me if your cornstarch is the same as our cornflour plese and is half and half, half milk and half cream?

  28. Celeste Childress says:

    Ever since you published the German Tree Cake, it has been on my “to make” list. Finally, I did it yesterday. It was a failure, but I’m not going to give up. My stove is very old (1950’s), but I don’t believe I had ever used the broiler. (I ‘ve worn out at least 3 portable broilers.) Anyway, I thought I had turned the oven to broiler, but it didn’t quite make it, so I was cooking each layer in a very hot oven. When this was discovered, I turned the knob a little further and the broiler did come on with a vengeance. The result: my cake is burned black on the bottom and each of the last 3 or 4 of the top layers burned black. I put it in the refrigerator last night – and tomorrow will see if I can salvage it by cutting off the lower layers and the top layers.

    Now, for questions;

    I have never used Marzipan. What I bought was canned – Solo Brand – and was the texture of dried PlayDough. It took hours trying to get it combined with the half and half . Is this the way it is supposed to be?

    I beat the eggwhites until they were forming moist stiff peaks, but the bowl was so full that when I started folding them in, I discovered there was still a lot of egg whites in the bottom. It was too late then, so I just poured it into the dough. (Perhaps I could have beaten them more , but by that time my thought processes had really slowed down)

    At the end, I removed the cake from the pan, before refrigerating it. Should I have left it in the pan?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      It sounds totally salvageable to me… you do have to adjust the height of the pan to the broiler – either that or the cooking time. As the cake grows taller, it gets closer to the heating element, so it starts to cook quicker.

      As for the marzipan – I’m surprised it took a long time to mix together. I’d try mashing it together with a fork. The texture does sound about right.

      I left my cake in the pan before refrigerating, but I don’t think it makes too much of a difference as long as you seal it tight (otherwise it might dry out). I just use the sides of the cake pan as extra insurance to keep it moist.

      Do check back in and let us know how it tasted! :) I think it’s admirable that you did it in a 1950’s oven (!!!!!) Talk about epic…

  29. Thirty years ago I bought a cookery book with this recipe in it. I have always wanted to try bake this cake. However due to the lengthy process and cost, I never quite got around to it. As it is my birthday tomorrow I thought I would give it a go. Before I started I thought I would look up to see if this recipe was still around, and there I came across your website. It was the deciding factor Your photos are wonderful and your clear explanation of the different stages are brilliant. It took me hours and hours to weigh out, make the almond paste, whisking the egg yolk mixture, then the egg white mixture etc, then the grilling. you call this broiling (I’m British).

    I have just completed stage 3. The decorating. I am so pleased I made this cake. Thank you for the inspriration.
    I can’t wait to taste it but it will have to wait until tomorrow, I’m taking it into work. I hope my colleagues enjoy it.

  30. What a great, impressive cake. It was fun to make this with my friend. Yours looks like it turned out much better than ours, but it was satisfying nonetheless to take on a new, somewhat complex (for us) baking project. Thanks for your great photos and instructions!

  31. Thank you so much for this recipe! It is difficult to find, i didnt even think that you can make it at home (without the hole in the middle)
    I’ve been in Germany several times, but i never saw this cake (maybe it depends on the region you visit)
    I actually learned about this cake from a japanese website! Appearently they love it so much in Japan, that it became one of the must buy souvenirs for tourists!
    Grazie mille per il tuo website! Greetings from Italy! :)

  32. Hi, I was wondering if it would be ok to use some almond flour with water instead of almond paste?

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’m not sure – maybe you could make your own paste? I would think the ground almonds would need sugar and egg whites to be similar (I’m sure there’s recipes online). Honestly, the first time I’d make it with the almond paste so you know what to expect from the recipe once you deviate. Good luck!

  33. Making this for Thanksgiving desert.. Baked it last night.. I think I let some layers get a little too brown but it was really fun to make.. Decorating it today…. thanks for sharing this incredible recipe!

  34. I used Lyles golden cane syrup instead of the corn syrup for the chocolate glaze.

  35. I love this chocolate glaze recipe and it doesn’t use cornsyrup! I typically use it for flourless chocolate cake, but it would work for anything that requires chocolate glaze.

    2-3 ounces coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate
    1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 1/2 teaspoon milk OR light coconut milk OR half n half
    1 1/2 teaspoons Agave syrup OR honey
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  36. I just finished reading Natasha Solomon’s novel Mr Rosenblum Dreams in English in which the Baumtorte has an important role. I googled it and found your wonderful recipe. The photos help so much, and your wonderful comments have me smiling. I must try this cake making adventure, and send the recipeto my my book group. Thank you.

