Classic German Butter Cake (Butterkuchen)

Here’s A Delicious German Butter Cake Recipe That Is Easy To Make!

If you’re looking for an easy and authentic Kuchen recipe – that’s “cake” in German – then you should make German butter cake!

Known as Butterkuchen in German, this German butter cake recipe is packed with butter and made with yeast to create that lovely, fluffy texture.

Topped with more butter and a thick layer of sliced almonds and sugar, this Butterkuchen is best served fresh and enjoyed with a coffee or tea!

slices of german butter cake with almonds and sugar on white platter
Our recipe creates an authentic German butter cake!

Similar to other German cakes like Bienenstich, Mohnkuchen, or Streuselkuchen, authentic German butter cake is one of those classic sheet cakes.

These kinds of cakes are very typically eaten in the afternoon with a hot beverage.

This is something that Lisa ate growing up as a kid – often at her Oma’s house. You couldn’t escape coffee and cake when it was on the table!

Looking for more German cake recipes? Try this classic marble cake, easy lemon cake, German no-bake chocolate cake, or our moist chocolate zucchini cake!

german butter cake slices on white marble
One slice of German butter cake – or two? You choose – and don’t forget the almonds!

Baking With Yeast

In Germany, baking with yeast seems to be more common than in North America.

One of the things that we wanted to demonstrate with this German yeast cake recipe is that baking with yeast doesn’t have to be complicated and/or scary.

Just make sure that your yeast is not expired yet – otherwise, it might not rise.

It’s also important to not let the yeast get in contact with hot liquid because that might kill the yeast bacteria.

So, when a cake recipe with yeast calls for warm milk or water, make sure that it is just warm – and not hot!

How to Make German Butter Cake – Step by Step Instructions

If you are keen to make this classic butter cake recipe, you can find the exact measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

In case you’re curious to see what the recipe looks like at each stage, have a look at the butter cake recipe process photos in this section!

white mug on counter with milk inside
Heat up the milk.

Start by warming the milk in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove. Make sure that it is warm but not overly hot as this is not good for the yeast.

If you are not using instant dry yeast, but active dry yeast – that’s the yeast that has to be dissolved first – then dissolve it now.

Add the yeast to the warm milk and let it sit for around 10-15 minutes until the yeast starts to foam.

If it doesn’t foam after approx. 15 minutes, then your yeast might not be good anymore. Make sure to check the expiry date and start over if necessary.

For those using instant dry yeast – you don’t have to do anything yet!

flour in clear bowl on counter
Add the flour to a bowl.

Add the all-purpose flour to a large mixing bowl.

dry ingredients in clear mixing bowl on counter
Add the yeast and sugar.

Now add the instant dry yeast (if you’re using that) and sprinkle the sugar on top.

yeast in dry butter cake ingredients in clear mixing bowl
Add the warm milk.

In the next step, pour the warm milk into the bowl and knead the dough using the spiral dough hooks of your electric mixer or your hands.

If you’re using active dry yeast, then you’ll be adding the yeast with the milk.

eggs and butter in mixing bowl for butter cake ingredients
Add the other ingredients.

Now add the vanilla extract, soft butter – ideally cut up into smaller pieces, egg, and a pinch of salt.

risen german butter cake dough in clear mixing bowl
Knead the dough.

Keep kneading the dough for around 5 minutes until it forms a ball that doesn’t stick to the side of the bowl anymore.

It’s important that you knead the dough really well. Five minutes of kneading might seem like a long time, but it’s worth it.

If your dough is too sticky, add a little bit more flour. In case it is too dry, add a little bit more milk.

Cover the bowl (e.g. with a dishtowel) and place it in a warm spot without draft for at least one hour to allow the dough to rise.

If you don’t have a warm place where you can put your dough, it might take slightly longer for it to rise so be patient.

risen german butter cake dough in clear bowl
Let the dough rise.

Once the hour is up and the ball of dough has noticeably increased in size, sprinkle some flour on your countertop.

Briefly knead the ball of dough with your hands, then roll it out using a rolling pin so it fits your baking sheet or pan.

We usually use a baking pan with the dimensions of 13.5 x 9.5 inches.

chunks of butter in german butter cake dough in baking pan
Add the butter.

Place the dough into the greased and floured baking pan.

