German Delights: Russian Cherry-Chocolate “Pinch-Cake”

IMG_0041Preparing for a wedding is like preparing for a marathon – the exercise starts looming in your mind some months ahead, and before long you start feeling the guilt…. am I preparing enough? Am I ready? Have I missed anything? Oh god why haven’t I done more??! Etc etc. It’s at time like this you feel like throwing caution to the wind and just sitting on the sofa eating sweet things.

When you ask the Lovely One what he wants me to make as a treat, what he’ll normally say is that I feed him too much and that he doesn’t want to get fat. However, on those rare occasions that he does want me to make him a proper treat, the go-to is a proper German classic. In bakeries, it’s known as Russicher Zupf-Kuchen or “Russian Pinch-Cake” (Lovely One tells me that Zupf is technically a plucking or pulling motion than a pinch, but “Pluck-Cake” sounds pretty gross tbh). It’s not exactly Russian and sure as shit isn’t a cake. It’s more of a delicious chocolate scone-bottomed cheesecake with a soft vanilla-scented filling dotted with speckles of more of the scone- like mix over the top.

Of course, it’s definitely not diet food. But seeing friends you haven’t seen in a while constitutes a reason for celebration and this German classic is the definition of special. It’s also hella easy to make, usefully. This time I added some dark sweet cherries to the base to create a little surprise for those digging into their slices. Deliciously naughty and divinely decadent.

What I have done is tweak the quantities, as the original German recipe made a huge monster of a cake, which I have to say was nice but somewhat excessive…

IMG_0052Makes 12 slices


200g plain flour

120g caster sugar

120g butter, cold and cubed

1 egg

28g cocoa

1 tsp baking powder


75g caster sugar

2 eggs

250g Quark

35g butter

100g double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch salt

150g frozen sweet cherries, defrosted


  1. Make the dough – mix the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and sift in the cocoa. Rub in the butter until it forms a breadcrumb-like texture, a bit like making scones. Bind with egg and knead lightly, before wrapping in cling film and chilling for 30 min.
  2. Once chilled, take 3/4 of the dough and press into a 20cm tart tin, making sure to keep it quite thin at the bottom around the edges. This mixture puffs and forms a cakey, scone-like cuddle for your creamy filling, so make sure it’s reasonably evenly distributed. Chill again while you make the filling.
  3. When you’re about ready, preheat the oven to 180c and beat the softened butter with a spoon until fluffy, before beating in the rest of the ingredients. Scatter the cherries over the base and pour the filling over the top.
  4. Before baking, take the reserved dough and pinch off small sections and scatter them over the surface of your cake. If you like, you can press this flat and cut out little shapes. Bake for 40 min or until the wobble in the middle is only just gone.
  5. Remove from the oven, let cool and serve at room temperature. Serve with creme fraiche or thick double cream. Ensure you feel no guilt whatsoever about this!IMG_0051

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