Moist and chewy, this authentic German Christmas Stollen Recipe or Christstollen, as it’s called in Germany, comes straight from my German mother who got it from her mother. We make it all the time and can’t wait to show you how to make this delicious German Christmas bread, so you too can enjoy perfectly spiced, soft and flakey homemade Stollen.
Besides world-famous raisin Stollen, you’ll also find photos and instructions to make marzipan Stollen exactly the way it’s made in the Stollen capital of Dresden. There’s more too: Discover heavenly chocolate-covered, chocolate-chip Stollen, which is bound to be your next favorite too.
Authentic German Stollen
Are you daunted by the thought of making Stollen? Did it turn out too dry last time you made it? With photos and clear instructions, we explain how to craft the perfect holiday Stollen cake.
What is Stollen bread?
Stollen, which is also called Weihnachtsstollen (Christmas Stollen) or Christstollen after Christ, is a traditional, spiced, fruit bread made in Germany to celebrate Christmas and the holidays. Known for its soft, rum-soaked raisins, almonds and candied citrus peel, as well as milk, sugar and yeast, bakers also often add a marzipan filling. People give these rich German Christmas cakes to friends and neighbors as gifts and even used to give them to kings.
Or try Poppy Seed Stollen.
German Stollen comes in many tasty varieties
Dresden’s classic raisin Stollen is world famous. Other varieties include one of my favorites, Marzipan Stollen which adds a strip of marzipan to the classic raisin recipe. There’s also Almond Stollen which omits the raisins, Chocolate Chip Stollen with chocolate chips, chocolate icing and no raisins, Poppy Seed Stollen with a poppy seed filling, Butter Stollen with extra butter, Cherry Stollen with cherries instead of raisins and cherry brandy, and Quark Stollen made with Quark, a German dairy product.
Trending now: German Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwälderkirschtorte).
How to make chocolate-covered chocolate chip Stollen
We haven’t seen this one in the United States before, so we’re going to put in a few words, because chocolate-chip Stollen is the BEST. Absolutely orgasmic, we eat this at any time of day. If you love chocolate-covered biscotti, chocolate-filled croissants, and lemon- or orange-infused chocolate bars, then you MUST TRY chocolate-chip Stollen.
To make it, simply use chocolate chips instead of raisins. In other words, the chocolate chips, chopped almonds and candied citrus are marinated in rum just like if you were using raisins. The only difference is at the very end where – instead of powdered sugar – you top it with chocolate icing or a melted chocolate bar which is what we do.
You can make it with milk chocolate, semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips. We make ours with sugar-free dark chocolate chips and glaze it with a melted 74% cacao bar. Tip: So you don’t crack the chocolate shell, dunk your knife in boiling water before slicing.
Homemade beats store-bought Christmas Stollen
Homemade German Christmas cake is the ULTIMATE, so if you’re a Stollen fan, you’re in for a fragrant treat that will vanish quickly.
The history of Germany’s treasured Christmas bread (Christstollen)
Did Dresden make the first Stollen?
Dresden is world famous for its Christmas Stollen, but Stollen was actually first mentioned in an official document in Naumburg, Germany. In fact, a Naumburg bakery explains that in 1329 Bishop Heinrich gave Naumburg’s bakers the right to form a bakers guild. In return, the bakers had to pay the bishop and his court two Stollen per year for the Catholic Advent fasting period. So, Stollen was initially a fasting bread. More on this in a moment.
Christmas Stollen bread is a deep-rooted tradition in Dresden
Dresden, however, is usually the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of world-famous Christmas Stollen bread. Indeed, its roots run deep, since Dresden’s Christstollen dates back to 1474 which is when it was mentioned in a hospital bill and listed as fasting food made of flour, yeast and water.
So, the first Stollen recipe was very bland. After all, it was made during Advent which, in Catholic Germany, was a time of fasting and abstinence from meat, so you weren’t allowed to use butter which is an animal byproduct. Instead, bakers used oil which was expensive and hard to come by.
In 15th century medieval Saxony, the prince decided he wanted to use butter since oil was pricey. He also wanted a tastier holiday bread. So, he wrote to the Pope in 1450 and asked if bakers could add butter to the Stollen recipe. The Pope responded with a firm no. But five Popes later in 1490, Pope Innocent VIII sent the famous “butter letter” to the prince, giving the Prince permission to use butter in Stollen but only for himself, his family and his household.
The Pope added that anyone could use butter as long as they made an annual contribution to support the building of Freiberg’s Minster Cathedral.
Then, in the 16th century, the butter ban was lifted when Saxony became Protestant.
So, the Stollen recipe developed over the centuries from a simple, flavorless Advent bread for the Catholic fasting period to the sweeter holiday fruit bread or Christstollen we know today.
