Baumkuchen (Kinda)

As soon as Ms H of The Capers of the Kitchen Crusader said that she was hosting the next Sweet Adventures Blog Hop with the theme of Layer Upon Layer, I couldn’t help but think of yet another Japanese bakery favourite (although Sara Lee’s old commercials came to mind as well…). Baumkuchen (literally ‘tree cake’ in German) is a traditional European layered cake that, through a unique method of baking, resembles a cross-section of a tree trunk; each fine layer gives the effect of growth rings.

Apparently a German baker living in Japan in the early 20th Century started making Baumkuchen in Yokohama (where I was born incidentally :) ). It’s not surprising that it became so popular since the Japanese were voracious for all things Western at the time. The cake is also a rather charming nod to nature and the Japanese are well known for incorporating elements their natural habitat into the presentation of their food.

In researching Baumkuchen recipes, I was warned a fair few times that this was one cake that was nearly impossible to make at home. You basically need a spit or rotisserie and a huge amount of time and patience. I did find a few recipes on Japanese websites that made fairly good versions of Baumkuchen with the use of a special frying pan used to make Japanese egg rolls but I didn’t get around to putting an order in for such a frying pan in time for this hop.


Needless to say, my first two efforts to make Baumkuchen by emulating a spit with a chiffon cake tin (what was I thinking??), and by using of a small oven tray as a rectangular frying pan were dismal failures. With time no longer on my side, I decided to go with a crepe cake with a twist. I used the core of a paper towel roll and wrapped it with baking paper. I proceeded to make about 20 crepes of which I cut two opposite sides off to make a straight edge. I wrapped each crepe around the paper towel core, brushing each layer with some Beerenberg Farm Blood Orange marmalade. Once I finished rolling the crepe around, I put it into the fridge to set a little.


I took my creation out of the fridge and gently removed the inner core. The crepe cake actually held together OK! I cut the roll into 3cm lengths and I was pleased to see that the inside resembled a Baumkuchen :))

I served up my crepe Baumkuchen with brown sugar semifreddo and a good drop of maple syrup. Not quite the soft squishy cake experience of a true Baumkuchen but it was delicious nonetheless with the creamy semifreddo melting through the layers. Until I dare try the Baumkuchen recipe again, I am happy to settle for this ‘tree’ cake!


Thanks to The Capers of the Kitchen Crusader for hosting this month and looking forward to next month’s adventure :)



  1. Nic@diningwithastud

    March 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    YUM!! :) Sounds delicious! Very layer-ey ;)

    • Monica

      March 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks :) While not the real thing, I forgot how delicious homemade crepes are :D

  2. bambi

    March 20, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Love the crepe layers! Thanks for passing by my blog :D

    • Monica

      March 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Thanks :) I loved your Sans Rival! :D

  3. Lizzy (Good Things)

    March 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Wow, how interesting!

    • Monica

      March 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Thanks :) It’s certainly a unique cake!

  4. JJ @ 84thand3rd

    March 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Gorgeous! Love that it is a circle rather than a stack and the jam between layers sounds delicious. Just read about proper baumkuchen – crazy!

    • Monica

      March 21, 2012 at 9:45 am

      Thanks JJ :) You know when you get a whole new respect for certain things when you give it a go yourself? I didn’t realise Baumkuchen was so hard to make!

  5. Kelly

    March 21, 2012 at 12:32 am

    Wow, still looks impressive. Had no idea you were born in Yokohama! I’m an Aussie girl married to a Japanese guy and loving reading your blog so much I subscribed. Looking forward to more interesting posts!! I’ve never tried baumkuchen but I would love to one day. I have a busy 1 year old so I have no chance to make this at the moment, maybe some day… :)

    • Monica

      March 21, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Hi Kelly :) I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. I’ll try and incorporate more Japanese recipes this year. I haven’t visited for over six years now so really missing the food. It can be hard juggling things with a little one but looking forward to more of your write-ups on Japanese food products :)

  6. Food Endeavours Blue Apocalypse

    March 21, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I love the idea behind this Baumkuchen cake, I’ve never had it before but it sounds delicious. Is there anywhere in Perth that I can try this? You did a great adaptation and it looks amazing! I like how you can put the semifreddo inside the log :)

    • Monica

      March 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

      Thanks A :) Unfortunately I can’t say I’ve seen Baumkuchen outside of Japan (other than probably in Germany) but it’s pretty similar in concept to Malaysian layer cake, just not in pandan/coconut flavour :)

  7. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    March 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    What a beautiful looking baumkuchen! I’ve seen it a lot in Japan and always thought that the layers were stunning! :D

    • Monica

      March 29, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks Lorraine. They are indeed a common sighting in Japan. I just never expected them to be so hard to make :|

  8. Winston

    March 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Monica, this is seriously one of the coolest desserts I’ve ever come across! I’ve never heard/seen anything like it before. And I like how it’s so German but has some sort of Japanese roots as well. Too cool, seriously… Thank you for sharing this creation with all of us. The SABH just keeps getting better and better, eh?!

    • Monica

      March 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      Hey Winston. Thanks for stopping. I totally love SABH! I wish I could make the real thing but unless I invest in an outdoor oven with a spit, no chance!

  9. Nic

    March 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Wow! Looks like this requires a lot of patience! I think its worth the effort though!

    • Monica

      March 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks :) I enjoyed eating it but I’ll admit to getting bored of making crepes by the 20th one or so lol

  10. Jennifer (Delicieux)

    March 25, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Wow, this looks fantastic and impressive!! I’ve never heard of baumkuchen, thanks for introducing me :D

    • Monica

      March 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      Thanks! It’s hard to beat the real thing though so if you ever get to Japan, please try a slice (or log, wheel?) :)

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