How to bake in Germany – a guide for foreigners

It’s no secret that I like to bake. Scones, cakes, biscuits… I’ve tried them all. And 90% of the time, I use English recipes for my baking adventures, mostly from the BBC. Unsurprisingly, this can sometimes be a bit of a problem here in Germany… from problems actually finding ingredients to getting all excited about my scones only for them not to rise at all, I’ve had my fair share of baking disasters! But after seven years I’ve finally reached the stage where I can be fairly confident that any recipe I try will actually work out. I know I can’t be the only Brit who wants to bake cakes in Germany, so I decided to put together a list of tips for my fellow bakers. Some tips may work for American/Australian/whatever resipes as well, but I make no guarantees! British ingredients are what I know…

Carrot cake, made using German ingredients
Carrot cake, made using German ingredients
  1. Caster sugar does exist in Germany, but you won’t find it in Aldi! Look for “feinster Backzucker” at REWE, Edeka or REAL.
  2. German “Backpulver” is not the same as baking powder! It looks the same and is used for the same purpose, but it’s not as strong. It took me years to figure this out! If using a British recipe with German baking powder, use about 1.5 to 2 times the amount. Otherwise you too will end up with flat scones. *Sob*. As far as I’m aware, this applies to American baking powder as well. I’ve also found that RUF Backpulver works better than the Dr Oetker one.
  3. Self-raising flour doesn’t exist in Germany! It really, truly doesn’t… Jan and I even asked a baker once, who looked at us as if we’d just grown extra heads. To make your own self-raising flour, add 2 teaspoons of baking powder for each 150g/6oz/1 cup of plain flour. Again, if using German baking powder, use extra.
  4. Most butter in Germany is unsalted, so for any recipe that uses butter, you will also want to add a pinch or two of salt. This applies for recipes from any country where the normal butter is salted. (On a side note, what’s the point in unsalted butter? It tastes of nothing but fat!)
  5. Dr Oetker food colouring is crap! Also, I personally find it has a weird after taste. The Crazy Colours type works better, and you get more colours in the packet.
  6. Do not substitute vanilla extract with those little bottles of “Vanillearoma“. It’s not even close to the same thing! If you can’t get hold of vanilla extract or don’t want to pay Scheck-In’s extortinate price, your best bet is to use Vanillezucker.
  7. The Karamell version of Grafschafter Goldsaft makes a good substitute for golden syrup. The ordinary one is much less sweet, but can also be used if you don’t mind that.

And finally, some basic baking ingredients vocabulary (German to British English). No order other than the one I thought of them in.

Sugar = Zucker
Raffinade or Kristallzucker is granulated sugar, feinster Backzucker is caster sugar and Puderzucker is icing sugar.

Flour = Mehl.
The 405 type is the equivalent of plain flour. You can also get special bread baking flours, like Roggenmehl, which is rye flour.

Eggs = Eier
Salt = Salz
Cinnamon = Zimt
Ginger = Ingwer
Hazelnut = Haselnuss
Walnuss = Walnut
Almond = Mandel
Coconut = Kokos or Kokosnuss
Cocoa powder = Kakaopulver
Cream = Sahne (or Obers in Austria/Bavaria)
Raisins = Rosinen
Oats = Haferflocken
Chocolate chips/drops = Schokotropfen
Chocolate flakes = Schokoraspeln

Happy baking!

The cookies I made last Christmas...
The cookies I made last Christmas…

58 thoughts on “How to bake in Germany – a guide for foreigners

      1. LOL. I actually only use butter for cooking and baking… I put magerine on my bread because I can’t spread cold butter.

        I think there’s room for both plain and salted butter in the world… it just annoys me that the salted kind is so hard to find in Germany (not to mention expensive). And what is with Süßrahmbutter? Butter? Sweet? WHAT?!

      2. When you think of it, yes. But when the recipe is Scottish and doesn’t mention salt because they assume the butter is already salted you end up with tasteless shortbread (and know better next time).

