Dakota Kuchen

Dakota Kuchen

If you think back to when you used to visit grandma’s house as a child, I am sure grandma always had some special kind of dessert for you. Whether it be some sort of cookie, brownie, or cake. For children who grew up in Germans from Russia households, that special treat is kuchen, pronounced “ku-gen”, which is the German word for cake. Kuchen is a rich custard dessert with fruit poured into a sweet dough for the crust. 

North Dakota German Food -1Kuchen is kind of like a fruit pie or tart. Everyone has their preference and kuchen comes in a wide variety of flavors using fruits like apple, prunes, apricot, peach, rhubarb, and even more exotic things like chocolate chips. Some Germans from Russia added dry curd cottage cheese for cheese kuchen called “kasekuchen”.

Kuchen is a tradition that dates all the way back to pre-emigration from parts of Russia and Germany for the original homesteaders here in the Dakotas. At that time, kuchen was primarily made for weddings because the ingredients were expensive to buy in places like the Black Sea where they lived before emigrating. Sugar and fruit were hard to come by because of rationing. Back in America during the Great Depression, German immigrants would fill kuchen with items available on most Midwestern farms like onions or cottage cheese. 

Dakota Kuchen-2

Kuchen continues to be a staple at community gatherings, family gathering, and holidays.  In fact, kuchen was designated the official state dessert of South Dakota in 2002. My mother-in-law always keeps a few frozen ones in the freezer for company. The best thing about kuchen is that they are fairly thin and thaw out fast. Kuchen makes a great after supper dessert or morning snack with coffee. 

There are as many recipes for kuchen as there are recipes for chocolate chip cookies. Everyone has their own little added secret or flair. This recipe comes from my mother-in-law who grew up in South Dakota. She’s my resident expert when it comes to Germans from Russia recipes. This recipe was also featured in the cookbook I made for our wedding favors, With A Dash of Love. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can do so at this link

Dakota Kuchen
Yields 8
a traditional Germans from Russia custard filled cake with a sweet dough
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 2 cups warm milk
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1 (1/4 oz.) package yeast
  4. 6 cups flour
  5. 1/2 cup oil
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 eggs
  1. 1 quart heavy cream
  2. 6 eggs
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. dash salt
  5. Fruit or topping of choice
  6. Cinnamon & Sugar mixture
  1. Mix all dough ingredients together well. Form dough into one large ball and place in well oiled bowl. Cover and set in a warm place to rise until doubled.
  2. While the dough is rising, combine all filling ingredients (except fruit, cinnamon, and sugar) in a small saucepan over the stove. Cook on medium heat, stirring until thick. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Prepare your fruit of choice. Divide dough into balls and roll to fit into pie pans.
  4. Lay fruit on top of dough and add filling (about 1/2 cup each kuchen). Sprinkle with equal parts sugar and cinnamon.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Custard filling will set as kuchen cools. Store in refrigerator or freeze once cool.
Adapted from my mother-in-law, Mary Rohrich
Adapted from my mother-in-law, Mary Rohrich
Prairie Californian http://prairiecalifornian.com/
 Jenny Dewey Rohrich




  1. I think you will enjoy this Facebook page if you enjoy German-Russian cooking.
    Lots of German-Russia FB community and group pages out there.
    Have a fun summer.

  2. July 2, 2014 / 7:10 am

    This recipe is just like my grandma’s. I grew up in a very German from Russia family (both sides). I love your blog and am a new subscriber! 🙂

    • July 2, 2014 / 8:46 am

      Thanks so much for subscribing!! I am enjoying learning about German from Russia heritage and cooking! 🙂

      • gary k.
        November 16, 2014 / 10:41 pm

        ja guten Tag,
        sprichts Du auch Detusch in der Zwitschenzeit?
        hatte dort in Emmons Conty in 1970 gewohnt.
        schoenes Land, nette Leute.
        mfG Gary aus wine country in Calif.

  3. July 2, 2014 / 10:08 am

    Born and raiser in Fargo, North Dakota. I am married to a man whose parent migrated from Germany to Russia to North Dakota. We got married and moved to Northern California. Have been married for 58 years.
    I quite agree that people out here do not cook like we used to do back there. My Father came from Germany and was also a butcher who ended up in North Dakota.
    Let me hear from you. I too like the old cook books.
    Look forward to receiving some of the old receipes that have gotten lost over the years.

