German Cheesecake (Käsekuchen)

Light and airy, sweet and tangy – that’s authentic German cheesecake!  This Käsekuchen is how my Mutti and Oma made it and it is delicious on its own or can have fruit added to it.  Made fully from scratch without vanilla pudding mix, it tastes like it came from a professional German Konditorei!

For more delicious traditional German cakes try our German Apple Cake, German Plum Cake, German Rhubarb Streusel Cake, and though not technically “cake,” our Apple Strudel is a must!

german cheesecake recipe traditional authentic käsekuchen rezept quark shortcrust pastry mürbeteig without vanilla pudding powder

If you’ve been to Germany and have had Käsekuchen, you know that it’s something special.  This German cheesecake recipe is easy to make, is made entirely from scratch (no vanilla pudding powder!), will take you down memory lane and transport you to cheesecake heaven!

German Cheesecake vs. American Cheesecake

While American cheesecake is made with cream cheese and is quite dense in texture, German cheesecake is made with Quark, which is tangier in flavor and has a lighter, airier texture.  American cheesecake is made with a graham cracker crust while German cheesecake is made with a shortcrust pastry called Mürbeteig.   Another notable difference is that German cheesecake is far less sweet.  It is usually eaten without toppings or sauces but there are popular variations that incorporate fruit in the filling, like mandarin oranges, apples, pears or berries.  My Mutti often made a Blechkuchen (sheet pan) version  topped with mandarin orange segments that was a family favorite.

german cheesecake recipe traditional authentic käsekuchen rezept quark shortcrust pastry mürbeteig without vanilla pudding powder

What is Quark?

Quark is a kind of soft cow’s cheese that is made from strained soured milk and is high in protein and generally low in fat.  It’s not a yogurt, it’s not cottage cheese, and it’s not ricotta.  Flavor and texture-wise, it can be described as something of a combination of them.  It has been made for millennia in different countries by different names, but is most notably called Quark and is strongly associated with German cuisine.  It’s a versatile cheese and is used in both sweet and savory recipes.

What Can I Substitute for Quark?

In Germany, Quark is inexpensive and can be found in any grocery store, but it’s much harder (and more expensive) to source elsewhere.  If you can find it, use it, because it really is unique and no substitutions can quite capture the flavor and texture.  If you cannot find it you have a few options:

  • Make it yourself!  I’ve got you covered with a detailed, step-by-step tutorial on How to Make Quark.
  • Quark is something of a cross between yogurt, cottage cheese and ricotta, and while obviously not exactly the same, you can substitute one of those. If using yogurt, use Greek yogurt and strain it in a cheesecloth to thicken it (you’ll want 500 grams of strained, thickened yogurt). If using cottage cheese, first blend it until it’s smooth.

how to make quark homemade recipe

Pro Tips for Making German Cheesecake

The most common challenges are the top of the cake cracking too much (a small crack is perfectly normal) and the cake not being fully set.  To avoid these problems do the following:

  • After the cheesecake is finished baking, turn the oven off and leave the cake inside the oven with the door cracked open.  The sudden change in temperature from going to a hot oven to room temperature will often cause the filling to crack.  Allowing the cake to cool in the oven reduces this risk.
  • Let the cheesecake to fully cool before removing it from the springform and slicing it.  I know it’s hard to be patient, but that will ensure the cake is set and you’ll get those nice, clean slices.

german cheesecake recipe traditional authentic käsekuchen rezept quark shortcrust pastry mürbeteig without vanilla pudding powder

Käsekuchen should be stored in the fridge where it will keep for 3-4 days.

Before serving, let the German cheesecake come to room temperature.  This improves both the flavor and the texture.

Enjoy!

german cheesecake recipe traditional authentic käsekuchen rezept quark shortcrust pastry mürbeteig without vanilla pudding powdereteig without vanilla pudding powder

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