  37. Lisa Bates says:

    I know it’s been a long time since my first post 10 June 2012, but as I still receive links from your website, I thought I would add a few comments. Cake was absolutely delicious, enjoyed and commented on by all my collegues. A tip. As the first initial layers take longer to brown, i.e. you have to leave it under the grill (broiler) for longer to brown, because it’s further away from the heating element. This has a tendancy to dry out the first layers. Here is my way of getting around that. I didn’t used a spring form cake tin, just a loose bottom cake tin, which is fine!
    I have a smaller cake tin which I put under the loose bottomed cake tin which pushed up the loose bottom. This pushes the first 8 layers closer to the surface of the grill (broiler). After that you can do away with the extra tin, and just continue to cook the other layers normally. This stops the first quarter layers of the cake from drying out while trying to brown the surface. I hope that makes sense.

  38. This is the best recipe for home made Baumkuchen I’ve ever seen. When you buy it in Germany, it often rather dry, unless you get a really good one (same with Stollen).
    In the US I would always prefer almond paste over marzipan, too, because the marzipan you get here doesn’t have a very good qualiity, it is too sweet (the absolute best marzipan I know is made by Niederegger in Lübeck/Germany, you can buy it here in specialty stores).

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’m going to look out for that brand… and soon, since I’m way overdue to make this cake again! :)

  39. Forgot to mention -King of Cakes in Lithuania. I brought owen and recipe from rural town in Lithuania last year and start baking Tree Cakes. Try one.

  40. To everyone and to SASHA, this is Gary @ Euro-Mart. I baked the German Tree Cake for Sasha’s Global Table Adventure 10-12-13 at Philbrook Art Museum Tulsa. Oklahoma. The cake for this event turned out very well, it was gone before end of event. I intend to keep baking this until I am a master at it. I have some tips for everyone.
    First, as someone above stated, it literally must be a labor of love. It can’t be any other way. It is like making 20 crepes, or pancakes. The cooking time is not that much longer than any cake, but you MUST STAY THERE AT THE STOVE THE WHOLE TIME. Next, I will melt butter and cover the bottom of the pan. This cake STICKS, and rubbing butter on is not enough. I rubbed butter on the pan sides about every 6th layer as I went up. I went by sight on cooking time, although about 4 minutes each layer. I broiled the preserves 1 minute or less when starts to bubble. This keeps the jam layer and batter layer from mixing and keeps lines more strong. Yes there is going to be a difference, bottom layer goes in 20 times and top layer once. That makes the bottom 4-6 layers tougher and more resistance when cutting. Here is how I cooked it. Since this had to be ready for 11am, I started at late evening, I put on Gregorian Chant Psalm singing music and had a sense of timelessness.I kept watching the layers,kept thinking of 12 days of Christmas, Lent, and WAITING! it is neat to see layer turn perfect gold before your eyes. finished, pulled the top half of pan’ wrapped cake in plastic wrap and refridged. then went to sleep. I can’t see putting hot metal in fridge.In morning, frosted it etc.
    Recipe has 1 error in it. It takes 1 pint of rum . 1 TBLSP goes in the frosting, and I don’t know where the rest of the rum went. It must be around here somewhere.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thank you SO much for helping with our Global Table Experience. It was wonderful, wonderful! So happy you were able to make this cake and these tips are invaluable. Love that you made it with the Gregorian chant. What a lovely image. As for that rum… I like the way you think! Ha!

  41. Would it be possible to order this cake (Baumkuchen) from you? Can it be frozen?

  42. Hi there from The Netherlands! Just wanted to thank you for this recipe! It turned out absolutely wonderful (you can see a pic of it here: )
    I used a good quality marzipan instead of almond paste and I also added a pinch of salt to the cake batter to bring out the flavors even more. And yes, it was quite a lot of work with all those layers but I had a lot of fun baking this and the end result was awesome!
    Love, Ilona

  43. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe and such great detailed pics to go along with it!
    I made this yesterday, kept it in the fridge overnight, and brought it to a friend’s Oktoberfest party today. It turned out quite lovely and tasted delish! I used canned almond paste and didn’t have a problem with the recipe at all. Very pleased with the outcome and the slices were impressive with each layer distinct and golden. Here are two pics I took of the cake I made following your recipe if you would like to see.
    Whole cake:


  44. My German great aunt used to produce these from a special oven and sell them. She had a bakery in New York City for a time after she immigrated to the US in the 1920s. I haven’t had this cake since I was a small child! I have fond memories of something very delicious. Thanks for the recipe which I will attempt.

  45. When I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new
    comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I receive
    four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you are able to remove me from that service?



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