Streuselkuchen,The Oma of Hostess Crumb Cakes

We all probably remember those individually wrapped Hostess Crumb Cakes, which many of us received in our lunch boxes as kids. Or maybe you preferred the Little Debbie Cinnamon Streusel Cake or their Cream Cheese Streusel Cake. Sarah Lee has a crumb cake, and other regional snack companies like Drakes, and Tasty Kake do too., although Tasty Cake’s Coffee Cake Juniors’ white streusel bits are machine made, perfectly extruded unnatural cylinders. They’re not the amorphous, random sized bits of hand made streusel. Unfortunately what started out as a lovely, moist, delicious cake, has been mass produced into a horrible version of itself, as with most commercially made bakery products. All these American snack cakes, commonly referred to in English as crumb cakes, descend from the Streuselkuchen, which originated in the former Prussian province of Silesia, a part of which became Germany in 1945, and the Eastern part became part of Poland.

The streuselkuchen, known in the Silesian German dialect as ‘Straeselkucha’, was originally a sweet yeast dough, made with quark, a kind of cream cheese, a sour fruit topping, and crumbled bits of streusel made of butter, sugar, cinnamon, and flour, and sometimes topped with slivered nuts, like almonds. It should be no surprise that this coffee cake is still very popular in Germany, and is still very popular at independent bakeries around town here in the U.S. Streuselkuchen is literally translated as “sprinkled cake.” Most American streusels don’t have the sour fruit filling underneath the streusel like the German versions, nor are made with quark cheese. Across Germany you’ll find fillings of apple, sour cherries, rhubarb, plums, apricots, and gooseberries. Closer to the east, you’ll find fruit fillings of sweet cheese and even poppyseeds.


Traditional costumes of the original Silesian streuselkuchen bakers.
My uncle and grandfather made streusel cakes from the 50s- through the 80s in their bakeries in Northern Kentucky, and we had them at our breakfast table many Sundays for the after church big breakfast. They had both vanilla streusel and cinnamon streusel toppings. And they made the German version with fruit below the streusel, which they layered with apple, blueberry, or cherry and then topped with chewy vanilla streusel. They made the plain, no fruit cinnamon streusel by partially baking yellow cake and finishing with cinnamon streusel topping and sometimes sprinkling lightly with powdered sugar. They also made what they called an ABC coffee cake, which had triangular sections of blueberry, cherry, and apple, covered in vanilla streusel. My all time favorite was their blueberry streusel cake. Give me a wedge of that and I was a happy camper.

My favorite dessert of my mother’s is her peach streusel cake. It has the delicious cinnamon streusel topping and a super-moist sweet cake below with chunks of tender peaches. It’s so simple – I’ve made it successfully – but so good with a piping hot cup of strong coffee on a lazy Sunday morning.

American bakers have taken the crumb cake to the next level, using fruits like pineapple or raspberry, or sprinkling chocolate chips in with the streusel. Although the original Silesians would probably cringe at these unholy variations, I am grateful to those early Silesian bakers who invented this wonderful coffee cake.

Bring Back this Forgotten local German Meatball for Your Oscar or Superbowl Party


Germans probably have the most regional foods of any European country.   But if you ask a Bavarian if they’d heard of Knipp, a grain sausage from Northwest Germany, like goetta, they’d say “Nein.”   However, a beloved meatball in white sauce called Konigsburger Klopse, is known by supposedly 93% of all Germans.   It’s almost a national dish – one to contend with the currywurst, but it’s a lot older – about 150 years.   The funny thing is that the town it was named after no longer exists, it’s called Kalingrad, and is actually in Russia.    The town was renamed after World War II, when the German Democratic Republic was formed.   And, the Germans renamed the dish kochklopse or boiled meatballs, since the town was no longer German.    But they are back to calling it Konisburger Klopse.    These sour, fishy meatballs in sauce were very popular at bars and restaurants in Cincinnati in the post Prohibition years up until the post War years, and as it turns out is what we know of as the Swedish meatball is based.

As a food historian and one of local German heritage, I collect the cookbooks that were put out in the post Prohibition years by the local Cincinnati breweries.  They were put out to sell more beer by giving Cincinnatians great German recipes that included the use of beer.    I found a recipe for Konisburger Klopse in a Wiedemann Brewery Cookbook of mine from the 1930s and was intrigued.

Konisburger Klopse were invented in Konigsburg about 200 years ago, the capital of what was then East Prussia, a kingdom that no longer exists.     The word klopse was invented then, a Prussian word that means ‘meat dumpling.’  The dish was invented by a chef who worked for a wealthy merchant family in the city.   They were popularized by the philosopher Immanuel Kant who served them to his guests at the Konigsburg University in the 18th Century.     Kitchen assistants who left Konigburg for other jobs in other parts of Prussia and Germany brought the dish with them.   Then it started showing up in German cookbooks as early as 1845.    It became popular in the Baltic countries and Nordic countries, where it influenced what became the Swedish meatball.

Originally the meatballs were made with ground veal, stale bread rolls soaked in milk, and here’s the interesting part – several anchovies for a fishy flavor.   Nowadays they are made from a mixture of ground pork and beef.   A variation uses salted herring instead of anchovies, and  is called Rostocker Klopse.    Rostock is a port town on the Baltic in northernmost German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,  where pickled herring is as common as pizza in the U.S.   The meats, anchovies,  and bread are mixed together, made into small balls,  and boiled.    A ladle of the meat broth is used in the sauce which starts out with butter, flour, cream, capers, lemon juice, white wine, making a delightful sour creamy sauce filled with flavor.   The meatballs are served in the sauce, garnished with fresh lemon zest and herbs, and served with peas and roasted potatoes.

These meatballs sound like a tasty appetizer for any Fall party.