What The Heck Is Kuchen? (2024)

Kuchen means "cake" and this one is delicious! Learn the origins of this traditional German dessert and how to make it!

by Amber Kanuckel Updated: January 25, 2024

What The Heck Is Kuchen? (1)

Kuchen (pronounced “koo-ken”) is the German word for “cake,” but a real kuchen is so much more than that! Traditional kuchen is like a delicious mash-up of cake and pie, topped with creamy custard. This dessert is very popular in Germany, and you’ll find that many communities in the United States carry on the tradition of cooking kuchens. In fact, kuchen is the official state dessert of South Dakota. So where did it come from? And how do you make it? Read on!

The Origins of Kuchen

It’s unclear exactly how long custard-topped kuchens have been around. However, we do know that kuchen is part of a 400-year-old “Kaffee and Kuchen” (or Coffee and Cake) tradition. This tradition is much like teatime in Great Britain – on Sundays, between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m., many Germans gather with friends and family to enjoy cakes, kuchens, and other confections, over a hot cup of coffee or tea.

How Kuchen Differs From Cake

You might think that cake is cake, no matter where in the world you happen to be eating it, but that just isn’t so! German cakes are quite a bit different from those we’re familiar with in the United States. In fact,German Chocolate Cake is actually an American invention, first made by a Texas woman in 1957, and named for a chocolatier by the name of Samuel German.

In general, true German cakes tend to have much less sugar and a bit more butter or shortening than the cakes we’re most familiar with. That’s why you’ll quite often see German deserts topped with fruit, streusel or whipped topping. When you eat a traditional kuchen, you’ll notice that the dough itself isn’t particularly sweet. Rather, it’smore like plain pastry dough – sometimes with extras like oats for more flavor and texture, or yeast to make it a bit puffier.

When it comes to kuchen toppings, anything goes. Peaches are among the most popular topping, but historically, kuchens were made with whatever fruit was abundant at the time. You’ll find recipes that include apples, plums, apricots, berries, figs and more. Custard is an optional topping – most recipes include it, but not all. Like the dough, you’ll find that the custard is simple and unsweetened, made with only egg yolks and cream or milk.

What The Heck Is Kuchen? (2)

Peach Custard Kuchen

4.67 from 3 votes



  • 1 /4 cup unsalted cold butter, softened
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar


  • 16 ounces sliced canned peaches, drained (or you can 1 1/2 cups of sliced fresh peaches)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Custard Topping:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolks


  • Preheat your oven to 400º F.

  • Stir together flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the salt and baking powder.

  • Add the butter until the mixture is crumbly.

  • Place the mixture into the bottom and sides of an un greased square pan. (8x8x2 is best)

  • Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Pour over the peaches. Then place the peaches into the pan.

  • Bake for 15 minutes.

  • Blend egg yolks and whipping cream.

  • Pour over warm peaches.

  • Bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until custard is set and edges are light brown.

  • Serve warm with ice cream if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.

Keyword cinnamon peach kuchen, peach kuchen with sour cream

Check out this recipe for Apple Kuchen!

What The Heck Is Kuchen? (4)

Amber Kanuckel

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.

What The Heck Is Kuchen? (2024)
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