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. EDIT 2020: I’ve now actually found out the science behind this, so I thought I would share. Baking powder in the UK/Ireland (and I think also the US, Australia, New Zealand) is double acting, so it starts to react when you add the liquid then reacts again once heat is applied in the oven. German/Austrian/Swiss baking powder is single acting, so it only causes a reaction once you apply heat. Hence the mixture only rises once and therefore not as much. Baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda), on the other hand, is the same everywhere so if the recipe calls for that it should work out fine.
  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. (Some people have been telling me in the comments that you can get self-raising flour in Germany, and yes that’s sort of true. Some Asian shops stock it and if you’re lucky enough to have a Karstadt food area with a British/American section there may be some there, but ordinary supermarkets don’t have it. And for those living in or near Basel, Switzerland Bider & Tanner bookshop stocks it in the English books section, but they don’t always have it in. It depends how recently they had a delivery. I think some Manor food sections also stock it, although the one at Claraplatz in Basel has got rid of its tiny British section.)
  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 or look out for “gesalzen” on the packaging – it will most likely be the more expensive one. 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. (Updated 2020 as this post continues to be very popular.)

Sugar = Zucker
Raffinade or Kristallzucker is granulated sugar, feinster Backzucker is caster sugar and Puderzucker is icing sugar. Hagelzucker is sugar crystals, small round lumps of sugar that are used for decorating (the German literally translates as hailstone sugar, which is amazing!). Brauner Zucker is a light brown sugar. Rohzucker is unrefined or raw sugar and is brown in colour (this is basically the same as what we call Demerara sugar in the UK). There isn’t really an equivalent of the soft, dark brown American sugar. The places I mentioned above that sell self-raising flour may stock it though.

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. Buchweizenmehl is buckwheat flour and Dinkelmehl is spelt flour.

Eggs = Eier
Salt = Salz
Baking powder = Backpulver
Baking soda/bicarbonate of soda = Natron or Backnatron
Yeast = Hefe
Cinnamon = Zimt
Ginger = Ingwer
Hazelnut = Haselnuss
Walnut = Walnuss (or Baumnuss in Switzerland)
Almond = Mandel
Coconut = Kokos or Kokosnuss
Cocoa powder = Kakaopulver
Cream = Sahne or Rahm (or Obers in Austria/Bavaria). Sauerrahm is sour cream. Doppelrahm is double cream, sometimes also labelled with its French name crème double.
Raisins = Rosinen
Sultanas = Sultaninen
Currants = Korinthen
Oats = Haferflocken
Chocolate chips/drops = Schokotropfen
Chocolate flakes = Schokoraspeln
Oil = Öl. There are obviously many, but the ones you’ll most likely need are Olivenöl (olive oil), Sonnenblumenöl (sunflower oil) and Rapsöl (rapeseed/canola oil).

Happy baking!

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

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

      1. Hi, I read some of your posts…wow where do you live?? must be out of the way! As I am a bit older I can safely tell you that salted butter existed in Germany since the early 80’s for certain in most supermarkets. Eating “Margarine” on toast? yuk! that leaves a bad oily film in your mouth. As a German living near the border to Germany
        but in Switzerland I am used to shop both sides. As for selfraising flour – in Germany I ‘ve seen it since mid 2015 and in Switzerland it has appeared about 3 years later. And before that when I came back from my year long stay in GB in the mid 80’s.. I had to hunt down everything without the help of the internet and convert all the nice recipes from imperial to metric measurements. So to me it sounds a bit sorry – “pampered” what you complain about. As for Dr. Oetker baking powder it goes well with all my British baking. Would I use as much as you suggest it would taste of the baking powder¨and that IS to be avoided!!!!

      2. Self raising flour exists in Germany in a few places but it’s not a common thing in supermarkets. My boyfriend (who is German) and I even asked a baker and he didn’t know what we were talking about. I live in Switzerland now and Migros, Denner, Coop, Lidl do not sell self-raising flour. I have seen it at Manor but that isn’t a place where most people do their regular shopping.

        Salted butter exists, of course, but it’s not the standard. If you just buy the cheapest one – as most people tend to- it won’t be salted and people who are new to Germany won’t realise that. I have worked these things out over the years so I wanted to share my knowledge with other people. The point of this post isn’t to complain but to help people. It’s also supposed to be tongue in cheek/not entirely serious. Of course I know not immediately finding baking ingredients is a first world problem.
        I always double the German baking powder now and I’ve never had anything taste like baking powder. But if I don’t double it I end up with completely flat scones. I’ve actually found out the science behind it now. I keep meaning to add it to the post.

