Baumkuchen, literally meaning “tree cake” or “log cake,” is a classic German spit cake made by applying thin batter to a thick cylindrical tapered skewer (spit) continuously rotating near the source of heat. In its native Germany, Baumkuchen is a regional treat and takes an effort to find, but on the other end of the world, in Japan, it has become one of the most popular treats, found everywhere from convenience stores to high-end bakeries.
Baumkuchen was introduced to Japan in 1919 by Karl Juchheim, a China-based German baker taken as a prisoner of war during the Fall of Tsingtao. The cake’s mellow sweet flavor, firm but springy and slightly chewy texture, and rather significantly, its aesthetics fit well with Japanese sensibilities and cemented itself as a favorite over the years. Baumkuchen’s layers, reminiscent of a tree’s growth rings, have come to represent long life, happiness, and luck and have made it a popular festive gift, often found at weddings, birthdays, etc.
If you’ve never had Baumkuchen, we’d advise trying classic Baumkuchen, but those who like intense and unique flavors will likely appreciate chocolate or cheese Baumkuchen from the same collection. If you’re more interested in combining classic Japanese and German flavors, then you can’t go wrong with matcha Baumkuchen, especially if you pair it with a cup of good sencha tea.