Don't confuse this Donauwelle German cake with another German chocolate and cherry cake called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. While the ingredients are similar, the Donauwelle is typically baked as a sheet cake, and then gets a pudding-based buttercream and chocolate glaze finish. So worth the effort!
About this Recipe
Sheet cakes are the way to go! They're über popular in Germany simply because of how easy they are to put together, store, transport and serve up. After baking, simply cut up into squares, quickly arrange on a platter, brew some coffee, and when 3 p.m. Kaffee und Kuchen time calls, you're the hero. Traditional German sheet cakes are often simple, fruit-based, streusel-topped cakes that would be considered coffeecakes in the US. They're not the typical buttercream-frosted cakes you think of when you think American cakes, and they're not nearly as sweet either.
Try these German sheet cake recipes:
The Donauwelle is unique in that it's really more of a Torte-like cake (buttercream-based cake), but is still layered using a sheet pan, which makes it a bit more convenient and approachable, especially if you're the person that finds baking layered cakes too daunting (if you are that person, PLEASE try this cake! I promise it's not that hard to make, but it still looks pretty darn impressive!).
The Donau is the second longest river in Europe, which this cake is named after. 'Welle' in German means wave, and you can actually find two wave-like patterns in this cake. The first wave pattern is created by gently pressing the Schattenmorellen cherries into the batter before baking the cake, which you can see in the profile of the cake. The second wave pattern is in the chocolate glaze, which can be created by using a cake comb (the cheapest kitchen tool you'll ever buy and good to have on hand for any quick, cake-decorating jobs), or even just a fork (I haven't tried the fork-version, but from my research online, I gathered that it's pretty commonly used and successful as well. I also ended up cutting my cake out with a biscuit cutter instead of cutting into squares. I did this really for two reasons: 1. It photographed better this way 2. I could eat the leftover pieces immediately.. YUM!
Now all that's missing is a good cup of coffee and some friends and family to enjoy this cake with. Because how dare you make a pretty cake like this and not share it! Guten Appetit!
Donauwelle Cake Batter:
- 1.5 c + 2 Tbsp (200 g) all-purpose flour
- ⅔ c + 1 tablespoon (140 g) sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 c + 2 teaspoon (250 g) butter (room temperature)
- 3 eggs (room temperature)
- 2 teaspoon (8 g) baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 4 tablespoon (50 ml) milk (room temperature)
Chocolate Cake Mix-Ins:
- 2 tablespoon (15 g) cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoon (25 ml) milk
- 12.3 oz (350 g) drained sour cherries (I used Schattenmorellen or Dark Morello Cherries from Germany, which you can buy at Trader Joe's)
- 2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (18 g) cornstarch
- ¼ c (50 g) sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 6.8 oz (200 ml) milk
- ½ c (125 g) butter (room temperature)
- 5.3 oz (150 g) semi-sweet chocolate
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) butter
- Chocolate Glaze: Make sure that your chocolate is cooled down enough, so that it doesn't melt the buttercream when you spread it on top. The buttercream-frosted cake should also get the chance to cool down for about 20 minutes in the fridge before you spread on the glaze (best to use an angled cake spatula). This way the top will be hardened more, but the buttercream won't be too cold, so that your glaze gets hard instantly before you get a chance to create the wave pattern with your cake comb.
- Cutting Your Cake: Let the cake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, then use a knife that's been soaked in hot water to cut the cake, making sure to wipe off any cake after each cut, and re-soak your knife after each cut. This way you will get clean lines, and prevent the glaze from breaking. I used biscuit cutters instead of a knife to create individual, little cakes.
How to make it
To make the batter, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy and airy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually add in the eggs until each is incorporated. Make sure the eggs are room temperature, or else they won't combine with the butter. Beat for 5 minutes. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture and milk in with the butter-egg-mixture. Briefly beat until combined.
Spread half of the batter onto a rimmed 13 by 9 inch baking sheet prepped with parchment paper on the bottom. Add the cocoa powder and milk to the remaining batter and evenly spread the dark batter over the light batter. Drain your cherries and evenly distribute them on top of the batter. Gently press on the cherries using the palm of your hand until the cherries are completely sunken into the batter (this will create the wave pattern in the profile of the cake). Bake at 330 degrees Fahrenheit/ 165 degrees Celsius for 30 to 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely after baking (very important).
To make the pudding, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, vanilla and a few tablespoons of the milk. Heat the remaining milk and sugar in a small pot until boiling, then whisk in the dissolved cornstarch mixture, return to a boil and whisk while boiling for about one minute. Transfer the pudding to a bowl and cover the pudding with plastic wrap to prevent the surface from developing a skin. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Allow your cake and pudding to be completely cooled before proceeding. Beat the butter for the buttercream until fluffy and white (about 5 minutes). Gradually add in the pudding and spread over the cake. Move to the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes.
Melt the chocolate and butter. It's best to use a bowl inserting into a pot with water, as you can control the temperature better. You only want the chocolate to get barely warm. If it gets too warm, you will need it to cool down again, or else your buttercream will melt on the cake! Once the glaze is cool enough, spread over the buttercream using an angled cake spatula for cleanest results. Then using a cake comb (or fork), add a wave-like pattern to the chocolate. Allow to cool in the fridge for about 1 hour before serving. Read my tip for cutting the cake when ready.
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