For newcomers to Germany or beginners learning the language, food can be an excellent way to learn new words and get involved in the culture.
Familiarising yourself with regional or seasonal food on menus, reading signs next to products displayed at bakeries or at farmers markets, or even product labels at the supermarket is a great way to build up your knowledge (and an appetite).
When starting out though, it’s important to double check the meaning.
In some cases there are some very English-sounding German food words that when translated, mean something quite different to how they’re spelled or spoken out loud. Here's a few to look out for.
When spoken in German, the word Keks (biscuit), sounds a lot like cakes. This can cause some confusion, because often both Keks (biscuit) and Kuchen (the word for cake in German) are sold at the same places like bakeries, and supermarkets.
One of Germany’s most famous commercially produced biscuits, Leibniz original Butterkeks.
So be aware that when you see or hear Keks, what is being referred to is indeed a biscuit (British English) or cookies (American English). A classic to try and often sold at bakeries, is the shortbread style Heidesand Kekse (Sand of the heath biscuits), but rest assured there is no sand in them, it simply refers to the texture.
Christmas is also a wonderful time to bake or buy Kekse (this is the plural) with endless options for sale at chocolate stores, stalls, bakeries and cafes.
Bonus point: Note that when speaking informally, Germans also say that something or someone gets on their “Keks”, whereas in English we would say it gets on our nerves.
For example: “Das geht mir total auf den Keks!” (That really annoys me/gets on my nerves!)
The end of spring, and summertime is strawberry season in Germany. This prized berry is a much loved seasonal feature and is celebrated at bakeries with an array of strawberry themed creations like Erdbeerkuchen (strawberry cake) and Erdbeer-Sahne biskuitrolle (strawberry cream roll).
Strawberry huts also appear in the summer. These are temporary shops sometimes painted to look like strawberries where you can purchase the fruit, as well as other berries by the punnet.
Where you’ll also see strawberries is at cafe’s and bars. As you sit down or walk past, their chalkboard signs will often read: Erdbeerbowle. Although it is absolutely delicious, this apparent bowl full of strawberries is not quite what it seems.
The term Erdbeerbowle actually refers to a strawberry wine punch often made with strawberries, sugar, lemon zest and a combination of white wine and sparkling wine. It’s a refreshing drink that goes down a little too easily, and is a must do in summer.
The meaning of bowl can easily be misconstrued when ordering an Erdeerbowle.
English sounding terms in German also test our knowledge of cultural variations for certain English terms. Pudding for example in British culture is generally a term for dessert, while in Germany Pudding has a number of meanings.
Pudding can refer to a custard or cream used as an ingredient, as well as a ready-to-eat dessert. As a custard or cream ingredient, Pudding is found filled in pastries or wedged between cakes at cafe’s, restaurant and bakeries, like the classic Bienenstich (bee sting cake).
German bee sting cake (Bienenstich) filled with Pudding.
For use at home, you will find packets of Puddingpulver (pudding powder) at supermarkets, as well as Puddingcreme, a ready-made pudding in liquid form to pour onto or use in desserts.
For a ready-to-eat treat, Pudding can also be found in the dairy aisle at supermarkets, presented in yoghurt style tubs. Some flavours and styles of this ready made sweet treat include Sahnepudding (cream or custard pudding), Griesspudding (semolina pudding), and Schokopudding (chocolate pudding) to name a few.
If you learned anything from Keks earlier, then you won’t be surprised that the German word Biskuit (pronounced bis-quit), is not what is sounds like either.
Not only is this not a biscuit (no surprises here), but actually a type of sponge. Biskuit is used predominantly in cake making. The most famous German desserts to try featuring Biskuit, include Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake), Frankfurter Kranz (Frankfurt crown cake), as well as Biskuitrollen (sponge rolls). You’ll be able to enjoy a Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) at special bakeries, and at cafes.
Black Forest cake ?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte ?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Urlaub in Deutschland? Ja klar. Nach einem längeren Aufenthalt im schönen Schwarzwald?, musste ich zu Hause unbedingt ein Rezept für eine glutenfreie und laktosefreie Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte austesten. Und ich bin sehr zufrieden damit, die Torte schmeckte mir und meinen Kollegen so richtig gut. ?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Um die Torte noch etwas schokoladiger zu machen, habe ich Zartbitter Schokolade anstatt Kakao für den Biskuit verwendet! Das Rezept ist ab heute auf meinem Blog online gegangen.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Wie findet ihr das Ergebnis?? Habt einen tollen Sonntag! ☀️⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ After a long trip to the Black Forest, I decided to bake the typical traditional Black Forest Cake in a gluten free and lactose free version. And here you can see the yummy result!?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Do you like what you see? ? Have a sunny Sunday.☀️ #glutenfrei #glutenfree #sansgluten #glutenfreelife #mannisstglutenfrei #glutenfreerecipes #celiacdesease #sanzaglutine #glutenfreefoodporn #glutenfreibacken #semgluten #glutensiz #glutenfreefoods #igfood #glutenfreediet #instayummy #glutensensitivity #glutenfreeintolerances #healthyfood #foodphotography #foodblogger_de #frankfurtfoodblogger #makeitdelicious #eatprettythings #bakersofinstagram #bakersgonnabake #hobbybaker #bakingwithlove #schwarzwälderkirschtorte #schwarzwälderkirsch
German Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) made with layers of chocolate sponge or Biskuit.
At the end of the year Christmas markets open all over the country and feature an array of stalls, many of which are repeat fixtures.
One such food stall you’ll often find is the Kartoffelpuffer stand which sells piping hot, just fried potato pancakes, often served with Apfelmus (not a mousse as the word would imply but an apple sauce).
The word Puffer conjures the expectation of a food that puffs up or rises, these snacks however don't actually puff up very much at all, and the term translates more to a fritter or a pancake. This of course does not take away from the taste of this very rich, savoury comfort food, perfect to enjoy in the colder Christmas weather.
A stallholder at a typical Christmas market stand selling Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes/fritters).
If linguistic confusions teach us anything, it’s actually that it presents a way to remember new words, spell them and pronounce them too. As James Joyce said, “mistakes are the portals of discovery”, and through language we also get to learn about cultures in the process.