For the topping, take the butter out of the fridge and cut it into very small cubes.

Use the handle of a wooden spoon or butter knife to make small, evenly placed dents into the top of the dough.

You only want to make dents though, not holes – so don’t poke through to the baking pan!

Now place the pieces of cold butter into the holes.

sugar and almonds and butter on top of german butter cake in silver pan
Sprinkle the top with sugar and almonds.

Finally sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar and sliced almonds. Depending on how sweet you like it, you can add more or less sugar. Once you’re done with this step, the cake is ready for baking.

Bake the cake in the oven for around 25-30 minutes until the almonds on top are slightly golden brown. However, since every oven is different, your cook time might vary slightly.

baked german butter cake in silver pan on counter top
A German butter cake fresh out of the oven.

Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and let it cool. Cut it into slices before serving.

squares of german butter cake on white marble platter
All done -German Butterkuchen slices ready to be enjoyed!

If you want, you can add some whipping cream on top of the cake when it’s fresh out of the oven (the liquid whipping cream, not the already whipped version you find in an aerosol can). However, in our recipe, we wanted to keep it simple and didn’t do that.

Storage Tips

In our opinion, German butter cake definitely tastes best fresh. It can dry out quite quickly so we would recommend making it the day you plan on serving it.

You can also prepare the dough the night before and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

If there are any leftovers, you can store them in a sealed container for a couple of days. You can reheat leftover slices in the microwave for a few seconds to warm them up.

Butter cake is a cake that freezes really well. Just make sure that the cake is fully cooled before freezing and try to trap as little air as possible in your freezer bag or container.

You should consume the frozen cake within 3 months – otherwise, it might change its flavor.

That’s it – enjoy this classic German butter cake!

german butter cake slices on white marble

German Butter Cake (Butterkuchen)

Yield: 15 slices
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

This light and yeasty German butter cake is an easy and classic recipe. Made from a simple dough - and lots of butter - the cake is finished off with sugar and sliced almonds that brown up to form a crispy, sweet top!

Ingredients

The Dough

  • 2/3 cup milk, warm
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 medium-sized egg, room temperature

The Topping (approx., see notes)

  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Warm up the milk in the microwave or on the stove. It should be slightly warm, not hot or boiling!
  2. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the instant dry yeast (check packaging instructions to make sure it doesn't have to be dissolved in water or milk first). Sprinkle the sugar on top. Now add the lukewarm milk and knead everything using the spiral dough hooks of your mixer.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, soft butter, egg, and a pinch of salt. Keep kneading the dough for around 5 minutes until it forms a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add a little bit more flour. If it is too crumbly, add some more milk.
  4. Place a towel or lid over the bowl and let the ball of dough rise for at least one hour in a warm place without a draft.
  5. After about 55 minutes, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your baking pan by either greasing it or lining it with parchment paper.
  6. Once the whole hour is up and the ball of dough has significantly increased in size, give it another knead before lightly flouring your countertop and rolling out your dough to fit your baking sheet/pan. We use a baking pan with approx. dimensions of 13.5 x 9.5 inches. Place the dough into the baking pan.
  7. For the topping, take the butter out of the fridge and cut it into small cubes. Use your fingers - or the handle of a wooden spoon or butter knife, for example - to make small, evenly placed dents into the top of the rolled out dough. Make sure to not poke through to the baking pan! Place the pieces of cold butter into the holes. Now sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar and sliced almonds.
  8. Place the cake in the oven to bake for around 25 - 30 minutes until the almonds on top are slightly browned. Since every oven is different, your cook time might vary slightly.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool. Cut it into slices before serving. Enjoy!

Notes

  • This cake is very easy to make. However, since it depends on the yeast working correctly, it is important to use yeast that has not expired yet.
  • It is also important that the milk is not too warm and the egg and butter are at room temperature when getting in contact with the yeast. Otherwise, it might keep the yeast bacteria from "doing their job".
  • The measurements for the topping are approximations and what we use for the baking pan size mentioned above. However, depending on the size of your baking pan (and thus the dough surface), you might need slightly more or less butter, sugar, and sliced almonds.
  • Butter cake tastes best when fresh so we recommend making it the day you plan on serving it if possible.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 224Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 71mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 5g

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice. The exact values can vary depending on the specific ingredients used.

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