German poppy seed cake

This classic German poppy seed cake has a rich filling, tender dough, and crunchy streusel topping with lemon glaze.

This classic poppy seed strudel cake is such an iconic German cake. We call it “Mohnkuchen mit Streuseln”, as “Mohn” is the German word for poppy seeds.

This cake is actually one of my kids’ absolute favorites as they will always try to get it when we visit German bakeries.

I used to think that it was too complicated to make. But in all the recipe testing, I found that it’s surprisingly easy to make.

If you have never had a poppy seed cake, it might be a bit of an acquired taste. With poppy seeds being the main ingredient, this is not just some seeds sprinkled throughout.

Trust me, though, with a recipe as delicious as this it won’t take long before you’ll want to make it again and again!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to youYou can read my full disclosure here.

Why you’ll love this recipe

With a homemade poppy seed filling this cake has it all: the moist poppy seed filling lives inside a tender yeast dough. The crunchy streusel topping gets a light and fresh lemon glaze.

It is one of those great recipes that are impressive enough for guests but also easy enough for just any day. You see, most poppy seed streusel cakes are just that but for this recipe, we will braid the cake for a splashing presentation. Therefore, it is officially called “Mohnstreuselzopf” in German.

What are the ingredients for the German poppy seed cake?

For the dough you will need:

  • Flour: I like all purpose flour the best for this recipe
  • Sugar: any sugar works, we like using organic cane sugar
  • Warm Milk: this really helps make the dough light
  • Melted Butter: this is both for flavor and texture,
  • Egg: the eggs are also mostly for texture
  • Yeast: dry instant yeast works great here
  • Salt: a pinch of salt always lets all the ingredients shine

For the poppy seed filling:

  • Poppy seeds: I like buying them in bulk and then grinding them right before I use them
  • Starch: cornstarch is a good option
  • Sugar: again, organic cane sugar is my preference
  • Milk: this is the liquid we need for the filling
  • Egg: the egg helps make the filling a little stiffer
  • Salt: sea salt or Himalayan salt work great here

Streusel topping:

  • Flour: I use the same AP flour as for the cake dough
  • Butter: this makes the streusel topping tender and crunchy
  • Sugar: and more of the organic cane sugar we are using for the rest of the cake

Lemon glaze:

  • Lemon juice: we love fresh-pressed for the best flavor
  • Powdered sugar: this dissolves best in the lemon juice

German mohnkuchen slices

Useful tools and equipment

You really don’t need much but these are my favorite items to make this cake:

  • Stand mixer: I love using my Kitchenaid for mixing and kneading the dough. I can also let the yeast dough rise right in the bowl of my stand mixer.
  • High-speed blender: Grinding the whole poppy seeds takes about 15 seconds in my Vitamix.
  • Wire whisk: this is very helpful for making the poppy seed filling
  • Rolling pin: to roll out the yeast dough
  • Half baker’s sheet: this is the perfect size for this delicious cake
  • Parchment paper: I love how I don’t have to grease my baking sheet and how easily the cake comes off it after baking

How to make this German poppy seed cake

Making the dough:

  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, warm milk, egg, salt, and melted butter.
  2. Using the dough hook or your hands, mix the dough ingredients until they come together. Knead for another 5-10 mins.
  3. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature or in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.

Make the poppy seed filling:

  1. Grind the poppy seeds.
  2. To a medium size pot, add salt, cornstarch, milk, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, mix until smooth. Whisk in the poppy seeds and the egg.
  3. Over low-medium heat and while constantly stirring, bring this mixture to just boiling. Remove it from the heat and set it aside to let it cool down.

Make the streusel topping:

  1. Combine ingredients for the streusel in a medium bowl.
  2. Using a fork, pastry blender, or your hands work this dough until you get a crumbly consistency. Set it aside.

Assemble the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F
  2. When the yeast dough has doubled in size, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface.
  3. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a big rectangle.
  4. Place the poppy seed mixture directly on the dough, leaving about ½ inch on each side.
  5. Starting with the long side, carefully roll up the dough into a long roll.
  6. Transfer the dough roll onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper
  7. Starting from the middle, cut the roll in half lengthwise and braid it. Then cut it lengthwise in the other direction and braid it as well.
  8. Gently press the streusel topping all over the roll.
  9. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 30-40 mins or until golden-brown on top.
  10. Remove it from the oven and let the cake cool.