Giant Dresden Christmas Stollen wows spectators annually
Yes, there’s a HUGE Christmas Stollen out there. You can see this Christstollen and even enjoy a bite of it. Just visit Dresden during Stollen season (November 1–December 31) and make sure you’re in town the date of the Dresden Stollen Festival. That’s when a horse-pulled carriage transports a giant, 3–4 ton Stollen through town to the Christmas Market (Strietzelmarkt) – a tradition that has deep roots in the region.
In 1560, Dresden bakers already offered the rulers of Saxony a Christmas Stollen weighing 36 pounds each as a gift, and the custom continued to be observed.
But in 1730, August II the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, a decadent leader who loved splendid parties, topped it all. He ordered the first giant Stollen that weighed 1.7 tons and was enough Christstollen for 24,000 plates. He also had an oversized Stollen oven and Stollen knife designed for the occasion.
Unfortunately, the knife is lost, so Dresden crafted a new 5-foot-long Stollen knife for the festival. A master baker ceremoniously slices the giant Christmas Stollen with it. Afterwards, the public can buy a slice of Christstollen and the money goes to charity. By the way, August the Strong is forever part of Dresden’s history, since he graces the label of Dresden’s Christstollen which is sold worldwide.
Stollen’s shape symbolizes baby Jesus
Although there are a few different ways to roll and fold Christmas Stollen, the shape has essentially remained the same through the ages. The powdery white oval is said to symbolize baby Jesus wrapped in white swaddling clothes.
What does the German word Stollen actually mean?
According to an article by Bavarian TV, the word Stollen comes from stollo, an Old High German word that means post or support. The shape of Stollen bread is indeed reminiscent of a post or column. The word might also date back to pre-Christian times when columns dedicated to the highest deities were called stulo.
Ingredient notes to make this Stollen recipe
You will find the measurements for this Stollen recipe below in the Recipe Card. If you have a kitchen scale, use the gram measurement provided for the flour, so you don’t use too much flour which can dry out the cake.
- Marzipan (optional) – store bought or make my easy marzipan recipe which even has a sugar-free option.
- Candied lemon and orange peel – store bought or make it in advance from scratch.
- Milk – Use whole milk, since the dough needs the fat.
- Sugar or granulated sweetener of choice – Stollen dough traditionally doesn’t contain a lot of sugar, but you can still reduce the cake’s calories by using a zero-calorie sugar substitute such as monk fruit or erythritol.
- Active dry yeast
- All-purpose flour
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract
- Lemon zest
- Cinnamon – Use level spoonfuls of the spices.
- Mace or nutmeg – Dresden Stollen is made with mace, but nutmeg also tastes great. Mace and nutmeg are, in fact, both derived from the fruit of the nutmeg tree: mace from the seed’s crimson covering and nutmeg from the seed.
- Raisins – or a mixture of raisins and golden raisins (sultanas).
- Almonds – blanched and sliced. To blanch almonds, put them in boiling water for 1–2 minutes. Then, drain, pinch off the skin and slice.
- Dark rum or water – softs the raisins. If you use alcohol, it also acts as a preservative.
- Powdered sugar – to sprinkle on the baked stollen. For fewer calories, opt for a zero-calorie powdered sugar substitute such as powdered monk fruit or erythritol.
How to make German Stollen Cake
Be prepared to invest a little time in this recipe and you will be rewarded for your efforts. After all, Stollen rises twice and there are a few parts to the recipe some of which you can prepare in advance.
Optional marzipan filling recipe
Germans love making this with marzipan, but Stollen tastes great with or without it. So, you need to decide whether you want to make, buy or omit the marzipan. If you decide to add it, I highly recommend making my easy homemade version which takes 5 minutes. You can make this tasty almond gem in advance and even freeze it, so you always have some handy.
Candied citrus peel recipe
You can buy candied orange-and-lemon peel or head to my candied citrus peel recipe and make it from scratch. Homemade is much tastier than store bought, but it takes 2–3 days to dry if you don’t have a dehydrator.
How to make German Christmas Stollen bread (Christstollen)
These are the steps we follow when we make German Christmas Stollen. We show you how to make it with and without marzipan. This is a tried-and-tested Stollen recipe which we make year-round. The photos below illustrate the process for one Stollen. However, we always double the recipe and make two at a time, since it’s a lot of work and you can always freeze one.
Tip: Check out this charming short film by the Dresden Stollen company. You can watch how the German bakers kneed and shape the dough.
1. Marinate the raisins, candied citrus peel and blanched sliced almonds in dark rum or water for at least an hour or overnight. We usually marinate them overnight.
2. Mix the yeast, warm milk and sugar in a small bowl until it has a foamy head. Be sure to use hot milk, so the yeast mixture foams up quickly. Usually 10-15 minutes.
