Tired of peach cobbler this summer, make a peach kuchen with cherries instead. Sweet fruit on top of a cakey layer that’s smothered in a creamy custard. It’s a classic German comfort food that you don’t want to miss out on.
Having a German grandmother, I grew up with kuchen. It was her go-to dessert and we loved it. They lived in northern California so when we visited she would treat us to either apricot or peach kuchen, whichever was in season.
Sometimes it would have a cake like crust and other times it would have a yeast dough. But what all kuchens have in common is fruit covered in a custard. Kuchen actually means cake in German. It’s pronounced “koo-Ken.
While there are no apricot trees within a 1000 miles of me, there are peach orchards close enough that we have fresh peaches at our local farmers market. Sweet cherries cooked alongside the peaches not only provide flavor but add some texture so that it doesn’t get too mushy. They’re totally optional.
What’s so magical about this peach dessert is that you don’t have to have fresh fruit. When visiting my grandparents we would always can peaches and apricots and bring them home with us to enjoy all winter long. Then during the holidays, my mom would use canned fruit to make a kuchen for Christmas morning.
This traditional German dessert is still very popular in some areas of the US, it’s the State dessert in South Dakota where apparently you can find it almost anywhere. You’ll be hard pressed to find it in North Carolina and none of my Southern friends have even heard of it. They don’t know what they’re missing.
Why you’ll love a kuchen
- Fruit desserts are the best
- The custard is dreamlike
- It makes enough to feed a crowd
- You can use fresh, frozen or canned fruit
- Mix and match your favorite fruits depending on what’s on hand
- You can make this in advance
What you’ll need
- Cake layer – Flour, baking powder, sugar and butter.
- Fruit layer– fresh peaches and cherries – you can use apricots, plums or nectarines. You’ll need to peel the fruit. Cinnamon and brown sugar. If you’re peaches aren’t quite ripe, learn some tips on how to ripen peaches.
- Custard Layer – heavy cream, eggs yolks and vanilla – you could use half-and-half but the custard won’t be quite as creamy.
Step by step directions
Step 1: Make the cake layer by cutting butter into the dry ingredients, like you were making biscuits and add this to the bottom of a deep dish 9 x 13 baking dish.
Step 2: Peel the peaches and cut them into quarters and spread over the cake layer in the pan. Add cherries. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the fruit. Bake for 15 minutes. Grab some tips on how to cut a peach.
Step 3: While it’s baking, combine cream, egg yolks and vanilla. Pour it over the top and bake for an additional forty minutes until the custard is just set.
A fruit kuchen needs to cool before you serve it to let the custard firm up and the juices absorb into the cake layer, at least 30 minutes. One nice thing about a kuchen is it’s scrumptious slightly warm, at room temperature or even refrigerated. Try it all three ways and see which is your favorite.
This doesn’t need a topping, but if you want to make it extra, then add some ice cream or whipped cream.
FAQs and tips
While fresh are always the best, peaches are still so sweet when frozen or canned, so any type of peach will work, the sweeter the better?
You can use a variety of fruits in a kuchen. Apricots, plums or nectarines work great. You can also use berries.
You do need to peel the peaches for a kuchen, otherwise it will be hard to eat. You want to be able to eat this with a spoon.
A kuchen needs to cool slightly before eating to allow the custard to set and the juices to firm up. It can be eaten warm, at room temperature or refrigerated.
More peach desserts
Savory peach recipes
- 3 cups flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup butter cut into 1 inch pieces
- 6 peaches peeled and sliced into quarters
- ½ lb cherries pitted and halved
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 400º. Grease a 9 X 13 pan with butter.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender until it is the consistency of cornmeal. Sprinkle mixture over the bottom and sides of a greased 9 X 13 pan.
- Place peach quarters and cherries over the dough. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the peaches and cherries.
- Bake for 15 minutes. While baking mix the egg yolks, cream and vanilla. Remove pan after 15 minutes and pour cream mixture over fruit. Bake for an additional 40 minutes until custard is set.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can use canned or frozen peaches. If using canned fruit, make sure you drain it before adding.
- If the fruit is firm, cut in into smaller slices.
- Use enough fruit to completely cover the bottom layer.
- You can use apricots, plums or nectarines instead of peaches.
- This needs to cool before serving to let the juices soak into the crust. Serve it warm, at room temperature or refrigerated.