German Coffee Cake Squares

It’s the middle of June and winter is officially upon us. Not that it’s ever truly winter in Durban, but that doesn’t stop me from indulging in my winter favourites. Colourful socks, oversized jerseys, cake and coffee, and in this case…coffee cake.


I’m sure I’m not the only one whose appetite suddenly becomes gargantuan during the colder months, and it seems as if this extra hunger is just never satisfied by anything other than a homemade sweet treat.

These German coffee cake squares combine two of my greatest loves: coffee and butterkuchen. My parents started taking my younger brother and I to the Shongweni Farmers’ Market when I was about 5. I still remember them buying us fresh fruit juice and a bacon and egg roll practically every Saturday morning, sitting us down on a grassy bank and watching model airplanes whizz above our heads. After this Saturday morning ritual, they allowed us to buy ourselves a sweet treat from one of the market stalls before we left for home, and I bought myself a homemade butterkuchen from the German bakers every single time (and still do when I get the chance).


These German coffee cake squares have that same sugary crumbliness as classic butterkuchen with bursts of coffee flavoured caramel brittle, perfect for pairing with a mug of something* warm. I used my favourite coffee brand, Terbodore, to brew the espresso for these German coffee cake squares and it really makes all the difference! Not only is their coffee excellent quality and tastes amazing, but their packaging is also beautiful and I encourage you to go and check out their Instagram account and website for some stunning imagery.


*(I thought typing ‘coffee’ for the third time in a sentence would be excessive.)



150g butter

150g all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

100g caster sugar

Caramel brittle

40g caster sugar

60g granulated sugar

1/2 tsp instant coffee


225g butter, at room temp.

225g caster sugar

4 eggs

225g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

50ml cooled espresso

1 tsp instant coffee

2 tbsp coffee essence (see recipe at start)



First, make the coffee essence used in the sponge by mixing 1/2 cup of brewed espresso with 50g granulated sugar. Bring this coffee sugar mixture to the boil, lower the heat and let slowly boil for five minutes. Set aside to use later in the sponge recipe.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a deep baking tray (30cm x 35cm). Line another baking tray with greaseproof paper.

To make the caramel brittle, sprinkle the two sugars into a small non-stick pan with some water over a high heat. Leave the sugar water for a few minutes, swirling gently every now and then but not stirring. The mixture should start to become golden, at this stage, sprinkle in the instant coffee, then pour the caramel onto the second lined baking tray and leave to cool and set.


Make the crumb by cubing the butter and placing it in a bowl with the flour, baking powder, and sugar then rub the ingredients together with your fingertips until you have fine crumbs. Place the crumb in the fridge to chill until needed.

Finally, make the sponge batter. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs in one at a time, mixing after each addition, then fold in the flour and baking powder. Mix in the cooled espresso, instant coffee and coffee essence then pour the batter into the greased deep tray and smooth over the top with a spoon.


Smash the caramel brittle into small pieces (using something heavy and/or sharp) and mix with the chilled crumb mixture. Sprinkle half of this mixture from a height over the sponge batter. With the other half of the brittle crumb mixture, squeeze bits together to form large clumps with your fingers. Rustically drop these clumps into the sponge batter. Bake the cake for about 35 minutes at 180C until golden and cooked through.


Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Slice the cake into squares and remove carefully from the tray and place onto a wire rack to cool completely. Make yourself your favourite warm drink and serve!


This recipe has been adapted from Jamie Oliver’s German Cake recipe from his brilliant Comfort Food cookbook found here.


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