3. Combine the flour, sugar (or a zero-calorie sugar replacement such as monk fruit or erythritol), salt, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg or mace in a large mixing bowl.
4. Mix the ingredients.
5. Add melted butter, egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and the yeast mixture.
6. Mix dough in a stand mixer with dough hook. The dough should quickly and easily come together on the hook. I don’t add extra flour.
If, for some reason (i.e., humidity), the dough is sticky and doesn’t form a ball, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Slowly sprinkle light amounts of flour, one light handful at a time, into the sticky areas and kneed it manually for 1-2 minutes using the push-and-pull method demonstrated in the Stollen film at minute 1:33. Then, form into a ball. Note: Be careful that you don’t add too much flour. If you add too much, you will dry out the bread and alter the flavor profile.
7. Brush your bowl lightly with a flavorless oil (about a teaspoon). Put the dough ball in the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Usually 1–2 hours.
7. There shouldn’t be any extra liquid in the raisin mixture but if there is, drain it, so the dough doesn’t get too sticky. Then mix the raisin mixture into the dough by hand or spatula. Since the raisin mixture is a little moist, the dough might feel a tiny bit sticky. Just keep shaping it and kneeding it in your hands or in the bowl until it forms a ball. The more you work it, the less sticky it gets. We usually don’t add flour at this point. But if you feel you have to, sprinkle in a small amount by hand and shape the dough some more before adding more flour. If you add too much flour, you could dry out the Stollen.
How to shape German Christmas Stollen bread
9. Put the dough ball on your unfloured work surface. To ensure that the raisins are mixed in properly, kneed the dough for about 2 minutes using the push-and-pull method as demonstrated in the Stollen film starting at minute 1:33.
10. If you’re adding marzipan, shape the dough into an oval and skip to the next section that explains how to add marzipan. Otherwise, slice the oval-shaped dough lengthwise about an inch deep to give it the characteristic Stollen look.
11. Lightly cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for another hour. It will get a bit bigger but won’t double in size.
12. Before baking, press any exposed raisins into the dough. Otherwise, they will burn. Then, bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Pictured on the left is a baked marzipan Stollen with the traditional hump and on the right a baked raisin Stollen.
How to add marzipan to make marzipan Stollen
I highly recommend watching the brief Dresden Stollen Film. At minute 2:05, you can watch how the baker adds marzipan to the Stollen. I replicate the film’s approach below.
1. Press down with your rolling pin to form a channel.
2. Roll the pin a bit to widen the channel. The dough on the side closest to you should be a bit thicker and taller.
3. Put the marzipan in the channel.
4. Fold the side furthest from you over the marzipan.
5. The dough should look like this.
6. With your rolling pin, press down to seal the German Christmas bread.
17. Place on parchment sheet.
18. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for another hour. It will get a bit bigger but won’t double in size. Before popping it into the oven, press any exposed raisins into the dough. Otherwise, they will burn. Then, bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
Marzipan Stollen with the traditional hump.
How to butter & decorate baked Stollen cake
1. When the Stollen comes out of the oven, immediately use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes in the Stollen. This will help the Stollen absorb the butter.
2. Immediately brush 3–4 tablespoons of melted butter on each hot Stollen.
3. Then immediately sift powdered sugar on the Stollen, tapping the sugar with a spoon as you generously coat the hot, buttered Stollen. If calories are a concern, use a zero-calorie sugar replacement such as powdered monk fruit or erythritol.
20. Let the German Christmas bread fully cool and enjoy.
FAQs about this stollen recipe (Christstollen)
You can definitely lower the carbs and calories in German Christmas bread and make it more suitable for diabetics. Firstly, use a zero-calorie, zero-carb sugar replacement such as monk fruit or erythritol. Secondly, since raisins are high in sugar and carbs, you can omit them or reduce them and instead add a few more blanched, sliced almonds. That will help make your Stollen more diabetic-friendly.
Simply use a sugar replacement such as zero-calorie, zero-carb monk fruit or erythritol.
In Germany, the Stollen or Christstollen season runs from November 1 to December 31. You can, of course, enjoy homemade German Christmas bread throughout the year.
No, it doesn’t taste alcoholic at all. The rum softs the raisins, almonds, and candied citrus peel and helps preserve the cake.
- A stand mixer with dough hook
- A spatula
- A baking sheet
- Parchment paper – for baking
- A sieve – to sift the powdered sugar on the Stollen
How to store your holiday bread (Christstollen)
To store: Store in an airtight bag or container in a cool place for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.
To freeze: You can also freeze the bread in a sealed bag or container for up to 3 months. I recommend making a double batch and freezing one.
DID YOU MAKE THIS CHRISTMAS STOLLEN RECIPE (Christstollen)?
