Kuchen is pure comfort to me, and this easy kuchen recipe makes it so simple to whip up a fragrant cake in time for morning coffee or afternoon tea.
Kuchen is simply the German word for cake, and it comes in all sorts of variations. The most popular varieties are fruity and spicy. The fruity one is a sweet dough studded with fresh or canned fruit such as peaches, plums, or apples, then topped with cream or custard. While I will happily tuck into a slice of fruit-filled kuchen any day of the week, the spicy kuchen has long been my favorite.
This spicy kuchen is a simple, sweet dough with a ribbon of sugar and butter spiced with cinnamon running through its center, and more buttery cinnamon sugar goodness on top. It is beautiful hot and crumbly straight out of the oven, warm drizzled with heavy cream or thick custard, or cold cut in thick slabs and spread generously with salted butter. It’s even nice a day or two later, toasted for breakfast in the morning.
Easy Kuchen Batter
Although kuchen is usually made with a plain or vanilla-flavored batter, I like to spice mine up a bit more with a few special additions.
I start with the extract. Vanilla is nice, but maple is even better. I also like rum extract or something nutty like almond or hazelnut. I always double the amount of extract so the cake is richly flavored and scented.
I also like to add spice to the dough itself. Cinnamon is the traditional favorite, but I also love a bit of nutmeg or cardamom. They give such a nice, warm fragrance to the kuchen.
I normally prefer my kuchen batter simple, but now and then I like to fold in a handful of toasted nuts like chopped or slivered almonds, walnuts, pecans, or halved hazelnuts. Half a cup or so of crystallized ginger is also a nice option, or a generous helping of chopped dark chocolate.
Kuchen Filling and Topping
A traditional kuchen mixture for the filling and topping is simply white sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon. You can’t go wrong with this version, but you can add to it to make your easy kuchen recipe extra special.
I like to use a sugar with lots of flavor and richness, so instead of white sugar, I use dark brown sugar or muscovado sugar. Both of these impart an additional level of flavor that I think really enhances a kuchen. I also prefer a bit of variation in the spice. Cinnamon is always a lovely choice, but adding in nutmeg, ginger, or cardamom gives a welcome boost to the flavor and fragrance.
Some folks use unsalted butter to hold the filling and topping together, but I think salted butter is far nicer. The salty kick really helps the other flavors shine.
It’s also nice to add some finely chopped nuts. They not only add an even more tantalizing aroma to the kuchen, but they also give a lovely, buttery crunch to each bite.
Accompaniments for Kuchen
Something creamy is the best accompaniment to a freshly baked kuchen. A warm custard, perhaps flavored with vanilla or butterscotch, is a lovely option. Or try our tea-infused coconut custard. Cold cream never goes amiss, and a scoop of vanilla or Earl Grey Cardamom ice cream is downright divine.
Easy Kuchen Recipe with Maple Spice Filling
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon maple extract
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour (OR 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cornstarch)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 teaspoon maple extract
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Grease and flour a 9-inch cast iron pot. Set aside.
In small bowl, stir together cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Set aside. In small cup, melt butter then stir in maple extract. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. Using your fingers, add butter to flour and rub until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, then pour the eggs, milk, yogurt, and maple extract into it. Use a spoon to gently stir ingredients together until no flour is visible. Batter will be thick.
Evenly spread half the batter into the bottom of the cast iron pot. Drizzle with half of the melted butter, then dust with half of the cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg mixture.
Carefully smooth the remaining batter on top of the cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg mixture. Drizzle with the remaining melted butter, then sprinkle over the remaining cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg mixture.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overcook.
Serve warm as is or with salted butter or cream.