  4. December 9, 2014 / 10:43 am

    Just curious what size pan do you use, pie plate? Thanks for the recipe, I am using it for an international student day at school, as my grandpa is a German from Russia and lived in North Dakota all of his life. Take care and stay warm.

      • Melissa Anderson
        December 9, 2014 / 11:10 am


  5. Carla
    June 11, 2015 / 8:32 am

    How many dough balls does this make? It says yields 8, but is that servings or 8 kuchens?

  6. John
    August 25, 2015 / 4:19 pm

    I grew up eating Kuchen my Grandma would whip up. She would even make the cottage cheese one. I loved it the next day, cold, like eating cold pizza. Just take a slice and walk around eating it.

  7. Heather
    October 13, 2015 / 11:53 am

    I am over the moon excited to make this tonight.
    I have a VERY important question. Your recipe says it yields 8. Is that 8 PIES or 8 servings? *you mention dividing into smaller balls and spreading into pan. So I wasn’t sure.
    I only want to make ONE kuchen, so I wanted to check.

    • October 13, 2015 / 12:57 pm

      Hi Heather, this yields 8 kuchens! It’s a big recipe!!

  8. ashley crothers
    December 22, 2015 / 2:37 pm

    Just made a dozen kuchen here in nw indiana. My extended family is from south dakota (and of course russia/germany) m. But here in indiana people dont understand kuchen. And worse yet they call is (coo-chen). So happy my dakota family shared their recipe so i can share it with others here.

  9. Esther Wenzel
    February 17, 2016 / 11:48 am

    So excited to find this, my great Aunt made this and searching the German cookbooks nothing quite seemed right until I saw this one. Makes sense with us being able to track our German roots that had gone over into Russia and then came to America.

  10. Lana
    April 29, 2016 / 6:47 am

    My cousin’s grandmother baked ever Saturday morning…every surface would be covered with the best smelling goodies! She always had one sheet pan of Kuchen for all the kids. I seem to remember her pouring cream over the dough-nothing else-and sprinkling rival-the sugar and butter mixture (not sure that word is correct)over the cream and baking it. Some of the ladies in the area would make watermelon syrup for their kuchen.

  11. Karen Miller
    April 29, 2016 / 9:40 pm

    I was at my cousins wedding in Iowa my aunts and cousins made wedding Kuchen. Now all the german russians chowed down on it like it was golden honey, everyone else, not so much. Finally got most to at least try it, at the end of the reception, there were maybe 6 or 7 rounds left!!! I love wedding Kuchen best. I ask grandma for the recipe but she said NO. Now when i think about it, i’m sure she did it from memory with a little bit of this and some of that. that is one very special memory!!

    • April 29, 2016 / 9:43 pm

      Karen, what’s your email? I have my mother-in-law’s wedding kuchen recipe. Would gladly share it with you!

  12. July 16, 2016 / 3:53 pm

    how is wedding kuchen different? now i am curious lol

  13. Randy
    November 21, 2016 / 1:38 pm

    Thank you for posting your recipe! My 8 perfect kuchen just came out of the oven… 3 prune, 2 apricot, 2 peach, 1 blueberry! My mom started making kuchen living in Hillsview & Hosmer, South Dakota back in the 1950’s. She made it every Christmas over the years. Your recipe is a perfect recreation of what I so fondly recall! Thank you & Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. Macy
    December 26, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    Hey Jenny!
    Thank you for putting this recipe up this was the most like my grandmas’ my uncle and I could find. She was also German Russian, as was my grandpa both lived in SD. I do have a question. Does it make a difference in what order you mix the ingredients for the dough to rise? We couldn’t get it to rise, however we are not very experienced bakers. It does taste really good but we’re not sure how we went wrong with the dough if you had any pointers you could share. Thanks again! 🙂

    • December 27, 2016 / 11:58 am

      Hmmm… Maybe check the expiration date on your yeast!? If it is old, it often won’t rise. The other thing that could have happened is that your liquids were too hot and killed the yeast. Yeast like it under 120 degrees! 😉

  15. Jean Kluka
    January 27, 2017 / 5:42 pm

    Hi Jenny
    Instead of putting in pie tins will it work if I use a thin long cookie sheet?

    • March 10, 2017 / 4:38 pm

      Hi Jean,
      I have seen recipes like this, however, I haven’t tested these exact measurements with a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. So I couldn’t tell you if it would fit or be too much/too little. Sorry!