      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. I don’t hunt down salted butter… but when I was new in Germany I had no idea that butter wasn’t salted, which led to some disappointing baked goods. I know to add salt now.

      3. 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. Oh, I remember the days of not having an oven. In Austria, we had one of those mini bread-baking oven things… it just about worked for making toast! (We had no toaster either).

  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!!

  8. Love this post and all the comments.

    As an Aussie expat in Germany, I too have found it difficult to find baking ingredients. In recent years I have taken to bringing back bicarb soda and McKenzie’s baking powder to make cakes with. Incidentally I also bring back Vegemite (of course) and Weetbix. Apologies to my Commonwealth cousins but your Weetabix just isn’t the same!

    But now I want to make some Anzac biscuits (because I love them, no faux patriotism here) for my daughter’s birthday and need brown sugar. I would have thought that in British recipes this would also mean the soft, dark sugar (that you put on porridge!). I’ve read elsewhere you can get something similar in Indian/Asian (subcontinent) stores but haven’t found one. Or make it yourself apparently.

    Oh, and does anyone have an opinion on a golden syrup substitute?

    1. I think in the UK the soft, dark sugar is demarara – or maybe muscavado? If I see just “brown sugar” I think light brown. But maybe that’s just me?

      I have used the golden Grafschafter Goldsaft as a golden syrup substitute, but it posssibly depends what you’re making. There’s the normal one that’s quite dark – somewhere between golden syrup and treacle – but then there’s a more golden coloured one, I think it says “Karamell” on the bottle. I found that worked quite well for what I needed.

  9. Love this post and all the comments.

    As an Aussie expat in Germany, I too have found it difficult to find baking ingredients. In recent years I have taken to bringing back bicarb soda and McKenzie’s baking powder to make cakes with. Incidentally I also bring back Vegemite (of course) and Weetbix. Apologies to my Commonwealth cousins but your Weetabix just isn’t the same!

    But now I want to make some Anzac biscuits (because I love them, no faux patriotism here) for my daughter’s birthday and need brown sugar. I would have thought that in British recipes this would also mean the soft, dark sugar (that you put on porridge!). I’ve read elsewhere you can get something similar in Indian/Asian (subcontinent) stores but haven’t found one. Or make it yourself apparently.

    Oh, and does anyone have an opinion on a golden syrup substitute?

  10. Oops, I posted that before logging in, then logged in and seem to have posted twice. Whatevs.

    Thanks Bev. I think demarara sugar are those brown, course crystals posh people (and coffee snobs like me) like to put in their coffee.

    But on another note, I made the bickies and just used bog standard feiner Zucker. I also used exactly what you suggested (Grafschafter Goldsaft) as well as Natron in identical quantities to golden syrup and bicarb soda respectively. They turned out perfectly! 😁

  11. A few other thoughts. This is what I mean by brown sugar:

    Actually never heard of that brand but it’s the first picture I found. This is impossible to get in Germany and it apparently doesn’t matter for baking but it does for porridge! Love my porridge for breakfast in winter, made the proper way mind you i.e. soaking the oats in water (not milk) with a pinch of salt, cooking, sprinkling brown sugar on top and then pouring on cold, full fat milk. Just like Nanna made it!

    Re the butter thing, I have never had trouble finding salted butter here in Heidelberg (5 years and counting), nor has it ever been more expensive. And the spreading problem is easily solved by putting the butter in a covered butter dish and leaving it out of the fridge (something an Australian would ordinarily never do in a pink fit). Then you have the delicious, buttery goodness in spreadable form. 250g will last at least a week unrefrigerated.

    Happy Sunday to everyone 👍

    1. See, that picture is what I would call “dark brown sugar”. I have never found that in Germany though.
      Salted butter always seemed to be more expensive in Karlsruhe, probably because they only seemed to have Kerrygold, which is expensive anyway!

  12. This was massively helpfully as I am baking a cake at the weekend (I also use the BBC goodfood website) and was wondering what to do about self raising flour. By any chance do you know if they have golden caster sugar here? Thank you

