Stories about its birth

As early as the Middle Ages there were loaves in which the dough was wrapped around a skewer and baked over an open fire. These are kind of the precursors of today’s twist bread.

The first Baumkuchen are attributed by some historians to the Hungarians, and by others to the Greeks. The first known preserved recipe in the world comes from an Italian cookbook from the year 1426. The oldest surviving German-language recipe dates back to 1450, when Baumkuchen was a popular wedding pastry among the Patricians in Nuremberg and Frankfurt am Main. The dough was laid in layers in a ring shape around a rotating wooden roller. It was first described as a “Baumkuchen” in 1682 in the cookbook of the personal physician of Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg.

In the 16th century, the production method changed. The dough was now no longer sheathed in layers, but attached to the roller as a whole piece with cords. The cords caused indentations which led to the rings which are typical to this day. A century later, the skill then came closer to the current form of manufacturing by applying a thin liquid dough layer by layer on a rotating roller.

The individual rings were now created by removing the dough with a wooden comb. Despite the elaborate production, Baumkuchen was mainly baked in the home. It was during this time that the first forms of finishing were also documented, for example with a glaze made of sugar and rose water.

As early as the 18th century, Baumkuchen was produced in the German-speaking world in its current recipe: with butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt and flour. At that time, it was usually sprinkled with grated chocolate or coated with couverture. Around 1800, Baumkuchen became a matter for the confectioners. As a result, Berlin was considered the first capital of Baumkuchen. In the process, Berlin developed a pull which led to satellite bakeries in Dresden, Cottbus, Szczecin and Salzwedel from the second half of the 19th century. To this day, Cottbus and Salzwedel in particular have maintained their reputation as Baumkuchen suppliers of supra-regional importance.


The Baumkuchen of our Maria Groch

On a cold night in the run-up to Christmas 1819, Maria Groch baked the first Cottbus Baumkuchen. Her bakery was located not far from the current location of the GROCH & ERBEN manufactory. She shaped the rings with a wooden comb and covered them with a thin layer of icing and a hint of lemon after cooling. And so the Cottbus Baumkuchen with fondant was born.

Her daughter Wilhelmine refined the production and eventually received the title of “Imperial Court Purveyor”. With its Baumkuchen factories, Cottbus became the second-largest Baumkuchen supplier in the German Empire after Salzwedel. The reputation of the Baumkuchen then also attracted the Dresden pastry chef Max Lauterbach to Cottbus, where he opened his still-existing Conditorei & Café Lauterbach in 1900 and finally became the “Royal purveyor to the court” with his Baumkuchen. His Cottbus Baumkuchen based on Maria Groch’s recipe became an export hit and even back then was being delivered as far away as New York.

The Hajek entrepreneurial family took up this tradition in 2006 with the spin-off of the Cottbus Baumkuchen Manufaktur from the Conditorei & Café Lauterbach. With the last master pastry chef from Lauterbach, they were able to preserve the original recipe and pass it on to the next generation. GROCH & ERBEN bundles together the entire history of Maria Groch’s Baumkuchen – which enjoys great popularity today just as it once did, and has fans all over the world.


Baumkuchen around the world

As popular as Baumkuchen became in the 19th century in the German Empire, it is still just as popular today, for example, in Japan. The German confectioner Karl Joseph Wilhelm Juchheim came to Japan as a prisoner during the First World War. He stayed, opened his own confectionery in 1921, and later the confectionery company Juchheim. For several years there has been a lively exchange between our manufactory and Juchheim.

The Baumstriezel, meanwhile, is considered a Baumkuchen in the Hungarian style. Essentially all it has in common with the Baumkuchen is the round shape baked on a roller. Yeast is also used for the ingredients and here the dough is wrapped in a spiral and only in a thin layer around a piece of wood. Its history has not been very well studied; the Baumstriezel is recognised as a traditional pastry, especially in the Burzenland, southern Szeklerland and in Transylvania.

In addition, there are various other cakes around Europe which resemble the Baumkuchen. They are grouped in the family of European spit cakes. These include the Brandenberger Prügeltorte in Austria, the Kransekage in Denmark and Norway, the Spettekaka in Sweden, the Trdelník in Slovakia, the Sakotis in Lithuania and the Gateau à la broche in France. Baumkuchen is still largely unknown in the English-speaking world.