A Tasty Holiday Treat with a Long History – Dresdener Stollen!
During the holiday season, every country, every family has their own tasty recipes that bring the holidays home. In Dresden, they’re most famous holiday treat is the Christmas Stollen. Stollen is a yeast cake that can be plain or filled with dried fruits, marzipan, poppyseeds, or almonds and nuts. It is sold all over the country, but no other German city is as well known for their stollen as Dresden.
During the Christmas season, almost every little dorf and village, let alone the big cities in Germany, host Christmas markets. Touting gemütlichkeit, a general good feeling, of Christmas cheer often brought on by copious amounts of glühwein, potato pancakes, bratwurst, or candied almonds, on the second Saturday of Advent in Dresden, there’s something a little different.
Dresden’s love affair with this powdered cake goes back hundreds of years. In olden times, stollen was made with oil not butter, but in Saxony oil was very expensive so in the early 1400s appeals to the pope were made to be able to use butter in the recipe. The first appeal went to Pope Nicholas V who matter-of-factly denied the Saxons request…as did the four popes that succeeded him. However, as a testament to perseverance, the people of Dresden did not give up and finally were awarded papal approval for the use of butter. Needless to say, a cake made with butter is much tastier than that of oil, so now only the Dresdeners had this ability unless you wanted to pay them a severe butter tax.
For a few hundred years, the bakers of Dresden happily monopolized the tasty treat, and it became such an important commodity that in 1750 Augustus the Strong decided to make a giant stollen to cap off a military salute to the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Over 24,000 people partook of this first giant stollen and the tradition took hold.
Since 1750, Dresden has had a tumultuous history, and Christmas has come in and out of fashion. However, they never lost their love for their famous cake. So not long after reunification with West Germany in 1994, the tradition was brought back and once again a giant stollen was baked and this year was the 21st year that the Stollenfest has been back in business.
The Dresdener Stollenfest is celebrated the first weekend in December. At 10:00, it is opened with many speeches, and a lot of ceremony as the giant stollen is unveiled in the main square. Then, accompanied by marching bands, it is paraded through the pedestrian zones of old Dresden all the way to their traditional Christmas market called the Striezelmarkt.
The parade is all about the stollen. First, the marching bands make a way through the crowd, then the wagon heads out. Of course, the stollen needs the perfect flour, master bakers, and plenty of customers. The parade is full of folks in medieval dress, the guilds such as the chimney sweeps, iron forgers, and more all relating to stollen stroll through the town.
Once there, more speeches are made and finally using a very special knife, the cake is cut and sold to happy revelers with the proceeds going to charity. This year, a 500 gram piece of cake was sold for 5 Euros. To buy your piece there is a stand set up that will give you a stollen badge to exchange for your piece of cake.
The Dresden stollen cake tokens are sold and proceeds will go to charity.
As the parade passes, the crowds disperse into the myriad of decorated wooden booths selling Christmas items, food and drink, and of course lots of traditional stollen.
For current dates and times visit the stollenfest website.
There are plenty of day tours heading to Dresden for the Stollenfest from any large city, but if you have your own transportation, it is an easy drive and parking is abundant within the city.
The Stollenfest speeches begin about 10:00 so that everyone is primed and ready to go at 11:00 when the parade gets started. Even though there are plenty of people, the parade route is pretty long and everyone gets a chance to see the stollen.
Dresden is a beautiful city, and even if you cannot go to the Stollenfest, you still need to go!
And don’t forget to be safe! Check out these amazing anti-theft backpacks.
Have you ever tried Dresden Christmas stollen? Have you visited the Stollenfest?