  1. After reading all of the comments about salted vs unsalted butter, I just have to say that there is garlic bread with SUGAR on it here (kind of off topic, but kind of not!). Also, a cupcake and a muffin are considered the same thing in Korea, so a “cupcake” is really a muffin with some kind of whipped cream on top. It’s so disappointing. I look forward to eating a real cupcake with nice thick frosting again someday. Oh, and cakes look really pretty with lots of fruit on top, including tomatoes.

    1. Sweet garlic bread? I think my brain just shut down!

      For most of my childhood, what Americans call muffins were cupcakes. A muffin is a type of bread roll thing (now we have American muffins AND American cupcakes (with all that frosting stuff) and our kind of muffins are called “English muffins” as if the American type had come first!

      1. lol, yes I think American biscuits are like plain scones… and our biscuits are your cookies! And for us, cookies are a type of biscuit, but some biscuits are definitely not cookies. Confusing 😉

  2. Thanks for this! With the Vanillezucker, is it equivalent to the American liquid vanilla version? Also I have had trouble finding the ‘Natron’ baking powder as well as finding brown sugar like in America.

    1. If you can’t find Natron in the supermarket, try among the medicines at DM! Germans like to mix it with water and use it as a remedy for heartburn. The brand name is Kaisers.

      The Vanille-Zucker is sugar mixed with vanilla essence. It’s not exactly the same as liquid vanilla essence/extract but I’ve found it works okay. I only managed to find liquid vanilla extract once in Germany and it was stupidly expensive!

      For brown sugar, try Roh-Zucker. I’m not sure whether it’s exactly the same thing but it might work.

  3. Funny enough, as a German living in Ireland (with it’s baking culture pretty much identical to the UK) I have the opposite problem. Trying to find the ingredients for all my German cake and biscuit recipes is a nightmare (we tend to use a lot of obscure dairy products like curd). And I miss vanilla sugar, it’s so much nicer than essence. I guess the lack of self-raising flour is mainly due to our baking being more yeast dominated.

  4. Great blog! I am baking my husband’s birthday cake for the first time here in Germany as I write. I arrived three weeks ago and do not speak German (yet).

    I Googled ‘weizenmehl’ as I had had a sudden sneaky suspicion it wasn’t self-raising (even though it was a blue packet and weizen rhymes with risen” 😆). I came across your blog and have been enlightened!
    I’m making a ginger/treacle cake. Something I thought’d be a doddle this time of here over here. I was wrong.
    Where is dark muscovado sugar? Surely these lovely dark gingerbreads and speculaas biscuits include some??!

    Thanks for the tip on the “Backpulver”.

    1. I am ashamed to say I’ve never made German gingerbread (Lebkuchen) myself, but as far as I know the colouring comes from the spices. I have a recipe form the UK for a kind of gingerbread (Yorkshire Parkin) and in that the dark colour is from treacle. I hope your cake worked out okay!

  5. Thanks for this, I used to love baking in the UK (thanks to GBBO!) but in Switzerland I find it confusing with all the different types of ingredients and the fact I can’t go to my local Aldi and buy all the things I need. Last week we brought our Bread maker from the UK and I got two bread flours and made bread! It was delicious, light and had no nasty additives. It was a bit soft so maybe I should have read the instructions to find out what kind of bread flours I had purchased…..

  6. I am making scones tonight for my English boyfriend. And I googled self raising flour Germany (cos I can never find it) and I’ve stumbled across this and I am so happy haha. Thank you 🙏

    1. Brown sugar is difficult. If a British recipe says brown sugar it’s just granulated brown sugar so the German kind is fine. For “brown caster sugar” I have just used the German brown sugar as well and it turns out fine. But American brown sugar is different. I have heard you can roughly approximate it be mixing molasses and ordinary white sugar in a food processor. The German for molasses is “Melasse”. Hope that helps.

  7. Thank you SO much for this! I have had so many baking disasters from cakes not rising at all and I didn’t realise it was cause the baking powder is so weak. As an Australian I never had to make my own self-raising flour and I just can’t adjust to the products here. Also don’t get the cream + natron thing for whipping. Why can’t they just sell double cream lol… I will def try your recommendations!!

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