Butterkuchen (German butter cake) is a timeless, old-fashioned dessert. This German cake is made with a rich blend of milk, sugar, yeast, eggs, and flour.
And of course plenty of butter. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth delicious light and airy cake, that's sweet and gooey.
Butterkuchen (German butter cake) is a classic German dessert. Often served for afternoon coffee when Germans like to enjoy 'Kaffee und Kuchen'. This afternoon ritual is the time when Germans like to relax with a good cup of hot coffee and a slice (or two) of cake.
If you'll get to visit Germany one day (or have in the past), you'll be amazed at the number of bakeries. German bakeries are amazing. And they'll offer a wide array of cakes, pastries, and of course a large display of bread. And you'll find Butterkuchen in almost every good bakery.
YEAST - You can use both fresh yeast or dry yeast. Fresh yeast is very common in German baking but it's often hard to find in the US. The only store that I know who sells it is Whole Foods. That being said I've made this recipe many times with dry yeast and it tastes just as delicious.
MILK - This is a recipe where I don't count calories and always use whole milk. But you could experiment using skim or other low-fat milk. Make sure to gently warm the milk. The temperature should be below 95° Fahrenheit.
SUGAR - Granulated sugar is fine. I've started to look for less processed sugar which is why the sugar in the picture is a little more yellow. But any granulated sugar will work. Divide the sugar. ⅓ cup for the dough and ⅔ for the topping.
FLOUR - I use all-purpose flour.
EGGS - I strongly recommend using eggs at room temperature. Simply remove the eggs from the fridge about 30 minutes before you start baking.
BUTTER - Make sure to use unsalted butter. Divide the butter:
12 tablespoons melted butter + 12 tablespoons cubed and chilled
HEAVY CREAM - This is the "secret" ingredient that makes this butter cake so rich, tender, and moist.
Additions and Variations
CINNAMON - Sprinkle a tablespoon of cinnamon over the butter cake before you put it in the oven.
ALMONDS - Sprinkle a cup of sliced blanched almonds over the cake.
How To Make Butterkuchen
Making this butter cake recipe is quite simple. The proofing (time while the dough rests and rises) takes a bit of time. Be patient. The results are going to be worth it.
Summary of how to make this cake
- Make the dough and allow the yeast to rise twice.
- Transfer the dough onto a baking sheet and allow it to rise a third time.
- Add butter and sugar to the butter cake.
- Bake and finish the cake by adding heavy cream.
Making The Yeast Dough
- In a small bowl, combine lukewarm milk (under 95° Fahrenheit), 2 tablespoons of sugar, and dry yeast. Briefly stir the ingredients with a spoon. Cover the cup with a dish towel and rest for 15 minutes.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, and combine with salt, ⅓ cup sugar, and lemon zest.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer. Use the dough hook attachment and start at a medium speed. Gradually increase to a high-speed setting.
- Add one egg at a time. Continue to beat the dough and slowly pour the melted butter into the dough. Continue to beat until the dough is sticky but smooth.
- Sprinkle about one tablespoon of flour over the dough and cover with a dishtowel. Place the bowl in a warm location. (Check if your oven has a 'proof setting') Allow the dough to rest for 60 minutes.
Filling, baking, and finishing the cake
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface.
- Transfer dough onto a baking sheet. Use your index finger to make multiple indentations.
- Cover the dough with a dish towel and allow it to rest, and rise for another 30 minutes.
- Add chilled butter to the indentations. Sprinkle the dough with sugar.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes (or until golden brown) at 375° Fahrenheit.
- Remove from the oven and pour heavy cream over the hot cake. Allow to cool and serve immediately.
Recipe Success Tips
Don't fear making yeast dough. Making yeast dough sometimes gets a bad rap because it seems difficult to get a good rise.
Here are some easy tips that will help you master any yeast dough with ease.
- Make sure that all your ingredients are at room temperature. This means if you store your eggs in the fridge, make sure to take them out when you start baking.
- Begin by melting the butter first. This way, the butter can cool a bit until you add it to the yeast dough. The melted butter should be the last ingredient you'll add to the dough.
- Similarly, make sure to gently warm your milk. You don't want it hotter than 95° Fahrenheit.
- Stick to the proofing (to rest and rise) times. This recipe has three proofs (time for the dough to rest and rise).
- Proof # 1: After making the yeast mixture. (15 minutes)
- Proof #2: After beating the dough into a smooth dough ball. (60 minutes)
- Proof #3: After rolling out the dough and transferring it to the pre-greased baking sheet. (20-30 minutes)
- Preheat the oven towards the end of the last proofing.
- Each time you proof the dough, make sure you cover it with a dish towel and keep it in a warm environment. Some ovens have a proof setting which is awesome.
Don't be thrown off by the lengthy proof times! The work time for this cake is just about 20 minutes.
And if you have little ones around, you can ask them to help 'poke the butter cake holes' and filling them with the chilled butter pieces. This is how I learned baking many years ago.
More Delicious German Dessert Ideas
Bee Sting Cake - This is a quick and easy recipe version of one of Germany's most famous cakes.
German Bundt Cake ~ Sandkuchen
Mulled Wine Cake - Classic mulled wine flavored combined with chocolate in a delicious bundt cake.
Streuselkuchen - German Crumb Cake - A tender, buttery cake with a rich and crumbly top.
- 1 package dry yeast
- 1 cup milk lukewarm (below 95° Fahrenheit)
- 1 cup sugar divided into ⅓ cup for the dough and ⅔ for the topping
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest *optional*
- 2 whole eggs room temperature
- 3 sticks butter divided, 12 tablespoons melted ~ 12 tablespoons cubed
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Grease a 9x13 inch baking sheet and set aside.
- Remove the eggs from the fridge to allow them to reach room temperature before adding them to the dough.
- Melt 12 tablespoons (¾ cup) of butter. Set aside to cool.
- Gently warm the milk until lukewarm (90-95° Fahrenheit).
- Sift flour into a large bowl and combine with salt, sugar, and lemon zest.
Making The Yeast Dough
- Combine dry yeast with 2 tablespoons of sugar and lukewarm milk in a small bowl. Give it a quick stir. Cover with a dishtowel and rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.
- Add the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer (use the dough hook attachment). Add the eggs, one at a time. Continue to beat until all of the ingredients are well combined.
- Slowly pour the melted butter into the dough. Keep mixing at medium-high speed until all ingredients have been well combined. The dough should be sticky and smooth.
- Sprinkle the top of the dough with a tablespoon of flour. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel and store in a warm place for 1 hour.
Preparing the Dough in the Baking Sheet
- Lightly flour a work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough. Transfer dough to a 9x13 baking sheet. Use your hands to mold the dough into the corners of the baking sheet. Cover with a dishtowel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit.
- Use your index finger to make small indentations all over the dough. Add 12 tablespoons of chilled, chopped butter into the indentations. Coat the cake with the remaining sugar.
- Bake the butter cake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately pour the heavy cream over the cake. Allow the cream to soak in and for the cake to cool down. Serve when still slightly warm.
Bonus tip: reheat before serving it again. Freeze - This cake freezes very well. 1. Allow the cake to cool completely. 2. Slice and wrap the cake in cling film and aluminum foil. Or use a freezer-friendly reusable freezer-friendly container. Recipe Success Tips
- Remove the eggs 30 to 45 minutes before you start baking. Eggs should be at room temperature.
- Both the melted butter and warmed milk shouldn't be too hot.
- Allow the dough to proof (rest and rise) long enough.
- With a little bit of patience, you'll have the moistest, lightest butter cake imaginable. You've got this.