You want to learn how to make stollen? Great! I did too, so I asked my uncle Heinz, a retired German baker. He walked me through the steps of his German recipe. I am happy to share what I have learned!
A quick backstory: My father was born into a family of bakers in Bremen in the 1950s. His father was a baker and his two brothers followed in his footsteps. Until recently you could visit the “Bäckerei Jünemann" in Bremen, but my uncle has now retired.
You will of course have heard of stollen. The white powdered German Christmas cake. It is available to buy in Lidl and Aldi at Christmas time. Try homemade stollen, and you will never buy one again.
What is Stollen?
Stollen is a cake that is eaten around Christmas time in Germany. Does the shape of the stollen remind you of anything? Can you guess? Correct! It looks a bit like Baby Jesus wrapped in a linen cloth hence also the name “Christstollen” or "Christmas Stollen"
All stollen recipes have two things in common:
- They are based on a sweet yeast dough.
- The content of fat is very high relation to the low quantity of liquid in the dough. This makes the stollen so dry but also enables it to keep for so long.
My uncle told me that in previous decades, people would make their own stollen recipe at home. However, in post-war Germany, the stollen used to be about 2 meters long. They would not fit into a conventional oven so they would bring it to his bakery to be baked. Then it would be stored at home waiting for Christmas to arrive.
There are many varieties to the traditional stollen cake recipe:
- Stollen or Raisin Stollen
- Mandelstollen - with Almonds
- Quarkstollen - with Quark
- Marzipan Stollen - with marzipan
- Mohnstollen (with poppy seeds) - with poppy seeds
- Butter Stollen
- Dresden Stollen (especially high in butter and raisins and can only be made in Dresden).
What's in this stollen cake? – the recipe ingredients
- Butter – use quality butter and you will taste the difference!
- Raisins – Soak them overnight in water and some rum.
- Almonds – Roast them before adding them to the dough as it gives the cake a nutty flavour.
- Marzipan – Does stollen have to have marzipan? The answer is no. If you don’t like it, then simply leave it out.
- Candied Orange and Lemon Peel – You can buy them or make your own.
- Gingerbread spice – Cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom are the typical spices for stollen. To make it easier I used a teaspoon of gingerbread spice.
- Vanilla Sugar – you can make your own or buy it. Alternatively use 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract.
Stollen Baking Essentials (Affiliate links)
Let's get started making this stollen
The night before
- The night before soak the raisins in some warm water and a shot of rum. If you are baking for children, just omit the rum.
Starting the yeast dough
- Make a pre-dough by mixing the yeast with 100 gr of the flour. Combine with lukewarm milk to a smooth batter. Cover and leave to rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.
- In the meantime roast the almonds at 200°C or 392°F for 10 minutes until they start to turn golden. Leave to cool.
Making the main dough
- Once the pre-dough has risen, add the rest of the flour, salt, sugar, butter, vanilla sugar and gingerbread spice to the dough. Knead thoroughly with either a dough hook or your hands. Don’t worry if the dough is a little tough. Kneading this dough is hard work.
- Now add the almonds and raisins to the dough. Do not knead too vigorously, otherwise the raisins might burst and will colour the dough.
3. Roll the stollen into an approx. 30 cm long roll. With a rolling pin, flatten the dough from the middle. (see pictures)
4. Once flattened you can add the marzipan in little flakes onto the dough. Do not put the marzipan too close to the edge as it may burn.
5. Finally you can create the traditional stollen shape. You fold both sides into the center. From left to right.
6. Place the cake on a tray lined with baking paper. If using a stollen form, place it on top of the cake. If you are not using a form, bake for 10 minutes before covering it with a sheet of baking parchment. Otherwise it might get to brown.
7. Bake the stollen at 200°C or 392°F for around 40 minutes.
- Once the cake is baked, brush it with liquid butter and sprinkle it with granulated sugar. This will pull the moisture out of the cake. Once cooled dust with plenty of icing sugar.
- You can eat it straight away but it is best to wrap it in some kitchen foil. Ensure it’s airtight. Then leave to rest in a cool place for around two weeks.
Tips and Tricks to make the best stollen
- Use all of the ingredients at room temperature. Especially the butter. If the ingredients are too cool it can prevent the dough from risings.
- Soak the raisins minimum an hour – best overnight in water and rum (optional). This prevents the raisins from burning and drying out.
