Zwetschgendatschi (Damson Plum Cake)


This past weekend my parents came to visit me! I had a wonderful Saturday and Sunday just spending time with them. They had been in London and also visiting some old family friends that own a farm near Rugby. When they arrived on Saturday morning, they did not come empty handed! I was presented with a huge carrier bag full of apples and also another carrier bag full of damson plums.

Damson plums are petite versions of normal plums and are about the size of either a large olive or slightly bigger than a cherry. With well over a kilo of these things, I was stumped with what to do with them. A quick Google showed me that I had many options: damson gin, damson chutney, damson jam, and a recipe for Zwetschgendatschi, a traditional German cake. Having no gin or empty jars, the cake seemed like the easiest option.

The cake (I have NO idea how to pronounce it) is usually made as a sheet cake and topped with sliced plums, or so I am reliably informed by wikipedia. The base is a shortcrust type of cake, rather than a sponge or batter cake. The recipe that I found specifically added a streusel topping, but I don’t think this is necessarily essential. In any event, it looked like an interesting way to use up those damsons!

What followed was a damson nightmare! Making the base was easy, although the instructions were very minimal so I just did some guess work about what I was precisely meant to do. However, when it came to taking out the stones from the damsons… omg. I think I’ll be having flashbacks of it for years to come. Over 1kg of tiny plums, each needing to be sliced in half and the pits pried free. My fingers were so slippery with the juices that a couple of them went flying through the air as I tried to get a good grip on them. In the end, I used a few less damsons than the recipe called for – I just could not take pitting any more of those damned damsons!

Look at them all! Beautiful but a pain in the behind!

Look at them all! Beautiful but a pain in the behind!

I also used a springform pan with a smaller diameter. The recipe called for an 11″ pan but I just shrugged my shoulders and decided a 9″ pan would have to do. I increased the baking time by about 15-20 minutes but other than that there seemed no ill effects from this change.

As for how the cake actually tasted, well I had some reservations. The damsons, whilst perfectly pleasant and sweet to eat uncooked, turned quite sour after baking. I was worried that I should have added some sugar to them and that the cake wouldn’t be sweet enough. Luckily, the base and the crumble topping provided enough balance so that the tartness of the fruit was interesting rather than overpowering. As the base is almost a shortcrust pastry, it’s more crumbly and dry than I normally like my cakes. However, it appears to be the traditional way to make it, so who am I to judge? The cake went down well with my friends, in any event, so I guess that’s as good an indicator as anything for how good a cake tastes!

So bottom line: an unusual cake that used up my mountain of damsons, but one that I will not be making again any time soon (unless damsons come pre-pitted)!

P.S. The photos came out quite yellow because I was photographing them in the early morning, before it was fully light out. Fluorescent lighting sucks. :(

The cake packed up and ready to go!

The cake packed up and ready to go!


Adapted from here.



  • 400g plain/all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 90g sugar
  • 160g unsalted butter, cubed
  • zest of 1 orange (I didn’t have a lemon as the recipe originally suggested)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ~1kg damsons (750g destoned weight)


  • 125g sugar
  • 125 cold butter
  • 200g flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4  tsp salt


  1. Mix together the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two knives until the butter is in peasized pieces. 
  2. Whisk together the two eggs, milk, and vanilla in a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the eggs mixture. Using a fork, gently mix until it comes together. Once the moisture is almost all incorporated, use your hands to mix in the last of the flour and form the dough into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling film/saran wrap and refridgerate for at least an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, begin the tedious process of washing, drying, and de-pitting your plums. This takes ages and is a massive pain. You have been warned!
  4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9″ (or 11″) springform pan with baking parchment.
  5. To make the streusel topping, begin by mixing the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add chunks of the butter and rub together with your fingers until there are no large pieces of butter left. The crumble topping should form clumps when you squeeze it together in your hand.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and press it evenly into the bottom of the pan. Top with 2/3 the chopped plums, aiming to have most of them “skin” side down and lightly press them into the dough. Top the plums with 1/3 of the streusal topping. Add the remaining plums, lightly pressing down. Finally cover the plums with the remaining streusel topping.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 60-75 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before unmoulding. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!