Tag Archives: Swiss recipe

Swiss New Year Bread

Bake Swiss New Year Bread

Happy New Year

Helen Stuckey Bair Kohler

I’ll admit that I am a little late in wishing you a Happy New Year with this Swiss New Year Bread. I hope that I will get back to regular blogging, and intend to start with a collection of recipes that I used over the holidays.

Welcome back and thanks for reading.

Way back in November 2016, I shared a bread recipe used by my husband’s grandmother, Helen Kohler and his mother Agnes Badertscher. They used this incredibly delicious bread dough to make either rolls, loaf bread or coffee cake. My husband’s sister, Kay, told me that Grandma Kohler called it New Year Bread.

That seemed odd, because when I looked up Swiss New Year bread, I saw images of a braided loaf, and Granda Kohler, as far as we could remember, did not make braided bread. However, when I checked the Mennonite Cookbook that I like to refer to for traditional Swiss Mennonite recipes, I found a recipe for a braided New Year Bread that was very similar to Grandma Kohler’s recipe.

Sonnenberg Mennonite Cook Book
A collection of recipes from the Mennonite community where my husband grew up.

What is Zupfa?

In the Sonnenberg cookbook, I discovered a bread titled Zupfa And as is the rule in small communities like the Wayne County Ohio Mennonite community, my husband immediately recognized the name of the recipe contributor. Mrs. Merl Lehman, in fact is married to one of his not-too distant cousins.

I compared the two recipes–Grandma Kohler’s and cousin Mrs. Lehman’s Zupfa. The main difference between the two was that Grandma’s recipe included 1/2 cup of sugar. Additionally, she mixed the yeast with some sugar and water to proof it before mixing it in whereas Mrs. Lehman, mixed her yeast with the dry ingredients. And the Zupfa is a braided loaf that takes more than four hours to complete when you include all the waiting for multiple rising periods.

And what is Zupfa? As you may have suspected, Swiss New Year’s bread — a braided white bread.

Bread is Simple/Bread is Complicated

Note: Everyone makes bread with the same basic ingredients: flour, salt, yeast and water. However, it is amazing how many variations of bread exist by tweaks to that basic recipe. (For instance check out this very simple peasant bread). You can add eggs or shortening/butter, milk instead of water, or sugar. And of course there are a multiplicity of flour types, and you can add in fruit, nuts and seeds to the finished product. The shapes are different, the way you handle the dough, how many times it rises–all these variations to the simple basic four ingredients can make an enormous difference.

Swiss New Year Bread
Swiss New Year Bread (Zupfa) braided dough before baking.

I think some people don’t try baking bread because bread making involves a kind of “baby sitting.” You can’t just mix up some stuff, pour it in a pan and put it in the oven. Zupfa particularly demonstrates that challenge. Although the work is not extensive, the baby sitting takes up more than three hours.

So here you have Swiss New Year’s Bread (Zupfa). Just remember:

  1. Start early. (If you are in a hurry, bake the Peasant bread I linked above.)
  2. Don’t be afraid of the braiding process. It probably won’t be perfect the first time–or in my case–ever.
  3. I watched a couple of You Tube videos on braiding bread, and recommend you look for the King Arthur Flour video lesson. Plus a tip from another video–always pick up the bottom strand to fold over to the center.
  4. You’ll notice if you are searching for tips on braiding bread, that you get a lot of challah recipes. The breads are very similar in appearance.
Swiss New Year Bread/Zupfa

Swiss New Year Bread (Zupfa)

The Swiss New Year Bread (Zupfa) is not as complicated as you might think, but it does take a long time to make because of several risings–so plan ahead.
Course Bread
Cuisine Swiss
Keyword bread, Swiss
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting/Rising 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 32


  • 2 pkg dry yeast 4 1/2 teaspoons
  • 6-7 C flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 C Milk whole
  • 1/2 C Butter plus some for brushing top
  • 3 eggs for dough
  • 1 egg for glaze
  • 2 tsp water for glaze


  • Mix 3 Cups of flour, yeast and salt in large bowl.
  • Heat milk with butter over low heat until just warm. If you are using an instand thermometer, you are shooting for 110-115 degrees. (I think of it as the temperature of baby’s bath water.) Mrs. Lehman adds that the butter does not have to completely melt.
  • Gradually add liquids to dry ingredients in bowl, Beat either by hand or electric mixer for at least two minutes.
  • Add one cup of flour and blend in.
  • Beat eggs slightly and add to the batter. Beat at high speed for two minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  
  • Keep adding flour to handle easily, and stir in until no flour is visible. 
  • Turn out on a lightly floured board and knead until smooth–five to ten minutes.
  • Grease another large bowl (or scrape out all remnants from mixing bowl and reuse).  Shape dough in ball and turn it in the bowl so all sides are shiny with the butter. Leave sooth side up, cover with cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until double–about 1 1/2 hours.
  • Punch down gently, cover and let rise again until double–30-40 minutes.
  • Turn the dough out on board and divide in two parts.  Make two rounds and let it rest 10-15 minutes.
    Half of dough for Swiss New Year bread
  • Divide in two parts, and set one half aside, covered.  Divide the half into three equal parts and roll each into a 14″ strand.
  • Using the three strands, place close together on lightly greased baking sheet. Braid the stands gently and loosely. Do not stretch.
    Braiding of bread
  • Fasten ends and tuck under securely.  Repeat the process with second half.
    Swiss New Year Bread
  • Brush the braided dough with softened butter, cover with damp cloth and let rise until double — 40-50 minutes.
    Bread dough buttered
  • Brush with egg yolk glaze and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. (190 degrees on instant thermometer inserted in center)  Let rest on pan for ten minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.  When totally cool, wrap tightly for storage or freezing if you are not eating the bread immediately.
    Swiss New Year Bread