- Knead the dough thoroughly. However, ensure that the dough does not warm up too much while kneading. The dough needs to be hard in order to keep its form in the oven.
- Use a stollen baking form. This is not essential but my uncle recommends using a form for the following reasons
- The stollen will look like you buy it in a German bakery. As the dough will not run and so it keeps it shape.
- It prevents the fruits and nuts from burning. Also, it will distribute the heat evenly.
- Leave the cake to rest before cutting it. Place it in an airtight container (best first wrapped in kitchen foil) This will help the flavours infuse. Store it in a cool dry place.
How to serve stollen?
In Germany this cake is served with a cup of coffee or Glühwein. You slice it before serving. If you want you can warm it up for a few seconds in the microwave, but that is not essential. Some like to spread the slice with some butter and jam.
How long does Stollen keep?
Stollen keeps up to three months in an airtight container, when stored cool. It takes about 2 weeks to develop its flavours, as the rum soaked raisings will infuse the rest of the cake. Some Germans say “Stollen tastes best at Easter”. However I have never tested this theory as the this cake doesn’t last that long in our house!
Can you freeze Stollen?
Yes you can freeze it. Wrap it in some freezer bags. The stollen does not mind being frozen and defrosted.
Do you have leftover Stollen?
Try my recipe for Caramel Apple and Stollen Trifle. It combines two traditional German Christmas desserts into once light dessert.
More German Christmas Baking
- Basic Recipe for German Butter Cookies
- Recipe for German Marzipan Cookies
- German Coconut Macaroons
- German Baiser Recipe
- Vanillakipferl Recipe
German Stollen Recipe
- Stollen baking form (optional)
- pastry brush
- baking parchment
- Rolling Pin
- 400 g plain flour 3 cups 1/3 cup
- 100 ml whole milk
- 7 g instant yeast 2 tsp
- 250 g unsalted butter 1 cup (at room temperature)
- 1 tsp gingerbread spice
- 1 tsp salt
- 60 gr granulated sugar 1/3 cup or 2 oz
- 160 gr raisins 3/4 cup or 5.6 oz
- 100 gr flaked almonds 3.5 oz
- 10 gr candied orange peel 0.3 oz
- 30 gr candied lemon peel 1 oz
- 40 gr marizpan (optional)
- 8 gr vanilla sugar one sachet, or 2 tsp
To soak the raisins
- 0.35 cl dark rum (optional)
- 2 cups warm water
For after baking
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 100 gr icing sugar
Soaking the raisings
- Soak the raisins at least 1 hour before baking (better the night before) in warm water and with rum (optional)
To make the dough
- Warm up the milk to a lukewarm temperature. Stir the yeast into the milk and mix with 100 gr of the flour. Leave the yeast mixture to activate for at least 45 minutes.
- In the meantime heat your oven up to 200°C or 392°F. Spread the almonds on a tray and toast until they are about golden brown. (about 10 minutes but make sure to check)
- Drain the raisins.
Make the main dough
- Mix the yeast mixture with the remaining flour, sugar, salt, gingerbread spice and butter. Knead to a tough dough. (Don't worry its suppose to be hard work)
- Combine the raisins, almonds, candied lemon and orangepeel to the dough. Ensure that you do not knead too vigorously, as the raisins could burst and colour the dough
- Now form the dough to an about 30 cm long roll.
- Flatten the middle of the dough with a rolling pin.(see pictures in post)
- Once flatten you can add the marzipan in little flakes onto the dough. Do not put the marzipan too close to the edge as it may burn.
- Now fold the dough from left to right into the middle.This is how you achieve the traditional stollen form. (see pictures in post)
- Leave to rest for around 40 minutes.
- Lay the stollen on a tray prepared with bakingpaper. If using a stolen form, place it on top of the stollen. If not using astollen form, make sure that you cover the stollen with an additional sheet of baking paper 10 minutes after itwent into the oven, as otherwise it will be too brown.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 200 degrees.
- After you removed the stollen from the oven, apply the melted butter on top with a brush. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. (this will remove any moisture from the cake)
- Once cooled sprinkle with plenty of icing sugar.
- You can eat it immediatly, but it is better to wrap it in some kitchenfoil. Store in a cool dry place for two weeks to allow the flavors to infuse.