Zwiebelkuchen (Onion Cake)

Treasure hunting at the local food market: I came home with a bag of dark red onions. They were very fresh, small and not as tasteless as some of the larger ones you often find at the supermarket. Red onions, I love ’em, and the smaller the better. Here in Berlin we love to eat Zwiebelkuchen, a sweet soft onion cake, with a glass of beer. It’s even served at our famous Biergärten. Served with a simple green salad, it’s also a great light dinner at home.

Serves 4-6
Action Time: 25 minutes + 45 minutes resting time + 30 minutes baking time

0.7 oz/20 g fresh yeast*
4.2 fl oz/125 ml warm milk
8.8 oz/250 g plain flour
1 egg
1 oz/25 g soft butter

For the topping:
1.1 lb/500 g red onions
1 oz/25 g butter
2 eggs
7 oz/200 ml crème fraîche
5 oz/150 ml milk
1 tbsp ground caraway seeds**

Extra: baking pan approx. 8 x 12 inch/20 x 30 cm, greased and lined with baking paper

1. Crumble the yeast into a small bowl. Add the warm milk and stir with a fork until the yeast is dissolved. Put the flour in a big bowl. Add the yeast mixture, 1 tsp of salt, the egg and butter, and knead until you have a smooth but firm dough. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave to rise for at least 45 minutes.

2. Peel, halve, and slice the onions. Heat the butter in a large pan, add the onions and cook until soft, for about 15 minutes. Take your time, the longer you cook the onions, the sweeter they become and the better they taste.

3. Preheat the oven to 400F/200°C. Moisten your hands and press the dough into the baking pan. Use a fork to pierce the dough, make rows with an interspace of about 0.5 inch/1 cm.

4. In a bowl, beat the eggs and crème fraîche with a fork. Add the milk and combine.

5. Divide the onions over the dough. Sprinkle over the ground caraway seeds. Grind over a generous amount of pepper and add some salt. Carefully pour the cream mixture over the onions. Bake the cake for about 30 minutes in the middle of the oven until the topping is somewhat firm. Leave to cool to lukewarm on a rack before serving.

Serve with a green salad. We had one the other night in a great restaurant in Berlin: served as a whole (see picture), but of course without the stems. For the dressing mix in a jar 5 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1/2 chopped shallot and 1 tsp of mustard. Close the lid and shake firmly. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the salad, add the dressing, toss, and serve.


*Dry yeast is ‘not done’ in Germany. You can buy fresh yeast almost anywhere here, even at the regular grocery store. If you can’t get your hands on it, use approx 0.14 oz/4 g of dry yeast instead.

**You can use whole caraway seeds too. Or replace it by ground cumin.

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