Mrs. Lehman called for 7 1/4 to 7 1/2 cups of flour, which I found excessive. 
I put the bowl of dough  into an unheated oven with just the oven light on and that worked very well for the first rising periods. Just remember not to preheat the oven, until you get to the point where the braided dough is rising. You will let it rise on the counter or near but not on the stovetop while the oven heats.
When I was braiding the first loaf, at first I did not get the strands close enough together as I braided, so I had large lumps. It was not hard to unbraid it and start again.  Of course you can make the loaf longer and skinnier or shorter and fatter as you wish.
I added the 1/2 cup of sugar to the recipe because I thought a slightly sweet taste would be appropriate for this special bread.
Finally, I have to mention that I apparently let the braided dough rise a bit too long.  If you look at the final picture with the instructions you will see some strange strands. That is the sign of what is called over-proofing. Had I been aware, I could have corrected it by starting over with the shaping. Honestly, I don’t think the problem was serious enough to do all that, but it is handy to know that you can correct the problem and get a pretty loaf.

Swiss Carrot Cake

Well, how about that? Carrot cake is really a Swiss idea. And so are those little carrots to decorate it.

Swiss carrot cake with marzipan

Aargauer Rubiltorte with marzipan carrots from Liliana Fuchs on Flickr with Creative Commons license

I discovered a site that has a good deal of information about Swiss culture, including some recipes, like Swiss carrot cake.  The Swiss Center’s recipes are from various regions of Switzerland, and I focused on an unusual one-layer carrot cake from Aargau. The proper name of the cake is Aargauer Rueblitorte, and it would probably be more accurate to call it an almond-carrot cake, since they share equallyby volume or a lemon-carrot-almond cake by taste.

Close up of Swiss carrot cake

Close up of Aargau carrot cake

Aargau is a small canton on the northern edge of Switzerland, north of Zurich, rather than Bern, where most of the people we’ve been discussing are from, but I have to believe that these recipes were shared across borders. Apparently, Aargau is known for raising carrots, along with other fruits and vegetables. While farmers were trading their cheeses from Bern to the carrots of the Aargauer, perhaps the wives swapped recipes for swiss fondue and Swiss carrot cake?

The recipe is not difficult, but there are several steps to prep before you start mixing the cake, so I added detail to the recipe as it appears on the Swiss Culture site–much more than I usually write out.

The cake is somewhat like a sponge cake, and instead of the spices that you usually think of in a carrot cake, it is brightened with lemon–like the Swiss Pound Cake I talked about last week. The Aargau Carrot Cake is MUCH lighter than the traditional American carrot cake, and I think there is room for both recipes in your repretoire, because this one is absolutely delicious.  Although the recipe is for a one-layer cake, there is certainly no law against doubling the recipe and making it a layer cake. By the way, I did put a glaze on–you can see drips on the cake plate. However, for some reason which I have not figured out, the glaze sunk right into the cake instead of coating the top. (No the top was not warm.)

Swiss carrot cake-two layer

Two-layer version. But the glaze sunk in.

Swiss Carrot Cake

Serves 10-12
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 40 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Allergy Egg, Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Region European
Website Swiss Center
This authentic Swiss carrot cake recipe is quite different. The one-layer cake is similar to a sponge cake.


  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (One lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (Or juice of one lemon)
  • 1 cup finely grated carrots (Grate by hand or use food processor)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup finely grated almonds (Or use almond meal)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar (For optional glaze)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (For optional glaze)


