Chocolate Pfeffernüsse Biscuit Cake

Bags of pfeffernüse cookies start appearing in the seasonal aisle at my local grocery store around December 1st, and it’s a welcome sight. I’ve yet to try a scatch-made version of the cookie (it’s on my list) because I always go a little overboard purchasing my favorite ready-made variety. This year I bought a literal armload, so with such a surplus I’ve been incorporating them into some of my favorite recipes. Like this one!

The inspiration for this cake is from a previously published recipe. Long-time readers will remember when I made Prince William’s Groom’s Cake back in 2011. It’s the recipe he requested when his nuptials were commencing, and I remember being surprised at such a simple request (a refrigerator cake for royalty?!). Pfeffernüsse makes an excellent stand-in for the original cookie which is McVities Rich Tea Biscuits, and has the added virtue of spicy gingerbread flavor.

I’m not sure who decided to call this confection a cake, because it’s much more like a candy bar with cookies speckled throughout. Cutting the cake will require a large chef’s knife. It’s dense and rich so I recommend serving slices with tall glasses of milk. You might even consider molding the cake in an 8-inch square pan and slicing it bite-size, like fudge.

Whenever I can get away with making a cake in a bowl I will do so. Something about the shape is so pleasing to my eye. I molded this cake in a 2 quart stainless steel bowl.

Dark chocolate buttercream (swoon) – need I say more? Cover the cake in large swirls of frosting but don’t worry much about the finished appearance. The cake will be completely covered in a blizzard of white confectioners’ sugar.

A halo of fresh rosemary and kitschy mushroom decors makes it festive! I used my favorite galvanized cake stand to display the cake. You can find it here. (I have all three sizes!)

Each slice of cake has a different arrangement of cookies inside which makes it fun to serve.  

Slices look pretty plated, but I’ll admit to picking up a chunk and eating it over the sink. (Because #powderedsugar, am I right?!)

The spiced cookies add a wonderful warm note to this dessert. If you can’t find pfeffernusse locally, then almost any soft cookie could be used in its place. You may even want to give the original version a try.

Chocolate Pfeffernusse Biscuit Cake

Heather Baird
Recipe adapted from Eating Royally by Darren McGrady
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
3 hours chill time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings 10


  • 2 quart bowl



  • 14 oz. 2 bags, 7oz. each iced pfeffernusse cookies, each cookie quartered
  • 1 cup 226g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup 200g superfine sugar (caster)
  • 1 cup about 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 eggs beaten

Dark chocolate buttercream:

  • 1 cup 228 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups 455 g confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup 45 g dark unsweet cocoa powder
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate melted
  • Heavy cream as needed
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  • Make the cake: Line a 2 quart bowl with plastic wrap, or lightly butter a 9″ spring form pan.
  • Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until mixture has lightened in color. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Add creamed butter mixture to the chocolate stirring constantly. Add the eggs and continue to stir. Cook until mixture is smooth. Fold in pfeffernusse cookie pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared bowl or pan. Press firm with the back of a spoon to fill in any gaps – the bottom of the cake will be the top when turned out. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for 3 hours. Turn the cake over to unmold. Remove plastic wrap if using a bowl.
  • Make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the butter and salt. Add the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder. Mix on low speed until just combined (the mixture may be crumbly at first – keep mixing). Add the dark chocolate to the frosting and whip on high speed. Add heavy cream a little at a time until the mixture is piping consistency. You may need 1/4 cup or more depending on the cornstarch content of your confectioners’ sugar. Scrape down the bowl and whip again until light and fluffy.
  • Generously spread the frosting over the entire cake. Sift powdered sugar over the entire cake.
  • Bring the cake to room temperature before serving. As I stated earlier in the blog post, this cake is more like a candy bar than anything, so use a large chef’s knife to slice it.
Keyword bowl cake, no bake, pfeffernusse
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6 years ago

This cake looks divine! I love the appearance of a snowball – it's so festive and just perfect for holiday season! I never tried pfeffernüse, but here we have cookies that look and sound similar to what you described. I will definitely try this recipe with them. Happy holidays ♥

Tina Vesić
Tina Vesić
6 years ago

This is so adorable 🙂 ♥

6 years ago

Hi Heather! How far ahead of serving do you think this could be made? One day or is same day preferred? Not sure if cookies will get too mushy? Thanks!

Heather Baird
Heather Baird
6 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Hi Anne! You're safe to make this ahead. The cookies will not get soggy because of the texture of the chocolate that surrounds it. It's dense and holds everything in place. It's almost like fudge instead of a cake!

6 years ago

Heather, I wanted to tell you I made this for Christmas dessert and it was a huge hit! It was so elegant and festive with it's snow ball shape, and the combination of ginger & chocolate was delicious! I made it Saturday night, and sugared and served on Monday with no texture issues as you answered above. I have tried so many of your recipes with delicious success–many, like this one, that I would have never dreamed of making. Thank you for working so hard and sharing your recipes and tips–I look like an expert!