I’ve Been Living in Germany for 5 Years and These Are My Favorite German Cookbooks for Holiday Baking

published Dec 10, 2021
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squares of Lebkuchen (a honey-sweetened German bar cookie with a gingerbread flavor) stacked, with a chocolate iced side showing in one piece
Credit: Shilpa Uskokovic

For the most part, the folks in Germany go all out for the holidays. As soon as the weather starts cooling down, the collective anticipation for mulled wine, baking traditions, and cozy Christmas markets becomes palpable. I’m not even much of a “Christmas person,” and this time of year is still one of my favorite things about living here — especially because of all that baking.

Warmly spiced lebkuchen (a soft gingerbread), perfectly chewy zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), and just-crumbly-enough vanillekipferl (small, crescent-shaped biscuits made with crushed nuts) are a few of my favorites, although it’s difficult to choose. Fortunately, Germany’s festive staples tend to be either bite-sized or not especially sweet — often both — so sampling a variety of bakes throughout the season is not only possible, but also highly encouraged.

For a proper taste of German holiday baking wherever you reside, there are two books that take my top spot as references for English-language readers.

Classic German Baking: The Very Best Recipes for Traditional Favorites, from Pfeffernüsse to Streuselkuchen

Classic German Baking is a marvelous year-round resource for all things sweet and savory that may emerge from a German kitchen. This is a digestible compendium of cookies, cakes, tortes, breads — and yes, Christmas favorites. The book was released in 2016 and became a fast favorite (particularly among expats and immigrants in Germany), thanks to Weiss’ conversational tone and traditionalist approach to baking. She doesn’t try to modernize or otherwise “update” the classics, yet she makes even the most daunting bakes feel doable to those who are less familiar with certain ingredients or techniques. If you have even a modicum of interest in the baked goods of Germany, this book should be on your shelves.

Buy: Classic German Baking, $25.49

Advent: Festive German Bakes to Celebrate the Coming of Christmas

Advent, meanwhile, is brand-new for 2021. Aside from being a visual feast to flip through, the book divides Germany’s baking traditions according to the Advent calendar. Dunk’s tone is warm and inviting, and recipes are presented with both historical context and modern application.  “Authentic” is a word I’m always hesitant to use — a recipe for the same bake can vary from city to city, village to village, family to family, and each version is valid and true in its own right — but Advent is such a cozy, genuine glimpse into seasonal baking that reading it made me want to book a trip to Germany (and I already live here!). This book is an absolute must for Christmas baking aficionados.

Buy: Advent, $31.50

And with that, I’m heading back into my own kitchen. Frohe Weihnachten!