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AUTHENTIC German Stollen Recipe (Christstollen)
- 1 Stand Mixer with Dough Hook
- 1 Spatula
- 1 or 2 Baking Sheet(s) depending on how many Stollen you are making.
- parchment paper
- 1 sieve to sprinkle the powdered sugar on the baked Stollen.
Candied Lemon and Orange Peel – Store bought or try my candied citrus peel recipe which takes 2-3 days to dry.
Marzipan (optional filling) – Store bought or try my 5-minute marzipan recipe which provides enough marzipan for 2 Stollen. You can make this in advance and freeze it until you are ready to use it.
- 4 ounces Marzipan per Stollen cake
Raisin Mixture – Marinate at least an hour but make the day before if you can.
- 4 ½ ounces Raisins Or a mixture of regular and golden raisins.
- 3 ounces Candied Lemon & Orange Peel (equal portions of both) Store bought or make homemade candied citrus peel recipe.
- 1 ½ ounces Blanched, Chopped Almonds To blanch, put the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Then pinch off the skin and slice.
- 3 tablespoons Dark Rum or Water
The Yeast Mixture
- 1 ½ teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
- ½ cup Hot Whole Milk Be sure to use hot milk, so the yeast mixture foams up quickly.
- 1 tablespoon Sugar
- 2 ⅓ cups All-Purpose Flour For one Stollen, this is 325 grams.
- 4 tablespoons Sugar or sugar replacement such as monk fruit or erythritol
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ tablespoon Cinnamon Use level spoonfuls of the spices.
- ½ teaspoon Cardamom
- ½ teaspoon Nutmeg or Mace
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter, soft
- 1 Egg
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
Butter & Decorate the Stollen
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter to generously brush on the Stollen.
- Powdered Sugar or a powdered sugar substitute to coat the baked Stollen.
Make homemade candied citrus peels a few days in advance if you aren't using store-bought candied lemon and orange peels.
If you plan to add the marzipan filling and aren't using store-bought marzipan, make homemade marzipan which is a fast, 5-minute recipe. You can make it in advance and freeze it until you are ready to use it.
Marinate the raisins, chopped blanched almonds, and diced candied citrus peels in rum at least an hour before you plan to use them, preferably overnight.
Make the Yeast Mixture
- Combine the yeast, hot milk and sugar until it has a foamy head. Be sure to use hot milk, so the yeast mixture foams up quickly. Usually 10-15 minutes.
Make the Dough – Photos for the entire process are available in the post.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg or mace.
- Add the softened butter, egg, vanilla, lemon zest and yeast mixture.
- Mix dough in a stand mixer with dough hook. The dough should quickly and easily come together on the hook. I don't add extra flour. If, for some reason (i.e., humidity), the dough is sticky and doesn't form a ball, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Slowly sprinkle light amounts of flour, one light handful at a time, into the sticky areas and kneed it manually for 1-2 minutes using the push-and-pull method demonstrated in the Stollen film at minute 1:33. Then, form into a ball. Note: Be careful that you don't add too much flour. If you add too much, you will dry out the bread and alter the flavor profile.
- Brush your bowl lightly with a flavorless oil (about a teaspoon). Put the dough ball in the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. Usually 1–2 hours.
- There shouldn't be any extra liquid in the raisin mixture but if there is, drain it, so the dough doesn't get too sticky. Then mix the raisin mixture into the dough by hand or spatula. Since the raisin mixture is a little moist, the dough might feel a tiny bit sticky. Just keep shaping it and kneeding it in your hands or in the bowl until it forms a ball. The more you work it, the less sticky it gets. We usually don't add flour at this point. But if you feel you have to, sprinkle in a small amount by hand and shape the dough some more before adding more flour. If you add too much flour, you could dry out the Stollen.
- Put the dough ball on your unfloured work surface. To ensure that the raisins are mixed in properly, kneed the dough for about 2 minutes using the push-and-pull method as demonstrated in the Stollen film starting at minute 1:33.
- If you're adding marzipan, shape the dough into an oval and skip to the next section that explains how to add marzipan. If you aren't adding marzipan, shape the dough into an oval. Then, use a knife and slice the top of the dough lengthwise about an inch deep to give it the traditional Stollen look.
- Lightly cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for another hour. It will get a bit bigger but won't double in size.
- Before baking, press any exposed raisins into the dough. Otherwise, they will burn. Then, bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
- How to Add Marzipan – See the section in the post on this. You will find photos as well as a link to a video on how to add marzipan.
How to Butter & Decorate Baked Stollen
- When the Stollen comes out of the oven, immediately use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes in the Stollen. This will help the Stollen absorb the butter.
- Immediately brush 3–4 tablespoons of melted butter on each hot Stollen.
- Then immediately sift powdered sugar on the Stollen, tapping the sugar with a spoon as you generously coat the hot, buttered Stollen.
- Let it cool and enjoy.