  13. Thank you Bev for your lovely site. I appreciate the tips and info from everyone. I moved to Germany from South Africa for three months in 2019. To my surprise, I now live permanently in Germany with my new partner. I live in the countriside in North Germany. I had a great idea to bake and merrily went looking for – you guessed it – self-raising flour. I couldn’t find it and thought I just couldn’t read German packaging. When I asked my partner to tell me which one of the flours is self-raising flour he looked at me as if I was speaking Greek. He had never heard of it. I really never expected to find this site and find out that it doesn’t exist in Germany. I had a good laugh as I’m clearly not the only one having this dilemma. We have self-raising flour, baking powder, vanilla essence, brown sugar, etc in South Africa. I already feel challenged not speaking German and even more so not finding the ingredients I so took for granted back home as absolutely normal and available everywhere. I will ask friends or family to bring it over for me when they visit me.
    My partner took me to Italy last year, and since I am Italian (born in SA), I bought some ingredients back to Germany with me. Still not realising the self-raising flour issue here. I baked a banana bread the other day which my partner had never heard of. It’s a South African thing. And I love rusks with my morning tea. I hunted for rusks here to no avail. So I must bake my own. And I want to make scones tomorrow. After finding this site I can with your tips Bev. I also love hunting for second-hand things as I like to upcycle, recycle, repurpose and found a great second-hand, electric mixer today for 4 euros. I just spent an hour giving it a good clean. I was happy. My partner was with me and said he had never owned one in his life. I chuckle at all these funny things and the differences between us. Germany has such fab bakeries and he wonders why anyone would bake when you can go out and buy cakes at a local bakery. Germany really does have divine goodies. I also like to bake and make the things I miss from back home. Thanks to everyone for sharing. I don’t feel so alone in Germany 🙂

    1. Glad I could help. Happy baking! I love banana bread.
      I have since learned why German baking powder doesn’t work as well as British/American baking powder (and I assume South African as well) – it’s single acting instead of double acting. Your comment has reminded me I need to add that to this post.

    2. Janine I know how you feel.. I have grown up as a German in Switzerland and I have found all my life (now 55) that even between Germany and Switzerland there is a huge cultural gap! The language may be similar but the rest.. I speak swissgerman so people do not notice but in how we think about things… my german friends and I joke often how different we are compared to the OTHERS!
      But a tip for you: try to learn the language, it is the key to everything! I know German is difficult but so is French and Swissgerman ( I mastered them) – English in comparision was a piece of cake!!!

  14. Face-palm about the baking powder! Now i know why everything I have baked came out flat! Thank you so much for this post! Now I am on the hunt to find something remotely similar to coconut extract without spending an arm or a leg. Come on Germany, don’t let me down haha

  15. Poor you…!! The sugar is called Rohrzucker or brauner Zucker or if very modern Demerarazucker..Vanilla extract/essence you try a health food store, it is more expensive yes but the prices do get better. Natron you get in big departement stores
    – try searching for packages with bicarbonate and natron in the titles. In the baking section they do stock these!!
    Just one thing: please check the spelling in German. There is a huge difference in Roh and Rohr….Roh means raw and Rohr means Tube….so if you do not want to get laughed at…….!!!!!

    1. I know where to find what I need 😊. The post is meant for people who are new in Germany and searching for ingredients. Thanks for catching the Roh/Rohr typo. I do know the difference but apparently my fingers don’t!

  16. Hi–I am an American living in Germany and of course have had some of the same issues with ingredients. Turns our it is easy to make both vanilla and coconut extract but you have to start WAY (weeks to months) before you need them. Vanilla extract is vanilla beans soaked in vodka and I am making coconut extract with coconut soaked in rum. There are many recipes online. On I found treacle which is apparently like molasses and I was going to mix it with regular sugar to make American type brown sugar but now I have found Muscovado Zucker on and will try it as a substitute for American brown sugar. But I haven’t tried it yet. Your tip about the baking powder is extremely useful, thanks!

  17. Oh, and I forgot to mention that it is not a criticism of German stores that they do not have these products, different places have different things. I try to stick with German recipes but somethings like peanut butter cookies just are not things Germans make and I would still like to sometimes. Naturally the same things happen to Germans in the United States; for one example I was there with a friend and she was surprised quark was not readily available.

  18. Excellent post, my German girlfriend, Andrea, has fallen in love with clotted cream after trying a scone cream tea in England and Scotland. Would you know a name for a German equivalent and who might stock it. Karlsruhe. Thank you, MIchael

    1. Karstadt in Karlsruhe used to stock it, but it’s been 6 years since I left so I’m not sure whether they still do. It’s just called clotted cream, there isn’t a German equivalent that I know of.

  19. Why have I never read this post before!??! aBSOLUTELY HILARIOUS and interesting and I am LOVING the comments – the divisiveness of salted butter (I agree, salted butter is better- it’s got no taste without salt!) You’ve obviously helped lots of expats over the years!! I saw it in your popular posts bar and decided to click when I hopped over and found no new posts so decided to have a nosy at the side bar!
    Have now followed the comments as I want to read if anyone else finds this post!

  20. If you have not, could you please please drop your recipe for scones!! Ever since moving to Germany I just can’t get them right ☹️ Or if you could reply with a link to a recipe you use I would be so so grateful. ❤

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