Mohnkuchen at Backer Walf
You either love or you hate Mohnkuchen, the poppy seed cake found all throughout Eastern Europe and favored in Berlin. One way to guarantee you'll like it is to try Backer Walf's version, a light, moist puree of nutty poppy seeds set on a buttery crust. The crunchy almond crumble adds nice texture and the syrup is just the right amount of sweet. Around the corner from the ritzy shopping street Kurfurstendamm, Walf has been a family owned bakery since 1898 and deserves a visit even if poppy seed pastries aren't your thing.
Splitterbrotchen at Backerei Konditorei Hacker
This traditional Berlin snack originated in the Eastern part of the city as a sort of rustic puff pastry. Chilled butter is folded into a shaggy yeasted dough, creating a ragged, "splintery" crust and soft crumb. The fluffy dough is like a sweet cross between a pretzel and a bagel; the top is lightly brushed with honey and sprinkled with sugar, and the best splitterbrotchen, like Hacker's, are baked until the crust is slightly fried, giving a nice crunch to contrast the chewy center. Everything at this 100-year-old East German bakery is delicious, and its home on a quiet, tree-lined street in north Prenzlauer Berg makes it a nice place to relax on a sunny afternoon.
Backerei Konditorei Hacker: Stargarder Strasse 69/70, 10437 (Prenzlauer Berg) (map); 030 4455173
Quarkkuchen at Der Kuchladen
Although German grocery stores, catering to American expats, now carry cream cheese, quark is the go-to when it comes to cheesecake here. The farmer's cheese, similar to cottage cheese, creates a thick, slightly sour custard base, and the German cake traditionally has a short dough crust. But it's just as satisfying as anything stateside. A stop at West Berlin's Kuchladen, a quiet cafe tucked a few blocks away from the busy shopping streets of Charlottenburg, will make any sweets lover happy. From the dense Quarkkuchen to lemon tart and chocolate torte, this shop specializes in all things cake.
Prasselkuchen at Lau Bernd Backerei und Konditorei
When you ask about typical Berlin pastry at Lau Bernd Backerei, after suggesting the obligatory pfannkuchen, the shopkeepers nod to prasselkuchen, a crispy tart that comes from East Germany and Poland. With a buttery crust, thick vanilla pudding center, and rich streusel topping, it's the perfect partner for a morning coffee. The crust—made by folding layers of puff pastry over itself—is often very thin and crisp. The pastry typically also features apricot or berry jam, or almond paste. Just a few blocks away from the sprawling Friedrichshain Volkspark, Lau Bernd is a great place to pick up sweets for an afternoon picnic.
Lau Bernd Backerei und Konditorei: Pasteurstrasse 32, 10407 (Prenzlauer Berg) (map) ; 030 4255284
Streuselschnecken at Backermann Backwaren und Feinkost
The ultimate coffee cake, streuselschnecken is a light and airy cake topped with a crunchy crumble and slivered almonds. You can find it in a variety of flavors throughout Germany, including seasonal variations such as rhubarb, sour cherry, and plum. Vanilla, with a good helping of frosting, is traditional and delicious. Backermann's fluffy, fragrant version is worth the hike to its slightly off-the-beaten-path location; on a charming street in Schoneberg, the bakery is home to a large patio space offering room to lounge with the weekend paper.