Making Kugelhopf

Eating kugelhopf is a little like traveling in time. You’re reminded of what “cake” was like before it became the ultra-rich, ultra-sweet, ultra-moist sort of device that it is now. I’m not complaining about modern cake, mind you. I’m just saying that “cake” as it was defined a few hundred years ago is a beautiful thing. I served this as the closer for Mrs. Pastry’s birthday party the other night, complete with candles, and it was a hit. A sweet white dessert wine positively makes this, as it blends elegantly with the toasty-sweet crust, tender buttery interior and tangy rum-soaked raisins. Talk about a grownup cake, I want one for my birthday!

The success of your kugehopf will largely depend on how you treat your brioche dough. Give it a little less butter but a whole lot more time. Let the sponge ferment overnight, then let the finished dough ripen in the fridge for two or three days. Brown a little of the butter. The care you take in the preparation of the dough will show later, believe me.

On the day you want to bake start by assembling all your components. Combine the sugar, water and rum (which is optional really) in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil.

Take it off the heat and add the raisins. Let them sit and plump for about an hour.

Seizing the nearest available 9- or 10-cup kugelhopf pan…

…butter the interior generously.

Pour in the sliced almonds and spread them around, sticking them to the sides as best you can.

That done, turn your attention to the dough. Take it out of the fridge, trim the batch down to 14-16 ounces, and turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Pat it into a rough rectangle.

Roll it a little in one direction…

…then turn the dough piece and roll it in the other until it’s about 14 inches long.

Drain the raisins (reserve the syrup for another purpose if you like) and scatter them over the dough. Apply some egg wash to the far edge of the dough sheet and gently start rolling it up.

Make the roll fairly tight so it’s easy to roll it back and forth a bit on the board (odds are you’ll need to even it out some).

Brush a little egg wash onto the ends of the roll…

…and lay it into the pan, sticking the ends together.

At this point you’ll want to cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it rise for about two hours until the top of the dough is about 75% of the way up to the lip of the pan. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put the kugelhopf into the oven and set the time for 20 minutes. If it looks as brown as this at the 20 minute point, lay a piece of tin foil over the top for the last ten minutes of baking.

Remove the pan from the oven and turn the kugelhopf out onto a serving platter or plate. Brush the hot kugelhopf liberally with melted butter — to which you’ve added a few teaspoons of orange flower water (thanks reader Gretchen!) or a few drops of an extract of your choice. Orange or almond are preferred.

Let the kugelhopf cool for about half an hour, then serve dusted with powdered sugar.

25 thoughts on “Making Kugelhopf”

  1. So glad you’ve tackled kugelhopf, Joe. One of our favorites. I shall start on your version immediately. And thanks for the history lesson too.

  2. I don’t believe I’ve ever tried kugelhopf but that looks like a wonderful thing to have around for a mid-afternoon snack.

    I suppose it would be heresy to sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on with the raisins, huh? I love the idea of baking the almonds onto the surface. Or they get toasty from the heated metal or soft from the moisture in the dough?

    BTW, I have a small tin kugelhopf pan. I’ve never gotten a cake out of it without a lot of ripping. I’m sure the generous butter and almonds plus the sturdier structure of a brioche make it work better but do you have a tip for getting a conventional higher sugar cake out?

    1. Hi rainey! I have a pan like that as well and have threatened to throw it out several times. One day I had the brilliant idea to butter the inside very well, dump some flour in it and then top it with a dinner plate. Then I held the dinner plate tight to the pan and shook the heck out of it to coat the entire inside of pan. It worked perfectly! The inside was perfectly buttered and floured and my cake slipped right out! Now I just threaten to throw it out when I have to wash it. 😉 I hope this helps!

    2. I’ll look the other way when you add the cinnamon, Rainey, but it’s a darn good idea! Don’t apply too much sugar as it will inhibit the proofing.

      And yes, the almonds are definitely key to de-panning this beast. It pretty much falls right out!

      – Joe

  3. Hi Joe

    I have serious Kugelhopf envy! I’ve always had trouble getting my Kugel dough to rise and I’ve wondering if it might be due to both recipes that I’ve tried (David Lebovitz and Dorie Greenspan’s) calling for the rum soaked raisins to mixed in with the ingredients at the intial dough making stage. Could the alcohol be inhibiting the yeast? I use instant yeast, which is the only kind available in South Africa, so old or dead yeast is probably not the problem.

    (Was super chuffed to see me referenced in your post re the orange blossom water!)

    1. Hey, I try to give credit where it’s due, Gretchen!

      Regarding your question, syrup and alcohol will absolutely kill yeast. That’s why I like this method better, since they only go in once the critters have a good running start. Instant yeast is the only yeast I use, so you should be just fine there.

      Good luck with the next attempt!

      – Joe

  4. I have never tried to make one of these and had no idea until you mentioned it that it used brioche dough. The ones I remember had candied fruit (typically orange peel for the good ones, that dreadful jarred citron in the bad ones). The orange went really well with the almond but made the things more like a fruit cake to me. Particularly when I had one that had been doused with Cointreau. Those were probably regional things from some part of the old country or innovations to suit the taste of some long lost grant-grand.

    I doubt I will ever make one but it is fun to read about – thanks!

  5. I have a pan but only used it for cakes. I’m totally jazzed to try it for its namesake. You make it sound totally doable!

  6. Hi Joe,

    Belated “happy new year” and also “get well” wishes! Your kugelhopf looks beautiful – I love the rich caramel brown colour. I’m wondering whether a tube pan will work for this – what do you think? Maybe it’s just the angle, but it looks as though the almonds conceal the pattern in any case.



    1. Oh, looking at the photos again, I’m now thinking a tube pan is probably too large…

    2. Hey Jen!

      And thanks very much for everything! You can use a tube pan provided it’s small enough. The almonds do obscure the pattern, so it doesn’t matter much at all. A small angel food cake pan would be fine.

      – Joe

  7. After admiring the pictures and drooling all over the keyboard, I licked the monitor.

    1. At least it’s clean now, Brian! Did you pick up any almond-y, sugary notes at all?

      – J

  8. I haven’t had kugelhopf in years! My grandmother used to make it every Christmas. I might have to make some now!

    1. Ah, Chicago. I miss it but am glad I’m not up there for the -35 wound chills today!

      Thanks for checking in, Adam, and let me know how it turns out!


      – Joe

  9. It looks gorgeous. Is it the same as Panettone – i.e. could it be made in a normal circular tin (or a Panettone tin, if I had one!)?

    1. Hey Again Alison!

      You can make a small one in a panettone paper if you wanted to do that, no question. Otherwise a tube pan is best for even baking!


      – Joe

  10. Any advice on making the brioche for those of us without a powered mixer? Will a good wooden spoon do the job, or is it better to try and incorporate the butter by hand?

    1. Hi Jeremy!

      You can indeed make brioche without a mixer. I’d use a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease! 😉


      – joe

  11. Where did you get your spelling? We, in Austria spell it Gugelhupf .

    I had the Operacake on a cruise and ask for the recipe which they gave me happily – for 200 people ! TG

    1. Great question, Theresia. Maybe by way of the French? They’re easy to blame for all sorts of things, so I’ll go with that.

      Good luck with the recipe. That’s going to be one hell of a lot of sponge cake!


      – Joe

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