Teach Your Children to Sing in German "Backe, backe Kuchen"

It's the German Version of "Pat-a-Cake"

Sisters playing pat-a-cake outside sunny motor home
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You may know "Pat-a-Cake", but do you know "Backe, backe Kuchen"? It is a fun children's song from Germany that is as popular as (and similar to) the English nursery rhyme.

If you're interested in learning German or teaching your children how to speak the language, this little tune is a fun way to practice.

"Backe, backe Kuchen" (Bake, Bake, a Cake!

Melodie: Traditional
Text: Traditional

The exact origin of "Backe, backe Kuchen" is unknown, yet most sources date it to around 1840.

It's also said that this nursery rhyme came from eastern Germany, in the Saxony and Thuringia area.

Unlike the English "Pat-a-Cake," this is more of a song than a chant or game. There is a melody to it and you can easily find it on YouTube (try this video from Kinderlieder deutsch).

DeutschEnglish Translation
Backe, backe Kuchen,
Der Bäcker hat gerufen!
Wer will gute Kuchen backen,
Der muss haben sieben Sachen:
Eier und Schmalz,
Butter und Salz,
Milch und Mehl,
Safran macht den Kuchen gel'! (gelb)
Schieb in den Ofen 'rein.
(Morgen muss er fertig sein.)
Bake, bake a cake
The baker has called!
He who wants to bake good cakes
Must have seven things:
Eggs and lard,
Butter and salt,
Milk and flour,
Saffron makes the cake yel(low)!
Shove it into the oven.
(Tomorrow it must be done.)
  
Backe, backe Kuchen,
der Bäcker hat gerufen,
hat gerufen die ganze Nacht,
(Name des Kindes) hat keinen Teig gebracht,
kriegt er auch kein' Kuchen.
Bake, bake a cake
The baker has called!
He called all night.
(Child's name) brought no dough,
and he won't get any cake.

How "Backe, backe Kuchen" Compares to "Pat-a-Cake"

These two nursery rhymes are similar, yet they are also different. They were both written for children and are folk songs that are naturally passed down from generation to generation. Each also talks about a baker, rhymes, and adds the personal touch of naming the child who is singing it (or being sung to) in the end.

That is where the similarities end. "Pat-a-Cake" (also known as "Patty Cake") is more of a chant and, quite often, is a hand-clapping game between kids or a child and adult. "Backe, backe Kuchen" is an actual song and is quite a bit longer than its English counterpart.

'Pat-a-Cake" is almost 150 years older than the German song as well. The first known rendition of the rhyme was in Thomas D'Urfey's 1698 comedy play, "The Campaigners." It was written down again in 1765's "Mother Goose Melody" where the words "patty cake" first appeared.

"Pat-a-Cake"

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake,
Baker's man!
Bake me a cake
As fast as you can.
alternative verse...
(So do I master,
As fast as I can.)
 
Pat it, and prick it,
And mark it with a T,
And put it in the oven,
For (child's name) and me.

Why Was Baking So Popular in Traditional Rhymes? 

Two nursery rhymes develop in different parts of Europe over 100 years apart and they have become tradition. How did that happen?

If you think about it from a child's perspective, baking really is quite fascinating. Mom or grandma are in the kitchen mixing a bunch of random ingredients and after placing it into a hot oven, delicious breads, cakes, and other goodies come out. Now, place yourself in the simpler world of the 1600-1800's and the work of a baker becomes even more fascinating!

One must also think about the work of mothers during those times. Quite often, their days were spent cleaning, baking, and caring for their children and many entertained themselves and their kids with songs, rhymes, and other simple amusements while they worked. It is only natural that some of the fun include the tasks they were doing.

Of course, it is completely possible that someone in Germany was inspired by "Pat-a-Cake" and created a similar tune. That, however, we will probably never know.