Dagmar Ratensperger is standing in the back of her store at Dagmar’s Desserts, showing off a gorgeous plum cake that’s fresh out of the oven. Known in Germany as Zwetschgenkuchen, this light yeast dough cake has plums sliced crosswise across the top and streusel sprinkled all over.
“It’s important to eat this cake with a good schlag,” says Dagmar, giving away her German heritage. “People here call that whipped cream.”
This is a bakery that takes its plums seriously.
“When the Italian plums are in season, the oval-shaped ones. We wait to get cases of them and then bake like crazy!”
In season beautifully glazed plum galettes sit on the counter top waiting to be devoured.
Galettes are Dagmar’s favorite dessert. “I love it when the peaches come out in the summertime, but now the plums are here and they are delicious. I love using fresh fruit, I like to cut back on the sugar so that you can really taste the fruit flavor.”
In the pastry case up front, there are many other delectable pastries. “We have strudel, stollen, and scones,” exclaims Karen the pastry chef. “A lot of things here that start with the letter S,” she says jokingly.
“And don’t forget Scrumptious!” says a lady customer at the cash register.
When Dagmar moved to Guilford twenty years ago, she wasn’t thinking of opening a bakery in Old Saybrook. But in her search for homemade desserts like the ones she had back home in Nuremberg, Dagmar saw a need for a German Austrian bakery and she jumped on it.
Dagmar liked to bake as a child so she first focused on recreating her own mother’s recipes, the cakes she remembered having with her family during afternoon coffee. Her mom’s apple strudel topped the list.
“It’s called Franconian apple strudel,” says Dagmar, “named after the region I am from. With strudel, you have other ingredients like raisins and walnuts but you really want the taste of apples to stand out.”
The scones are the most popular item at Dagmar’s Desserts and come in ten varieties like ginger, cranberry orange, lemon poppy seed and ham and cheese.
Often thought of as dry and flaky, Dagmar’s scones are a delight, thanks to the addition of real butter, heavy cream, and dried fruit. They are light and fluffy but also richer tasting.
“We sell a lot of scones from our to-go case,” Dagmar says. “You can buy them frozen raw in packs of four and then take them home and bake them yourself.”
Their to-go case is also stocked with soups, desserts and drinks and baked items from Still Delicious, a gluten-free bakery in Westbrook. And they offer sandwiches at the counter like BLTs and Tomato & Mozzarella for a quick lunch. What’s a German Austrian bakery without an espresso machine? Cappuccinos, lattes, and Americanos come with the territory.
Dagmar says they do a lot of cakes by order for weddings. Multi-layer cakes of buttercream icing are elegantly dressed in fresh cut flowers and are available year-round. You can see many examples of their work on their wedding cake web page. Her husband is a photographer and takes all the photos for the store’s website.
Gluten-free options like flourless chocolate cake or flourless poppy seed cake are available for weddings as well.
But right now Dagmar is quite excited about her new online store where they are now offering three different varieties of stollen such as marzipan (almond paste), quark (a cheese that is popular in Germany and tastes similar to sour cream), and cranberry walnut.
“Stollen is a traditional dessert in Germany,” Dagmar explains. “It’s a fruit bread usually sold around the holidays but we now bake them year-round.”
Stollens are available for purchase now, in sizes medium or large, from anywhere in the United States. They will ship it you in a few days, give or take depending on location.
When asked which is her favorite one, Dagmar says, “they are all really good but the cranberry walnut one is especially nice.”