1. Set out equipment: One large and one smaller mixing bowl; measuring cups, measuring spoons; several small bowls or cups for ingredients during prep; rubber spatula for folding egg whites; electric mixer with regular beaters and with an whip/egg beater attachment. (If you do not have an egg beater for your electric mixer, plan on mixing the batter by hand, and then using the regular beaters for the egg whites, OR plan to wash the beaters VERY CAREFULLY between the batter and the egg whites.)
2. Cut parchment paper to fit bottom of 9" pan, place in pan and lightly oil. Sprinkle flour over and shake out excess flour. Set aside.
Set oven on at 350 degrees.
3. Put 3/4 cup sugar in large bowl and set aside.
4. chopped carrots
Grate or grind in processor the carrots.Measure one cup and set aside for batter.
5. Zest lemon and juice it, straining out seeds and fiber. Set aside for batter.
6. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl
7. Measure 1 cup of ground almonds or almond meal, set aside for batter.
8. Separate eggs, putting yolks in bowl with sugar and whites in small bowl. Put the whites in the refrigerator until ready to beat.
9. Beat the egg yolks and sugar for seveal minutes until very light yellow.
10. Add carrots, lemon juice and rind, almonds, flour mixture. Mix well.
11. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. (Another measure is to tilt the bowl. If they do not flow out of bowl, they are ready). Gently fold whites into batter until there are no white streaks.
12. Swiss carrot cake batter
Scrape batter into pan and smooth top.
13. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Test by pushing gently on center of cake. When it springs back and is no longer soft, the cake is ready.
14. Let cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove and peel off paper. Let cool, right side up on rack. Then move to serving plate and if you wish, dribble with lemon juice/confectioner's sugar glaze, or sprinkle with sifted confectioner's sugar.


The Swiss carrot cake recipe is not difficult to make, but it pays to be meticulous in preparing ingredients. Therefore, I have included more Prep instructions than I usually do.

Watch the baking time, as the edges burn quite easily, even though I lowered the temperature 10 degrees from that recommended on the Swiss Center website.

Swiss Pound Cake with a Puzzling Translation


Today I go back to my main source for Swiss immigrant recipes, the cemmorative cookbook for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mennonite Church in Sonnenberg, Ohio.

Sonnenberg Cook Book

I was attracted not only by the recipe, but by the German name in the title of the recipe submitted by Mrs. Lila Gerber. Gleichschmer Pound Cake (Swiss Made).

Although I do not speak German at all, I figured it would not be hard to get a translation on line. The first site I consulted, said that Gleich means “equal or same as” and Schmer means “pork fat”.  Before giving up on the impossibility of a cake called “same as pork fat”, I checked for alternative spellings. Schmiere means grease, which is a little better, but not much. See the connection to Yiddish schmear–spreading something -like cream cheese– on your bagel?

Since my mind wandered off to Yiddish, I might as well mention that linguists have said that Sweizterdeutch, the variant of German spoken  in the Germanic language regions of Switzerland (including the Mennonites who emigrated to America) is closer to Yiddish than to any other language.

Getting back to pound cake–when I typed Gleichschmer into another search engine, it asked me if I wanted Gleichschwer instead.  Sure, why not?  Give it a shot!  And lo and behold, Gleichschwer means equal weight. As you probably know, “pound cake” gets that name because the ingredients are all one pound–flour, sugar, butter, eggs.

I still don’t know if Sweizterdeutch has that variant spelling of the word, or whether it was simply a misprint in the cook book, but at any rate, my recipe card will be headed Gleichschwer, with a “w”.

I have printed the recipe instructions below just as Mrs. Gerber’s recipe reads in the Centennial book, including “1 knife tip salt”, but in the notes have made some adjustments to the process, that she may have assumed everyone knew.

Finally, to be perfectly honest–this is a Half Pound Cake rather than a Pound Cake. The measurements come out to 1/2 pound butter, sugar, flour and eggs–although the flour is a tad short of 1/2 pound.

Swiss Pound Cake – Gleichschwer

Serves 12
Prep time 25 minutes
Cook time 1 hour
Total time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Tree Nuts, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Serve Cold
From book 150th Anniversary Sonnenberg-Kidron CookBook


  • 1/2lb butter (room temperature)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 handful nuts (chopped)
  • 1 lemon (peel, grated)
  • 1/2 lemon's juice


1. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, nuts, lemon peel and juice until foamy.
2. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder and add to mixture.
3. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.


This recipe, submitted by Mrs. Lila Gerber, has some of the characteristics of those times when women were supposed to know how to do certain things in the kitchen. For instance, "1 knife tip salt"--how much? About 1/4 tsp.

I beat the butter and sugar together and then beat them for three minutes with an electric mixer before proceeding to add the eggs. After the eggs were mixed in, lemon flavorings, then the flour, salt and baking powder, and finally stirred in the nuts.

The recipe as written does not specify pan size, but this amount fits in a large loaf pan. I recommend lining the bottom of the pan with parchment and then lightly buttering the parchment paper. I did change the cooking temperature and time, because at the suggested 350 degrees for one hour and a half, my cake finished early, and the top cracked, indicating a too-hot oven.

In fact, this is a 1/2 pound cake, rather than a Pound Cake. If you double it--using a pound butter, flour, sugar and 8 eggs, you can make it in a tube or Bundt pan.

If you want, sift confectioner's sugar over the top as shown here.

For extra lemon punch, simmer the juice of three lemons with 1 cup sugar until syrupy. After the cake is baked and cooled slightly, turn out on a rack and remove waxed paper. Put cake on plate, or back in pan. Poke holes in the top with a toothpick and pour the syrup over the top of the cake to sink down inside. (But that is an addition to what Mrs. Gerber has presented as an authentic Swiss recipe.)