All About Kuchen

Kuchen is a tasty dessert with a dough crust and custard filling.  Usually fruit is found in kuchen, but cheese or sugar can be used instead.  It is normally topped with cinnamon.

Although it is most commonly thought of as a dessert, it can also be eaten as a snack or breakfast food.  It is a staple at almost any kind of gathering.   On July 1, 2000, kuchen became the official state dessert of South Dakota, joining 17 other state designations.  The idea of a state dessert began when the Eureka Community Development Company (ECDC) president (who was also superintendent of Eureka Public School) saw a school daily trivia question.  It asked for the state dessert of Massachusetts.   Further research showed that, although South Dakota has many official symbols, dessert was not one of them.  The legislature was in session at the time in 1999 and Senator Lawler, representing District 3, agreed that kuchen would be a great state dessert and introduced the legislation.

ECDC organized what they hoped would be the components necessary to pass the bill.  Only a short amount of time was available, so arrangements were made quickly.   The Schmeckfest Committee found volunteers to attend the Senate State Affairs Committee session where the proposed bill was debated.  Those volunteers, along with ECDC board members and community leaders, presented a skit emphasizing kuchen in the lives of pioneers.  All were dressed in pioneer style clothing.  Samples of kuchen were given to Senate committee members and people in the audience.  Governor Bill Janklow, who was present to testify for another bill, stated that he would sign the bill if the legislature got it to his desk.  The bill passed from the committee unanimously, then passed on the Senate floor 23-10.

When the bill appeared at the House State Affairs Committee, a large group of Eurekans again were present to testify on behalf of the bill, present the skit, and hand out kuchen samples.  It passed that committee 11-1. However, it was defeated on the House floor 41-26.

In the year that followed, kuchen did not fall by the wayside.  As more people became familiar with kuchen, support for the state dessert grew.  Many people across the state were surprised to learn that kuchen was not already the state dessert.

Because of kuchen's popularity, ECDC decided months before the legislature convened to again attempt a state designation.  Elmer Diedtrich, Representative from District 3, was the prime sponsor of the bill which, in 2000, originated in the House of Representatives.

Strategy changed.

Since kuchen was a favored dessert all across the state, and since it was a state designation that was being sought, it only seemed right that all of South Dakota should have the chance to be involved.  Letters were sent to every town in the state asking if they wished to support the bill naming kuchen as the state dessert.  Seventeen towns, in addition to Eureka, gave written support for the bill.

When HB 1229 was introduced in the House State Affairs Committee on February 7, 2000, only a handful of supporters were present, but they carried with them the written support of towns from across the state.  The amount of kuchen samples was minimal.  The bill passed 8-5. When the bill was on the House floor two days later for debate and a vote, members from South Dakota Economic Development Group (comprised of Eureka and Mobridge) and community leaders were introduced in the gallery.  It passed 39-24. It was a sweet Valentine's Day when the bill passed the Senate State Affairs Committee by a vote of 8-1.  The following day, it passed the Senate by a vote of 19-11.  Following a long wait of over a month, supporters of the bill statewide were happy and relieved when the governor signed the bill on March 11.

Thin Crust---Thick Custard Kuchen* 

1 roll sweet roll dough---Thaw and spread in pan. Use jelly roll pan for thinner crust, a 10x14 pan for thicker crust. (Dough and custard may be divided into 2 portions and deep-dish pie plates used if round kuchen are desired.) Spread up sides of pan. Let rise.


Mix together in microwaveable bowl. Microwave 5-8 minutes until thick, stirring as it begins to thicken.

Add favorite fruit filling on crust (canned cherry or blueberry pie filling, prunes, peaches, raisins, etc.)

Pour custard on top of fruit and sprinkle with cinnamon. Add chopped nuts, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

*Submitted by Wanda Jundt. This is very good, very easy, and is a modern version of kuchen, bypassing some time-consuming steps. 

Minnie Keim's Kuchen


Dissolve yeast and sugar in lukewarm water. Scald milk. As it cools, add shortening. When cool, stir in eggs and salt. Add flour and mix well. Add water with yeast and sugar. Mix to an elastic dough, adding as much flour as necessary (3 cups won't hurt) to make it soft and pliable. Set in warm place for 45 minutes. Make filling.

Filling: You may use any kind of fruit, remembering to add plenty of sugar if fruit is uncooked. A wonderful tangy blend is 3/4 scalded rhubarb and 1/4 raisins. Or you may use prunes, cooked and pitted. Another excellent combination is 3/4 cup cottage cheese blended with 4 tblsp. sweet sour cream, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup sugar. One favorite is made of even parts of butter, sugar, and peanut butter with 2 parts of flour.

Knead dough after 45 minutes and put in back in warm place for 30 minutes. Knead again, place on well-floured board and roll to thickness of about 1/4 inch (not thin). Line well-greased cake tins, bringing dough about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the tins. Brush with melted shortening and place in warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until pastry is raised.

Topping: Whatever filling you use, the topping must consist of one egg and an equal amount of sour cream, stirred well together. Pour this gently over the filling. Powder liberally with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 375 degrees.

*Reprinted from the Germans from Russia cookbook available for sale from the Eureka Pioneer Museum. 

German Kuchen


Flour to make a soft dough.  Mix and let raise as for any soft sweet dough. This makes about 8 kuchen.

Cream Filling:

Heat cream. Beat eggs and add sugar and flour. Mix into cream and cook until thick. Spread on kuchen dough with fruit if desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake.

*Submitted by Mrs. Henry Lindemann and reprinted from the Germans from Russia cookbook available for sale from the Eureka Pioneer Museum.