Finish the cake:

  1. Combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar to a smooth glaze.
  2. Drizzle it generously over the poppy seed cake.
  3. Cut the cake into slices and enjoy!
German mohnkuchen slices

Substitutions and variations

Here are some ingredient substitutions and variations for your German Mohnkuchen:

  • Flour: You can easily use spelt or einkorn flour for this recipe. If you have a favorite gluten-free flour, you could use that, too.
  • Sugar: just because of the color, I like using light sugar. If you don’t mind a darker color of the dough, you can also use brown sugar.
  • Milk: we always use cow’s milk but this cake is just as delicious as with any plant-based milk.
  • Streusel topping: you can make a delicious almond crumble by adding some almond flour to the topping
  • Lemon glaze: feel free to add some lemon zest to the glaze

Equipment substitutions:

  • High-speed blender: For grinding the poppy seeds you can also use a food processor, a spice grinder, or your coffee grinder. If you’re using the latter two, you might have to work in batches.
  • Baker’s sheet: You can make this cake in a springform pan as well, even though it might be a bit trickier to cut and braid the strands into a round.

slices of German poppy seed cake

How to serve this German poppyseed cake

This cake is really a stand-alone. Germans love to have it in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea.

Even though we cut it into slices, sometimes we just want a small bite. Then we’ll just cut the Mohnkuchen into smaller squares.

Can you make this German poppy seed cake ahead of time?

You can make this poppy seed streusel cake, aka Mohnstreuselkuchen, easily ahead of time. At room temperature, this cake will last up to 3 days.

If you’d like to keep it longer, I suggest freezing it. Simply place your slices onto a piece of cardboard just a little bit smaller than your ziplock bag. Gently press the excess air out of the ziplock bag and freeze the Mohnkuchen. You can either let it thaw at room temperature or gently warm it up in the oven.

German poppy seed cake

Other cake recipes you might like

Sourdough Lemon Cake

German Plum Cake

Classic Apple Strudel

Sourdough Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Shop this post:

Poppy seeds:

Stand mixer:

Pastry blender:

German Poppy Seed Streusel Cake | Mohnkuchen mit Sreuseln

This classic German poppy seed cake has a rich filling, tender dough, and crunchy streusel topping with lemon glaze.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time40 mins
resting time1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: German
Keyword: poppy seed cake
Servings: 20 slices
Calories: 448kcal
Author: Our Gabled Home
Cost: $16

Ingredients

  • 4 tsp instant yeast
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 3 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 cup milk, warm
  • 1 dash salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • 5 TBSP butter, melted
  • 1 ⅓ cups whole poppy seeds
  • 1 dash salt
  • cup cornstarch
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ whole lemon, juiced
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar

Instructions

  • For the dough: In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, combine 3 ¾ c flour, ¾ c sugar, 4 tsp yeast, 1 c warm milk, 1 egg, a dash of salt, and 5 TBSP melted butter.
  • Using the dough hook or your hands, mix the dough ingredients until they come together. Knead for another 5-10 mins.
  • Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature or in a warm spot until it has doubled in size.
  • For the poppy seed filling: Grind the poppy seeds.
  • To a medium size pot, add a dash of salt, cornstarch, 2 c milk, and ¾ sugar. Using a wire whisk, mix until smooth. Whisk in the poppy seeds and the egg.
  • Over low-medium heat and while constantly stirring, bring this mixture to just boiling. Remove it from the heat and set it aside to let it cool down.
  • For the crumb topping: Combine 1 ¼ c flour, ½ c sugar, and ½ c butter in a medium bowl.
  • Using a fork, pastry blender, or your hands work this dough until you get a crumbly consistency. Set it aside.
  • Assemble the cake: Preheat the oven to 350˚FWhen the yeast dough has doubled in size, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface.
  • Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a big rectangle.
  • Place the poppy seed mixture directly on the dough, leaving about ½ inch on each side.
  • Starting with the long side, carefully roll up the dough into a long roll.
  • Transfer the dough roll onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
  • Starting from the middle, cut the roll in half lengthwise and braid it. Then cut it lengthwise in the other direction and braid it as well.
  • Gently press the streusel topping all over the roll.
  • Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 30-40 mins or until golden-brown on top. Remove it from the oven and let the cake cool down.
  • Finish the cake: Combine the lemon juice and powdered sugar to smooth glaze. Drizzle it generously over the poppy seed cake. Cut the cake into slices and enjoy!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Pin For Later: 

How to make a German Poppy Seed Cake

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating