Stollen Bread

6 mins read

By Sharon Cooper

Stollen is a German fruit bread of nuts, spices, and dried or candied fruit, coated with powdered sugar or icing sugar. It is a traditional German bread eaten during the Christmas season.

Dresden Stollen, a moist, heavy bread filled with fruit, was first mentioned in an official document in 1474, and remains notable and available at the Dresden Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt. Dresden Stollen is produced in the city of Dresden and distinguished by a special seal depicting King Augustus II the Strong. This “official” Stollen is produced by only 150 Dresden bakers.

Every year Stollenfest takes place in Dresden on the Saturday before the second Sunday in Advent. This historical tradition ended only in 1918 with the fall of the monarchy and started again in 1994.

The cake weighs between 3 and 4 tons.  A carriage takes the cake in a parade through the streets of Dresden to the Christmas market, where it is ceremoniously cut into pieces and distributed among the crowd, for a small sum which goes to charity.

Early Stollen was different, with the ingredients being flour, oats and water. As a Christmas bread stollen was baked for the first time at the Council of Trent in 1545, and was made with only flour, yeast, oil and water.  The Advent season was a time of fasting, and bakers were not allowed to use butter, only oil, and the cake was tasteless and hard. In the 15th century, in medieval Saxony, the Prince Elector Ernst (1441–1486) and his brother Duke Albrecht (1443–1500) decided to remedy this by writing to the Pope.  The Saxon bakers needed to use butter, as oil in Saxony was expensive, hard to come by, and had to be made from turnips.  Pope Nicholas V (1397–1455), in 1450 denied the first appeal. Five popes died before finally, Pope Innocent VIII, (1432–1492) in 1490, sent a letter to the Prince, known as the “Butter-Letter” which granted the use of butter (without having to pay a fine), but only for the Prince-Elector and his family and household.  

This is one of my favorite and delicious Christmas Time recipes,  Dresden Stollen Christmas Bread.  Try it you’ll love it!


Prep time:  2 hours  •  Cook time: 30 minutes  •  Yields: 2 loaves


  • 1 package (4oz.) active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water (110˚ F)
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • ½ cup butter, room temp
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 4 to 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ½ cup candied fruit (I use pineapple and cherry)
  • 2 tsp. chopped orange zest
  • 1 tsp. chopped lemon zest
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans)
  • Powdered Sugar Icing (recipe below)


In a medium size bowl, soften yeast in ¼ cup warm water, add a teaspoon of sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment approximately 20 minutes until the sponge is very foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the warm scalded milk, butter, sugar, salt and cardamom; let cool to luke warm. When cool, mix in 2 cups flour and beat well. Add yeast (sponge) mixture and egg, beating well. Stir in raisins, candied fruit, orange and lemon zest and nuts. Add enough additional flour to make a soft but not sticky dough.

On a floured surface, knead the dough until smooth, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat entire surface. Let rise until doubled’ approximately 1 to 2 hours (depending on how warm your room is).

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and place onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 parts depending on how large you want your stollens. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each dough piece into a 10 x 6 inch rectangle and fold lengthwise to within one inch of the opposite side. Place dough on prepared baking sheet, cover, and let rise until almost doubled in volume, approximately 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Grease a large heavy baking sheet.

After dough has risen, bake approximately 20 to 3 0 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack and cool slightly. Makes 2 loaves.

While still warm, spread the Powdered Sugar Icing over the top of the stollen. Decorate with candied fruit and chopped nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 2 teaspoons butter, room temp

In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, hot water and butter until smooth.

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